LEICESTER, Mass. — Leicester residents voted against re-zoning amendments for property owners on Pleasant Street on Tuesday night at a packed Special Town Meeting, with many voicing concerns that the change would pave the way for a CVS Pharmacy at the center of town.
Failing to achieve the necessary two-thirds vote, the motion was defeated. The vote was 245 in favor to 144 against. The vote was counted by both a hand tally and a secret ballot.
The article would have amended the zoning map by changing the designation of four Pleasant Street parcels near the center of town (11C, 12C, 13C and 14C on Assessor's Map 20D) from Residential 2 classification to Central Business.
According to property owner Darlene Eager, the sole purpose of the article was so that Eager Realty and Benoit Lighting "could be included in the business zone that four other properties adjacent to us are in."
"We are currently required to get special variances to run our businesses, and to deny two property owners the ability to run a business at a time when the town is faced with a budget shortfall for 2013 goes really beyond all reason," Eager said. "The zone change is critical to our survival and the town's."
Yet many residents could not look past the possibility that the zoning change would allow for a sale of some of the properties to CVS, and Len Ivel brought forward a petition signed by 150 residents against such a development.
"The article to change the zoning, as I understand it, is intended to facilitate a particular development," said Ivel. "At the housing for the elderly, the CVS representatives were there defining what it was they intended to do as a result of this zoning change, so I don't understand how you can possibly separate the two issues."
The planning board had recommended disapproval of the article, citing the likelihood of it resulting in "demolition of historic structures, whether for the potential pharmacy proposal or other commercial development."
Sandra Benoit, owner of Benoit Lighting, was disappointed with outcome, saying the zoning change had nothing to do with CVS, but was simply to help her run her business.
"I have no intentions of selling my business. I want to stay here in Leicester, but obviously the people here don't want me here," she said. "Right now, I can't have a flag outside that says 'open,' and I cannot increase the size of my sign without a variance."