LEICESTER, Mass. —The Leicester Planning Board unanimously voted to disapprove a rezoning of a lot at 8-10 Pleasant Street Wednesday night, with residents speaking out about the potential effects of a new business moving into the center of town.
The lotʼs owner, Darlene Eager, asked that the lot be rezoned from residential district 2 to the central business district in hopes of selling the land to a potentially interested business party.
“My feeling is that the property is very conducive to business as it is adjacent to all business property,” said Eager. “It is the highest and best use for the property to be for commercial use and it adds value to the property and I would like to sell it.”
While there was no official buyer for the land, there was much speculation from the townspeople that the potential rezoning was for a CVS pharmacy — a notion the board tried to shift the focus away from.
Board members Jason Grimshaw and John McNaboe repeatedly tried to explain that the board was discussing rezoning, and not what the rezoning was for should it pass.
“The process here is about the zoning change, we have no official knowledge of any specific developer at this stage. We're just talking about the zoning change. Is there a specific reason for it? Iʼm sure there is but we donʼt know what it is at this stage,” explained McNaboe.
“It is a zoning request from an applicant, that is all this is,” reiterated Grimshaw.
Leicester Selectman Tom Buckley said that some residents were "putting the carriage before the horse,” as to the purpose when the issue was the rezoning itself.
Despite this, residents still opposed the application, and some of the those in attendance instead were irritated by dismissal of the prospect of CVS being the potential buyer.
“Let's call a spade a spade, were talking about CVS, whether you say it officially or not,” said Leicester resident Margaret Wilson.
There were many Leicester residents present at the meeting, many of whom were opposed to the potential uses for the lot should it pass a vote on the town floor.
Judy and Len Ivel, who live in proximity to the lot, cited studies done by the Leicester Master Plan and were concerned with the potential traffic implications should a new business be placed on the lot as indicated.
“It is cited as a problem in the master plan, from 1993 traffic studies,” explained Judy Ivel. “The expansion of this town has caused more traffic and to expand to that particular zone at this juncture is not recommended by this master plan.”
Leicester resident Barbara True was concerned with the safety of the children and elderly in the area because of the potential increase in traffic.
“Children and elderly cross the road frequently near that area, with a business this close your not only putting the children at risk, your putting the elderly at risk, serious risk,” said True.
The Planning Board was more concerned with the idea of the rezoning being considered a spot zoning instance, which the attorney general could reject.
“With this being focused solely on one lot, it is in danger of being considered spot zoning,” explained McNaboe. “Were there other lots involved it would be different but it's one lot we're talking about.”
Because the board voted in disapproval of the the rezoning does not mean the proposal will not find its way onto the town floor at the next meeting. However, should the proposal not garner the necessary 2/3 vote on the town floor it cannot be brought back up again before the board for reconsideration for two years.