Attorney halts Greenfield councilor’s plan for French King Highway

  • French King highway in Greenfield. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • French King highway in Greenfield. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • Greenfield town councilman, Isaac Mass. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt Matt Burkhartt

Recorder Staff
Thursday, February 16, 2017

GREENFIELD — The town’s attorney has put the brakes on the Town Council vice president’s latest plan to allow fast-food restaurants and gas stations on part of French King Highway.

In a letter to the Town Clerk’s Office, the town’s attorney, Gordon Quinn, wrote that council Vice President Isaac Mass’ latest proposed zoning amendment would be vulnerable to a legal challenge if approved by the council, because such amendments must be submitted by a vote of the full council, and not by any individual councilor.

A joint public hearing on Mass’s latest proposal, which would split the Corridor Overlay District along the French King Highway and High Street into two sections, had been scheduled for Thursday, but was canceled.

Mass said he now plans to withdraw his entire proposal at next month’s Town Council meeting and to return with a new proposal.

“Let me fully fall on my sword about what is happening here,” Mass told the council Wednesday night, noting that the zoning laws are complicated. “We saw things in this zoning process that the town of Greenfield has never seen before.”

Mass’ recent amendment was included in last month’s Town Council packet, but was never taken up by the full council. The original proposal was tabled by the Town Council until its March meeting.

“It was not introduced on the council floor, it wasn’t discussed, it wasn’t initiated and it wasn’t voted on, and reading the zoning laws, I found it to be disturbing because it has to be initiated by a council, not a councilor,” Town Clerk Deborah Tuttle said of the amendment. Tuttle requested a legal opinion after noticing that a public hearing notice from the Planning Department contained Mass’ unapproved motion.

Mass said introducing a new proposal will allow the Economic Development Committee to make substantive changes with input from the public before the proposal is finally taken up by the full council.

The Corridor Overlay District prevents certain types of development, including gas stations, drive-thru, drive-in and takeout restaurants, along the road.

The issue of whether to remove the overlay protections on the French King Highway has been a contentious debate in town over the last several months — involving townspeople for and against a planned big box store that some neighbors are fighting in court. Easing the development restrictions can be seen as either complementing a possible discount department store near the Route 2 intersection or degrading the northern approach to the town with stores that might compete with existing downtown or Federal Street businesses.