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Wakefield Board holds first hearing on zoning amendments

Contractor yards, car washes discussed

January 07, 2010
WAKEFIELD – Tuesday night's public hearing on proposed zoning changes was so short the planning board's chairman made a point of saying he would be able to catch one of his favorite television programs after the meeting adjourned.

"It's only 8 p.m. I'll be able to go home and watch NCIS tonight," chairman Rod Cools said following the half hour hearing. NCIS is a crime drama on CBS.

But Cools might have to miss some television time on Jan. 19 because the planning board is required to meet again since it made minor changes to the zoning amendment warrant articles on Tuesday. The meeting on Jan. 19 will start at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.

The following proposed warrant articles were discussed during the public hearing:

Home Based Contractor Yards

This article would allow for contractors to keep work related construction equipment and supplies near their homes. Currently, contractor yards are not allowed by zoning. The article would allow for the town to grandfather existing contractor yards and regulate proposed contractor yards, said Cools. To be grandfathered, contractor yards existing prior to Nov. 1, 2009 would have to be registered by April 1. Zoning and Shoreline Protection Officer John Ciardi made a minor tweaks to the proposed ordinance during the hearing. The changed sentence now reads, "The home based contractor yard shall not occupy more than 25 percent of the lot area and not to exceed two acres, exclusive of the area covered by buildings, whichever is less." Ciardi added the words "whichever is less." Then he added a sentence to clarify the definition of contractor yard. His change makes it clear a person doesn't have to register a contractor yard if he or she only has one pickup truck and related plows and trailers or up to three pieces of construction related equipment. Having a small amount of construction equipment on site would merely be considered an accessory use and not a contractor yard, Ciardi said. The planning board also changed some wording to make it clearer that both new and existing contractor yards would be permitted use if the article passes. The warrant article would only allow contractor yards in certain districts in town.

Car Wash article

By popular demand, the planning board is proposing to allow commercial car washes in town. Cools said residents have asked the planning board to allow car washes at every master plan meeting in memory.

But Building Inspector Arthur Capello pointed out the planning board was not going to permit car washes as a use on the majority of Route 16 because the article will not allow them in the residential III and the agricultural districts. He suggested making it a conditional use in those districts.

But planning board member Peg Stevensen said adding car washes as a permitted use in those districts may be premature because those districts may be rezoned in the future.

Planning board alternate David Mankus and Heritage Commission Chair Pam Judge also objected to allowing car washes in those districts. Both cited the residents' desire to maintain a green area along Route 16 as reasons not to change the warrant article.

The planning board left the article unchanged.

Route 16 corridor article

This would remove language stating "all business, commercial and industrial uses that have frontage on Route 16, or that have access from Route 16, shall require a conditional use permit." The board considers this article to be a house-keeping matter intended to reduce redundancy in the zoning regulations.

Wireless communications towers

This warrant article would allow cell phone towers to be 30 feet taller than the mature tree canopy. Current zoning only allows them to be 10 feet taller the tree canopy. The word "mature" is included to account for tree growth. Cools said this article is intended to help wireless companies improve the reception in town. Allowing the extra height will take some burden off the zoning board, which hears cases about companies that need relief from the existing ordinance. When the original ordinance was passed, cell phones were relatively rare and people objected to the towers. Today, residents want better cell coverage. "The basis of the article is it makes it a little easier to live in town," said Cools.

A related warrant article would allow the planning board to conduct a balloon test before approving a wireless tower.

Klumb Environmenta;
Varney Smith
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