Bourne Selectmen Seek Opinion on Warrant Article

The fate of one of the articles on next week’s Town Meeting warrant currently hangs in the balance.

Voters may not have a chance to act on Article 8, depending on an opinion rendered by town counsel Robert S. Troy. The Bourne Board of Selectmen are seeking Mr. Troy’s opinion on whether Article 8 should be included, because the posting for a public hearing on the article during last week’s Bourne Planning Board meeting may have been misleading.

Article 8 asks residents to vote to amend the current zoning in South Sagamore to extend the business zoning district to include a piece of property at the corner of Adams Street and Cranberry Highway. The planning board is listed as the sponsors of the article, and the wording in the warrant reads, in part, “…on land owned by Jean M. Michienzi, Trustee of Ventura Realty Trust and on land owned by Charles J. Prete, Sandra Ryan, Henry C. Ryan and Boonsom Peete…”

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However, in the online posting for last Thursday’s planning board’s meeting, the agenda did not note Ms. Michienzi as one of the owners of the property. The posting only listed the Pretes and the Ryans. The same was true of the agenda printed out and available for attendees of last Thursday’s meeting.

Selectman Donald E. (Jerry) Ellis made the request to seek an opinion from Mr. Troy on the article.

“Given the townwide interest in all matters relating to projects of this developer, I believe that leaving the name off twice, deliberately or inadvertently, deceived the public,” Mr. Ellis said in making his request to the board.

Mr. Ellis requested an opinion from Mr. Troy as to whether the article should be postponed, a new planning board hearing on the article scheduled and properly advertised, and the article included in the warrant of a future Town Meeting.

The wording of the agenda item was also raised as an issue during last week’s Bourne Planning Board meeting. The planning board took up the issue to determine whether members would endorse the article at Special Town Meeting.

Centerville attorney John W. Kenney addressed the board and said that he represented a group with the property at 21 Cranberry Highway under agreement for purchase. Mr. Kenney told the planning board that there are no current plans for development of the property. He explained that the zoning line between residential and business runs through a building at 38 Adams Street. When the current zoning regulations governing parking and setbacks are combined with the zoning line it would make future development difficult, he said.

“We think that it would allow for better development of the property if this amendment to the zoning map is approved,” he said.

Planning board member Elmer I. Clegg asked who the current owner of 21 Cranberry Highway is and, at first, was told that Noreen P. Michienzi was the owner. Ms. Michienzi later set the record straight and explained that it was her mother-in-law, Jean M. Michienzi who owns the land.

Mr. Clegg then questioned why Ms. Michienzi’s name was left off the notice of the hearing, and criticized the work done by a temporary secretary who filled in for Ann T. Gratis while Ms. Gratis was on leave.

“What I’m questioning is the staff work that’s done to produce the public hearing notices and then the agenda for our own meetings and it’s about as shoddy as I’ve ever seen,” he said.

He later added that he was bothered by the fact that once again the Michienzi name was at the center of a planning board controversy.

“Every time we deal with something that involves that famous last name, it never appears, and I just think the signs all point to the leadership,” he said, referring to board chairman Christopher J. Farrell.

Mr. Farrell asked town planner Coreen V. Moore if there was a legal problem, and Ms. Moore said that typically the town does not include the names of property owners when notices of zoning changes are posted.

“Did it get purposely left off? I don’t believe it did. Is it a really bad coincidence? Yes, it is. There was no attempt to deceive anyone,” she said.

Planning board member Douglas C. Shearer noted that Article 8 still had to pass at Town Meeting, and the only thing planners needed to do was decide whether to endorse the article.

“This is long from over and long from the discussion not continuing, so it doesn’t seem like it’s even an issue,” he said.

The planning board voted in favor of endorsing Article 8 ,with Mr. Clegg the one negative vote.

The board of selectmen approved Mr. Ellis’s motion to seek an opinion from Mr. Troy on the legality of the article. 

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