Tensions grew high at the Dec. 14 Town of Marlborough Board Meeting after Councilman Scott Corcoran noticed a theme in the Planning Board’s monthly department reports.
“There’s something broken here,” he said. “Almost every single time [the report] says, ‘Applicant has to come back. Applicant has to come back. Applicant has to come back because the attorney doesn’t like something.’ There’s a broken process in our Planning Board.”
Coincidentally, Planning Board Member James Garofalo has been working to revise the application checklist in an effort to make it more concise and less confusing, including adding all affiliated party contact information for easy communication, which has led to delays in many applications. But the Town Board members were not aware of these proposals at the time of their argument.
Corcoran raised the issue after Councilman Howard Baker read Planning Board Chairperson Chris Brand’s report aloud. The report covered the board’s two meetings in November, which asked seven applicants to return to a follow-up meeting with additional information or corrections.
“Doesn’t the attorney get the information prior to the meeting?... Why don’t they tell the applicant via email that there’s a problem with their application so when they come to the meeting they already have the information?” Corcoran suggested.
Town Supervisor Al Lanzetta agreed that the process is repetitive, but defended it as the town’s code. He added that it’s not unusual for the applicant to make a mistake on their first round of meeting with the Town Board, but if they are continuously told to return with corrections then it is because they have not done their “homework.”
Councilman Allan Koenig threw his support behind Corcoran and the suggestion that the board should be notified prior to the meeting that their application has incomplete or inaccurate information, but Lanzetta maintained that’s just now how the process works. If an applicant adheres to the checklist, then they shouldn’t have a problem, he said.
“You know what, Al? When I was 2-years-old I wasn’t in a car seat, so the process isn’t always the best way,” said Koenig as tensions began to rise and members shouted over one another.
“There’s other issues. There’s escrow and everything else that’s required, that has to be assured,” Lanzetta said, also raising concern that a streamlined process would allow some applicants to take advantage of the process at the cost of others frustration.
Koenig argued that those issues affect the every-day applicant more deeply than just frustration — they have to pay the application fees, their attorney’s time, escrow periods and more. Lanzetta jokingly asked if he were referring to Guarino applications, which pushed the argument to a breaking point.
“Whoa, whoa! Don’t put words in my mouth. I’m not talking anything. I’m talking the everyday person is what I’m talking about,” Koenig said. “It’s the same story: ‘I went to the meeting and I have to come back, and I have to come back, and I have to come back.. I did what they asked me to do and they didn’t like what they saw.’ Don’t put words in my mouth.”
Ultimately the board decided that it would set up a meeting with the Planning Board to review its process and see if it could be streamlined, particularly to initiate better communication with the application between meetings. Building Inspector Thomas Corcoran joined in to add that the additional communication would be the “small missing piece.”
Tensions rose a second time after Lanzetta compared the potentially streamlined process to the streamlined lot line protocol, which he noted was a result of the Town Board’s legislation.
“Wait a second. I took care of that because it took forever to get that streamlined because that was ridiculous,” Thomas Corcoran said. “Don’t let the Town Board take credit for that. You fought me for a long time for lot line revisions.”
Garofalo chimed in after the lengthy discussion to fill the Town Board on the proposed improvements he’s been making to the process, which seeks “to reduce the number of times people have to come back.” The meeting to review the Planning Board process was scheduled for early January.
Conflicts in the dog park
In other board business, Dog Control Officer Andrew McKee mentioned that, for two weekends in a row, there have been conflicts in the dog park. Some dog owners, he said, were getting in arguments because their dogs were getting into fights. In some instances, the pups were only playing but their owners were unaware that the behavior was typical for the animals. Police were called for both disputes.
McKee proposed adding an extra element to his job description that would give him another layer of authority when it comes to animal control — Supervisor of Dog Parks. His current job description doesn’t extend to the green space property, making Parks Supervisor Lanzetta the de facto authority. The board agreed that it seemed like the proper move and it would eliminate the need to involve police officers in petty disputes. The proposal will be revisited at the January meeting.
The board unanimously passed a motion to reappoint Bob Troncillito, Manny Cauchi, Joe Lofaro and Chris Brand to the Planning Board for five year terms, though Baker added that the board should consider looking into the code in order to stagger board appointments. Justin Pascale and Vince Mannese were unanimously reappointed to the Town of Marlborough Ethics Board for three year terms.
Despite the arguments throughout the evening, the Town Board made sure to end on a positive note.
“Even though the Covid-19 hit us pretty hard ... I just wanted to give a shout out to all our employees who just kept on going, kept on doing their job, not missing a beat. They’re commended for all the hard work they have done,” Lanzetta said.“Thank you to the Town Board. Thank you for a fantastic job.”