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Planning Board continues two proposed zoning changes

Date: 9/14/2011

Sept. 14, 2011

By Debbie Gardner

Assistant Editor

WESTFIELD — For a second time, residents had no comments on proposed zoning changes to residential lot size, business sign regulations in the Commercial Office Retail Enterprise (CORE) district and the use and transportation of hazardous materials through the city.

“No people attended the public hearing,” Lawrence Smith, Director of Community Development, said of the public comment section of the Planning Board’s Sept. 6 meeting on those subjects.

There had also been no public comment when the items were initially introduced at the Aug. 18 City Council meeting.

Smith said board members, did, however, find issues with at least two of the articles under consideration that evening.

According to Smith, the board recommended in favor of the ordinance presented at the Aug. 18 council meeting by Ward One City Councilor and Council President Christopher Keefe amending the size regulations for a specific subset of residential building lots.

The amended ordinance would allow owners of older lots, many which no longer meet zoning ordinance rulings regarding frontage and depth, to now sell or develop those lots. These lots must still be at least 60 percent of the size of the existing lots in a neighborhood.

The ordinance must now go back to the City Council for final approval.

Smith said the Planning Board chose to continue the hearing on the hazardous materials ordinance, also introduced by Keefe at the Aug. 18 council meeting, to give the group more time to review the details of the proposal.

Keefe previously told Reminder Publications this proposed zoning change was prompted by an application to the Planning Board from Baystate Blasting requesting permission to transport through the city and subsequently store dynamite in 13 bunkers on property the business owned on Ampad Road, which is zoned Industrial Business A. Keefe said the purpose of the proposed zoning amendment was to “firm up the ordinance” to insure the business would not be allowed to use public ways to transport the dynamite.

The CORE district sign ordinance, Smith said, was the one zoning change that elicited the most discussion from the board.

He said the board made two suggestions for changes to the proposed ordinance, one permitting signs that projected perpendicularly from the face of a building and another addressing how to deal with the variety of signage already existing in that district.

Smith said because there had basically been no regulation of business signs since the CORE district was created in 1987, the Planning Board was concerned with how these older signs could be brought into compliance with new regulations.

“The feeling was it was unreasonable to make them tear them all down or make them come in for special permits,” Smith said. “There was al lot of discussion [about] at what point do we want those signs to come into compliance.”

Smith noted that when Ward Two City Councilor James Brown submitted the proposed ordinance at the Aug. 18 council meeting, he had included language that grandfathered any older signs. Though the board recommended the proposed ordinance with its additions, he said they also indicated the final wording should include a “trigger” that would define when older business signs would be required to come into compliance with the new regulations.

“Some wanted it when there was a change in business ownership, some wanted it when [signs were] structurally replaced and some when a business was applying for a new sign,” Smith said.

Debbie Gardner can be reached by e-mail at

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