Selectmen voted 4-0 to appoint an alternate to the Zoning Board of Appeals during Tuesday’s selectmen meeting at Town Hall. Town Meeting member Christopher Riley and Robert Northrop will both serve as alternates. Selectman Corinne Riley abstained because her husband, Christopher, was among the candidates in the running.
Former ZBA Chair Ben Sturniolo, a 25-year veteran of the board who resigned several months ago for family-related reasons before expressing an interest to return, would have been reappointed by selectmen to fill his seat – had he not stepped down earlier this year. But selectmen began advertising to fill the vacancy before Sturniolo applied for it. Support for Sturniolo among board members was split. Selectman Michael Serino and Board of Selectmen Vice Chair Debra Panetta each supported a motion to reappoint Sturniolo.
Serino wanted to appoint Sturniolo as a permanent member and Riley as an alternate member. “With 25 years, Sturniolo has plenty of experience,” Serino said. “I never recall anyone being upset with a decision when he was here.”
Panetta said most people start off as alternates so they can learn the ropes. “It’s an incredibly important board in town,” Panetta said. “Ben has done a great job.”
But Board of Selectmen Chair Anthony Cogliano sided with Selectman Jeffrey Cicolini on a motion to fill the vacancy with Riley. “Riley’s a great asset on Town Meeting,” Cicolini said. “He’s not afraid to speak his mind.”
Noting they haven’t always seen eye-to-eye, Cicolini said Riley stepped up when no one else did.
Cogliano felt the board was going in a different direction under this leadership. “I’d like to appoint Riley and have Sturniolo as an alternate,” Cogliano said. “He resigned due to his reasons.”
Serino said the vote was a good move to fill that vacancy. The selectmen originally voted 2-2, split down the middle between the two candidates.
The Board of Appeals holds public hearings and acts on applications for special permits, variances and comprehensive permits. Most Board of Appeals hearings are for special permit applications for residential or business uses not allowed by right.
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