Curveball? Zoning deal may need 10, not nine council votes

  • Native land along Route 2 that has been protected, formerly the Mackin sand pit. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • David Brule on the Native land along Route 2 that has been protected. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Al Norman of Greenfield.   STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 3/18/2019 11:24:41 PM

GREENFIELD — City officials are preparing for Wednesday’s major zoning vote, which has been paired with a deal for a new library, to potentially require 10 votes of the Council instead of the typical nine to pass changes directly related to the French King Highway corridor.

Al Norman, the sprawlbuster who has acted as a spokesman for some of the people who live along the corridor that stretches primarily north of Silver Street and up to Route 2, said Monday he is discussing a petition to up the votes. He declined to elaborate further at the time.

City Clerk Kathy Scott said she spoke with Norman early Monday to discuss this potential move, which could heighten an already highly anticipated vote. The Clerk’s Office along with the Mayor’s Office are preparing in the event the petition is filed during the next two days.

A petition signed by those who own 20 percent of the land in that area can force a vote by a three-quarters majority of the council instead of the typical two-thirds majority needed for zoning changes.

The petition may need several signatures if David Brule and the Nolumbeka Project, the largest landowner in the area, do not sign.

At last week’s public hearing on the proposed zoning changes, Brule, the president of the group that represents the Friends of Wissatinnewag, flipped his position on the deal and said publicly for the first time he was in favor of both the library and zoning changes.

A similar petition was filed in 2017 when a zoning proposal to allow for more commercial development along the French King Highway overlay district was put forward by At-Large Councilor Isaac Mass. The proposal was ultimately withdrawn after it became unlikely the council could swing the needed 10 votes.

What has changed since the 2017 proposal is the connection this zoning change has to a proposal for a new public library.

In February, City Council President Karen “Rudy” Renaud put forward what she deemed as a compromise, in partnership with Mass, to help swing a needed vote to approve a $19.5 million library.

The city needs to accept the new library, as proposed, by April 30 if it wants the $9.4 million state grant that would offset the cost directly paid by taxpayers to $10.1 million; the entire cost would be earmarked to the city’s borrowing picture, per state law.

Renaud said she has been prepared for the possibility that the zoning change along the French King would require 10 votes because of what happened two years prior.

“The compromise is still the right thing to do and it’s the only way we’re going to get the library,” Renaud said Monday.


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