NORTH READING – Things got a little testy in Room 14 of town hall last Tuesday night when the Community Planning Commission held a public hearing on a citizens’ petition submitted for the June Town Meeting to change the zoning for 16 parcels of land on Pluff Avenue and Fairway Road.

The citizens petition, sponsored by Seth Pasakarnis, 7 Fairway Rd., would rezone eight parcels on Pluff Avenuw and eight parcels on Fairway Road from Highway Business to Residence A. The petition was signed by 16 residents of both streets, six more than necessary to qualify as a Town Meeting citizens’ petition.

After about 45 minutes of listening to residents who were either in favor or opposed to the petition, the CPC voted unanimously to refer the zoning petition to Town Meeting. But the CPC did not vote to make a recommendation at this time either in favor or opposed to the article. At Town Meeting, which will be held on June 1, the rezoning amendment must be approved by a two-thirds majority to take effect.

In response to a question from Chuck Carucci, Planner Warren Pearce recalled the Fairway Road subdivision was allowed to be built in the Highway Business zone because it was a Chapter 40B development that circumvented the town’s zoning laws. It became apparent that not everyone in the neighborhood is in favor of rezoning all of the parcels from commercial to residential. While everyone on Fairway Road and most of the residents from Pluff Avenue favored the petition, some Pluff Avenue residents said they expected someday to be able to sell their property as commercially zoned.

Many of the residents said TZE Contractor Supply at 299 Main St. infringes onto Pluff Avenue, making a bad situation worse. Michael Kushakji, 1 Fairway Rd. favored the rezoning to residential, pointing out Pluff Avenue is a very narrow road. As of a few days ago, there was a lot of sand left on the sidewalks, Kushakji said.

But Margaret O’Rourke, of 4 Pluff Ave., said she lives across the street from the Dunkin’ Donuts offices at 3 Pluff Ave., which means the street already has business on it. She said she’s wedged in between Dunkin’ Donuts on one side and the Great American Tavern on the other. “I don’t see why I should have to suffer and have my land turned into residential, where I probably will never be able to sell it.”

O’Rourke said he could understand why the people on Fairway Road might want to be rezoned but she disagreed with extending that to Pluff Avenue, which she said has always been commercial.

Scott Feffer of 10 Pluff Ave., said he has three children and this proposal is a safety issue. “The last thing the kids need need is industrial trucks backing up and going up and down the streets. It’s a safety hazard.”

Tim Zanelli, who owns the TZE business at 299 Main St., said he understood the residents’ desires to protect their children but he felt the attempt to change the entire street to residential is unreasonable.

Zanelli said he had photos of cars blocking both sides of the street. Zanelli said his property’s use has never changed, and his business would be harmed by the rezoning proposal. The town already lacks commercial property and the taxes are high enough, he said. Randi DeLoreto, also of 299 Main St., said the residents bought their homes knowing the neighborhood was commercially zoned.

In response to a question from the audience, Zanelli and DeLoreto admitted they have purchased property directly across from 4 Pluff Ave but said they weren’t sure what they would use it for. Robert S. Bodoin of 8 Pluff Ave., said the trucks making deliveries to their business have to go down Fairway Road to turn around in the cul-de-sac, where the children are.

Kushakji said one of the reasons for the rezoning petition is to stop the business from expanding on to Pluff Avenue.

“You’re on 299 Main St., that’s fine, that’s the way we want to leave it. We just don’t want any business expanding down the remaining side of the homes and on to Fairway Road. That’s all we’re asking, it’s nothing personal. There’s no attack. We just want to leave the remaining homes on Pluff Avenue and Fairway Road as residential,” Kushakji stated.

“What’s happened here, is the previous owner of the property (299 Main St.) was a settled, quiet place. You went by it, it never bothered you. These guys bought it, they need four acres and they’re operating on a postage stamp. They use the street as part of their property. All the tenants have trouble getting by,” said Robert P. Bodoin.

Joe Veno, 11 Rock St., suggested O’Rourke or other residents on Pluff Avenue who want to be excluded from the rezoning could move to amend the motion on the floor of Town Meeting. But Planner Warren Pearce pointed out that if enough residents do that, it would make the article ineffective. The properties on Fairway Road are mandated to stay as residential “forever” because of the Chapter 40B process.

Planner Chris Hayden noted the Residence A zone requires 40,000 sq. foot lots. “None of the lots you’re rezoning would comply with that and they would immediately be non-conforming,” he said. “If you want to do anything to the house or the property (in the future), you’ll have to go see the Zoning Board of Appeals.”

“Obviously, the town would have preferred the houses back there (on Fairway Road) not be built because we have such a shortage of commercial space,” said Pearce. “The thought of losing more commercial property is probably not going to be popular.”

Kushakji said it’s irrelevant. “The fact of the matter is there are residential homes on the ground there.”