Published January 9, 2020

NOTE: After the Transcript went to press, the newspaper learned that ZBA member, Joseph Keyes has also submitted a letter of resignation, effective after tonight’s meeting. See related story in this week’s web edition.


NORTH READING — Tonight, the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) will meet for the first time since the Dec. 16 Select Board meeting during which one of two longtime members was not reappointed to another three-year term.

The Jan. 9 meeting will also mark the final meeting for the member who was re-appointed to his seat on the board by the Select Board last month. Current Chairman James Demetri submitted his letter of resignation to the Select Board and the Town Administrator on Monday, Dec. 30 to take effect Friday, Jan. 10.

Demetri chose to delay his resignation so that he could tie up loose ends with the board at tonight’s meeting, which was the first meeting scheduled since his re-appointment was made.

While the agenda appears to be short the business on it is of importance. In addition to one previously scheduled public hearing the board must approve the minutes of its last three meetings and then will be meeting in executive session to discuss the ZBA’s appeal of the 20 Elm Street Ch. 40B application of NY Ventures for a 200-unit apartment complex that is pending before the state’s Housing Appeals Committee (HAC).

At the Dec. 16 Select Board meeting, Demetri was reappointed to the seat he has held since 1998, but by a 3-2 vote, ZBA member Paul O’Leary was not reappointed to the seat he has held in some capacity for about 30 years. O’Leary was appointed an associate member of the board in 1989 for a term that began in January of 1990, and he has held a full membership on the board since 1994.

In addition to Demetri and O’Leary, two other candidates were up for consideration for the two seats on the ZBA, Bob Breen and Kerry Antonuccio.

Breen, an attorney, was appointed by a 3-2 vote.

As a result of Demetri’s decision to resign his seat, the Select Board is currently seeking candidates for his pending vacancy. A vote could occur as early as the board’s Feb. 10 meeting. The town tries to provide at least a 30-day window for potential candidates to apply for vacancies on any board or committee. Interested candidates should apply through the Town Administrator’s office and fill out a citizen’s activity form and provide a resume.

In his letter of resignation, Demetri states in part: “I am disappointed with the appointment process taken by the Select Board Liaison to the ZBA. Per the Select Board’s policy and customary procedures, the Liaison and ZBA Committee Chair make their recommendations to the Select Board for appointments. I was never informed by the Liaison that he disagreed with my recommendation. As ZBA Chairman, I was not offered the opportunity to present my argument to the Select Board because I was wrongly led to believe that the Liaison and my recommendations were agreed upon. The Liaison also failed to consider the Associate Members for appointment.”

“Selecting community volunteers to serve on boards and committees are the responsibility of the Select Board, who, in the best interest of the town, and out of common courtesy, should make appointments in a respectful and thoughtful manner. The process selected by the Liaison was a disservice to Mr. O’Leary, the Associate Members, newly appointed member Mr. Breen, the Town of North Reading, and myself.”

The Select Board also has not met since the Dec. 16 meeting when the heated discussion over this appointment took place. When making his recommendation in favor of Bob Breen over O’Leary, Select Board liaison to the ZBA Andrew Schultz repeatedly stated that seats on any board should not be lifetime appointments.

Schultz also cited Breen’s experience as a practicing attorney, such as his experience in appellate law before the U.S. District Court of Appeals, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts and the Court of Appeals of Massachusetts along with experience in litigation in Superior, District, Probate and Housing courts.

Select Board member Steve O’Leary argued in favor of re-appointing both incumbents, stating they are qualified and remain interested in serving as ZBA members and were both deserving of the board’s endorsement. Steve O’Leary is the brother of Paul O’Leary and he disclosed this relationship prior to the vote and indicated that he would not be recusing himself from voting as these are volunteer positions and no money changes hands.

Demetri Resignation letter

Keyes Resignation letter pg 1
Keyes Resignation letter pg 2