Zoning to determine Pettibone’s fate in late August
The mayor asked the board to approve a special-use permit “posthaste.”
But board members declined to make a ruling Tuesday, which was their fourth public hearing on the proposal. They have until late-August to do so, according to town rules.
Despite not having a special-use permit from zoning, Gronbach has been overseeing renovations at the building for months. He estimates interior renovations are 95 percent complete.
“Our community is desperate for community space to meet and for events,” the Democratic mayor told the board. “The Youth Agency still has dial-up internet. Parks and Rec is holding events in their lobby.”
Several Democratic Town Council members who attended the meeting Tuesday spoke in favor of Gronbach’s plans for a community center.
Mike Barnes, chair of the Republic Town Committee, said safety concerns about the building should be paramount and “it’s unfortunate that one person’s particular ideas are only what’s being considered.”
Democrats urged the board to act quickly: municipal departments, including Probate Court and the parks and recreation office, are working in cramped space and need to move, they said.
Republicans said the proposal should be carefully reviewed. They said a sidewalk on the school’s Route 7 frontage should be built before the building opens to handle increased foot traffic on an already congested road.
At present, the town’s plan is to put sidewalks in the second phase of construction.
The Zoning Board had requested more lighting for the facility’s parking lot, and earlier this week Gronbach received another $155,000 appropriation from the town’s Waste Management Fund to go ahead with this.
The town has painted, rewired and upgraded electronics in the building with $225,000 of Waste Management Fund money that the Town Council approved last year.
For the past week, Gronbach has used Facebook to garner support for the project, asking residents to attend zoning and Town Council meetings to support the renovations.
Zoning Board Chairman Bill Taylor declined to discuss whether the town was going about the permitting process properly.
“It is the way the town chose to operate,” he said. “That’s really all I can say.”
Zoning Board Vice Chairwoman Sharon Ward said she was glad the mayor adopted the board’s lighting recommendation for Pettibone’s parking lot. She doubts the board will take until August to issue a ruling.
Once the board has all the material it has requested, it usually deliberates and decides quickly, Ward said.
Town Planner Kathy Castagnetta said the town has supplied all the information necessary to the board.
However, Republican Town Council members have said Gronbach is overstepping the zoning process.
Republican member Katy Francis, who voted against the lighting appropriation in a Monday night meeting, said approving more money for a project that the Zoning Board has yet to approve establishes bad precedent for developers.
The controvery over Pettibone has been framed by the mayor in political terms.
Opposition to the renovations is “Republican obstructionism,” Gronbach has said.
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