Town Meeting Member Vecchione says he will file article for zoning overlay district; plans “Zoom Meeting” later this month
Precinct 2 Town Meeting Member Joe Vecchione said he plans to submit an article to this year’s Annual Town Meeting that would create a zoning overlay in the Cliftondale district. But before he files the article, Vecchione said, he wants to get feedback from everyone in the 50-member chamber and involve them in the process. He plans to hold the first of several informal meetings at 7 p.m. on Jan. 25 via Zoom videoconferencing.
“The goal is to get all Town Meeting members involved in the capacity they want to be and answer any questions any of you have prior to the ATM. I don’t want anyone to feel like they haven’t had a chance to raise questions, provide input, or have a chance to read the article in full,” Vecchione wrote in an email that went out this week to all Town Meeting members and other town officials.
“This is why I’ll be conducting a series of forums both virtual and in person prior to the Annual Meeting in which this article will need to go through Town Counsel and the Planning Board prior to the ATM,” he wrote.
Since being elected to Town Meeting in 2019, Vecchione has become one of the town’s top advocates for revitalizing the once vibrant business district, which has been in decline for some 40 years. He’s lobbied for municipal funding for the square, including purchasing of available property, strongly advocated for grant applications to improve the square and its function to be submitted for funding, stressed the importance of Cliftondale as it relates to the Saugus 2035 Master Plan and chaired the Cliftondale Revitalization Committee, which took on a comprehensive review of studies done over the past 30 years.
“An overlay district will help mitigate the pressure points that plague the square where we have multiple underutilized commercial spaces that are not very flexible in their current states and also nothing to support it,” Vecchione told The Saugus Advocate this week.
“Rezoning that permits a mix of uses that support and complement one another at a modest scale will give developers more flexibility and property owners more incentive to invest in their property. There is no reinvention of the wheel that needs to happen as there is an abundance of precedent of what works in small Main Street districts across the state and country that apply here,” he said.
In his email to Town Meeting members, Vecchione described the upcoming Jan. 25 meeting as “a loosely structured meeting where high level zoning concepts and ideas can be floated and discussions can be had (i.e. how many floors should we allow, what kind of uses should we promote, how is parking being addressed, etc.).”
“Whether you are for or against my personal or political views, regardless of your position on mixed use, parking, green space, or other relevant concepts, it’s important to get everyone’s perspective, particularly those who are responsible for voting for or against this article come May,” Vecchione wrote his colleagues.
“I believe in common ground and civility and at the end of the day, 50% of the body needs to be in favor of rezoning. I feel that most of us want Cliftondale to thrive but I’m sure there will be some difference in opinion along the way. So therefore, I invite everyone – not a select group, not those that simply agree with me.”
If members cannot attend the upcoming Zoom meeting, Vecchione said, there would be more similar meetings.
In his interview this week, Vecchione stressed that rezoning Cliftondale has been discussed, but has never been adopted.
“What we have in place currently is a proven model of what doesn’t work. Look at the current state of the square. A passive approach of dangling liquor licenses or crossing fingers hoping for an anchor to Cliftondale is simply not a sustainable or effective solution,” Vecchione said.
“A business is not going to come to a place that has no growth plan and limited opportunity. No one is going to invest significant capital in commercial space to simply replace another commercial space,” he said.
“This is why we’ve seen either a stagnant [or] declining district over the past several decades. We need to look at the structural issues that face Cliftondale and zoning is that structure that needs to be repaired.”
Vecchione said he has no plans to seek a third two-year term on Town Meeting.
“I’m more than happy to lead the effort to draft, legislate, and pass this zoning article both as an outspoken advocate for meaningful change in this important section of Town but also as someone who has the chops to draft this article as administering zoning is a large part of what I do for a living as an architect,” Vecchione said.
“Additionally, this was something I ran on in 2019 when I campaigned for a seat in Precinct 2,” he said.
Here are the Zoom credentials for the Jan. 25 meeting.
Joe Vecchione – 7751 is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.
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Meeting URL: https://bergmeyer.zoom.us/j/88299528864?pwd=MjVneDBuSm9ORU1HdC9wUEhDTUgzdz09
Meeting ID: 882 9952 8864
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Meeting ID: 882 9952 8864