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Town Meeting 2023: Some disagree with two-thirds vote ruling

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Board of Selectmen Chair Anthony Cogliano said he will request the state Attorney General’s Office to review whether the article establishing a Cliftondale Square Overlay Zoning District should have passed by simple majority rather than two thirds supermajority.

Town Moderator Stephen Doherty told members at Monday’s night third session of the Annual Town Meeting that Article 21 would need two thirds vote. A majority of members voted in support of the measure by a margin of 23-18. But that was only 56 percent – about five votes short of the two-thirds.

In an interview Wednesday, Cogliano cited a 2021 law that he said appears to allow a simple majority on zoning articles.

“Hopefully, the AG interprets the rezoning of Cliftondale Square as a simple majority vote because that will be a major victory for Joe Vecchione and the Town as a whole,” Cogliano told The Saugus Advocate.

“I’m just requesting that the AG review whether this zoning change meets the requirements of the new standards. Although I respect the opinions of John Vasapolli and Jesse Schumer, I took it upon myself to speak to other local Attorneys who believe it should have been a simple majority vote,” he said.

“I would also like to thank Joe Vecchionne for the tremendous amount of work he did putting forth the zoning change. It will be a significant loss to Saugus if he doesnt stay involved,” he said.

Town Counsel John Vasapolli said he doesn’t believe that the new state law applies in the case of the Cliftondale rezoning article and said he advised the town moderator and Vecchione of his informal opinion about a week ago.

“If it were a simple matter of changing from multi-family to mixed zoning, it would be a majority vote,” Vasapolli said.

“But the article has a number of dimensional changes within it that would require a two  thirds vote. That zoning change as submitted  has a lot of changes – not just to mixed zoning. He’s changing height restrictions,” he said.

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