One week after hearing feedback amongst their membership as well as other town officials, the Planning Board voted unanimously on Monday to indefinitely postpone an article amending language in the zoning bylaws to remove the use of gravel. One week after hearing feedback amongst their membership as well as other town officials, the Planning Board voted unanimously on Monday to indefinitely postpone an article amending language in the zoning bylaws to remove the use of gravel.

Article 28 of this year’s Annual Town meeting seeks to delete two references to the use of gravel in sections of the bylaw that deal with parking regulations and site development standards.  On February 2, the board voted 6-1 to recommend the article at Town Meeting, but at their February 23 meeting decided to revisit the issue after some members were reconsidering their stance.

At last week’s Board of Selectmen meeting, the board heard feedback from opponents to the article as well as Zoning Board of Appeals Chairman James Lampert, who felt the move would create a “Catch-22,” preventing his board from issuing permits to businesses with approved site plans by the planning board.

On Monday, Chairman Peter Donahue ñ the initial dissenting vote on the article ñ repeated his stance that this was an issue that the group needed to do more research on, especially in terms of how this move would impact other parts of the bylaws such as site coverage.

While paved surfaces are included in site coverage calculations, gravel surfaces are not, and many commercial projects use gravel to meet site coverage limits.

Referencing Lampert’s concerns as well as those expressed by board members at their previous meeting, Donahue suggested the group table the article for now and instead begin to inspect the ramifications it will have.

After a unanimous vote by members to reconsider their previous stance, debate ensued about the group’s next move.

“My concern is not that this is not a good idea,” said Donahue.  “I’ve been the most vocal proponent [for the use of] pavement, but my concern is that we did this from an environmental standpoint without looking at [the impact] on our bylaws.”

Board member Amy MacNab agreed with Donahue that her preference would be to come before Town Meeting voters with more research done and supported tabling the article, only if it was addressed as soon as possible.

“I’d like to see the board tackle this right after Town Meeting and take a position or create a subcommittee because this is an important issue, so let’s once and for all address this,” she said.

George Wadsworth said that while he was somewhat discouraged the issue would continue to be unaddressed for even a small period of time more than the years it has been ignored, he hoped the board would pledge to take action, perhaps at an upcoming Special Town Meeting.

Donahue reassured him that “when this board views an issue as important, we put it on the agenda and deal with it.”

Board member Angela Scieszka also supported indefinitely postponing the measure, but questioned whether Town Meeting would instead be an ideal place to have discussion and hear feedback on the issue.

Donahue suggested that this could best be accomplished at public hearings on the issue at a later date as opposed to Town Meeting.

After each member weighed in with their opinion, the board voted 5-0-1 to approve indefinitely postponing Article 28, with member Aboud Al-Zaim abstaining from the vote.  Donahue asked Planning Director Christine Stickney to make the Board of Selectmen aware of their decision.  At the selectmen’s February 23 meeting, they indicated their preference to hear the planning board’s opinion before voting their own action on the article.

Donahue also asked Stickney to put discussion of the issue on an agenda soon after Town Meeting.

In other business at Monday’s meeting, the planning board:

*Voted unanimously to endorse an Approval Not Required (ANR) plan for land on North Street that involves five existing lots under the ownership of three different owners.  The ANR is being filed in conjunction with a subdivision plan, a move a couple board members pointed out was a beneficial step by the applicant.  They also recognized that one of the proposed lots did not have sufficient frontage under town bylaws and was clearly labeled as not able to be build upon.