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ZBA vacancy

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Selectmen interview two candidates for appeals board position – including the chair who resigned several months ago

  Selectmen interviewed two of the four candidates who applied for the vacancy on the Zoning Board of Appeals during a brief session prior to Tuesday (June 14) night’s meeting of the Board of Selectmen.

  Their future decision became a little easier after learning that the two candidates, who each have the support from a pair of selectmen, are flexible in what roles they would be willing to play on the next ZBA. 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, told selectmen that his interest in serving again didn’t hinge on whether he was chair. Meanwhile, ZBA alternate Robert Northrop said he would be willing to stay on as an alternate if he failed to get appointed as a permanent member.

  Selectmen still have to interview Precinct 2 Town Meeting Member Christopher P. Riley at a meeting later this month. His wife – Selectman Corinne Riley – has abstained from the decision to pick the next ZBA member after citing a potential conflict of interests. Leo Fonseca, another candidate who responded to the ZBA vacancy posting, “backed out,” leaving it a field of three 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.

  Under normal circumstances, selectmen would have reappointed Sturniolo to the board because of his lengthy service record. Earlier this year, Sturniolo submitted his resignation because of personal demands on him to take care of a disabled sister and his mother. But after hiring somebody to care for his mother, Sturniolo decided he had time to serve again and applied for the ZBA vacancy which selectmen advertised.

  That scenario put selectmen in an awkward position, according to Selectman Jeffrey Cicolini. “We’re out here, begging people to step up and get new people involved,” Cicolini said.

  “I just worry about the message we’re sending. We advertised before you reapplied. Now, we’re interviewing people for a position,” he told Sturniolo.

  Cicolini and Cogliano cast the two votes against the appointment of Sturniolo during the May 24 meeting of the Board of Selectmen. Selectmen Debra Panetta and Michael Serino voted for Sturniolo on the motion that failed 2-2. Cicolini and Cogliano then voted to back the appointment of Northrop to be a permanent member. But that motion also failed on a 2-2 vote when Panetta and Serino opposed Northrop’s appointment.

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