It is hard to compare a Zoning Board of Appeals hearing to the fun and excitement of a Bruce Springsteen concert. But there is a similarity between the Boss' multiple-hour concert in London's Hyde Park last weekend and the ZBA meeting Wednesday night.
The standing-room-only audience, which gathered at 7 p.m. at the Senior Center to oppose plans for 41 condos on the site of the old Middle School, had the plug pulled before they were ready to go home.
Just as the British authorities turned off the power at the concert in the middle of the Boss and Sir Paul McCartney singing "Twist and Shout," ZBA Chairman Marc Kornitsky shut down the hearing when it was time for the opponents to speak. The hearing was already 30 minutes passed the town-imposed 10 p.m. curfew on meetings at the Senior Center.
The crowd of about 40 people, many of them standing for more than three hours, left disappointed. They had come to tell the board that the plans by Groom Construction for the three-story condos do not fit in their neighborhood of all single-family homes.
They waited for two hours while the ZBA dealt with the residential construction issues on other properties. Then the ZBA, after taking a break (which the Boss never does), asked the Groom team to describe the project. But before the attorney, architect, engineer and landscape architect could talk about the project, the ZBA had to wrestle with what issues it has the authority to rule on.
That became a continuing theme for the ZBA on this project.
Town Counsel Patricia Cantor with Kopelman & Paige had ruled prior to the meeting that unlike other properties, the Planning Board, not the ZBA, had most of the town's approval authority.
Groom attorney, Bill DiMento, narrowed the issues for the ZBA to approve two issues: allowing four or five buildings proposed for the site and the location of two three-car garages on the surface. All other issues were within the jurisdiction of the Planning Board, he said.
Half of the proposed 87 parking spaces will be on the surface. The other half will be underground.
At 10 p.m., when the meeting was supposed to be over, Kornitski allowed one opponent to speak. Ken Shutzer, who represents 10 of the neighbors along Greenwood Avenue and adjacent streets, was invited to speak for 10 or 15 minutes.
Board member Peter Spellios promised a restless crowd, "This is just the beginning."
Twenty five minutes later, Kornitski stopped Shutzer who was on a roll. He argued that the Town Meeting had approved a Planned Development District for the old Middle School site that allowed only one building of 41 multi-family units. The district, he said, does not allow for any surface parking or three-car covered garages, as proposed by Groom.
He said the reason Groom wants the ZBA to approve the surface parking is that it would be cheaper to build parking spaces on the surface, rather than having to double the number of parking spaces below ground.
Shutzer also argued that the Town Meeting did not give the ZBA the authority to change the rules governing any project built in the district.
DiMento disagreed with that interpretation.
The ZBA decided to turn the issue over to Town Counsel Cantor to decide if it had any jurisdiction over the Greenwood parking issue.
Kornitski promised that more of the opponents -- about 30 people Shutzer said -- would be allowed to speak at the next meeting on August 29. But he said, to the groans from the board and audience, that the time allowed for opposition comments at the next hearing might have to be limited since there are about eight other issues scheduled that night ahead of the Greenwood hearing.