HARVARD -- Revisiting a short-circuited attempt by the Planning Board a couple of weeks ago to halt with a cease-and-desist order the paving work in progress outside the nearly completed Cable TV studio at The Bromfield School, member James Breslauer told selectmen that his board is still upset about the incident. He said selectmen should be concerned about it, too.
When Planning Board Chairman Kara McGuire Minar brought the issue to selectmen at a previous meeting, she said the order was an urgent measure her board had taken after observing a paving crew setting up at the school. The driveway work included site changes that should have been vetted by her board, she said.
But Minar said the zoning officer refused to enforce the cease-and-desist order without a legal opinion, in writing, from Town Counsel Mark Lanza, who had already opined verbally that the project was exempt.
Town Administrator Tim Bragan said Lanza was currently reviewing the matter for that purpose. But Minar was worried that paving would start in the meantime. It might not meet ADA standards, she said, and it could be a costly error if the work had to redone.
She explained that with the order effect, the Planning Board's next step would be to conduct a site plan review, part of which would set proper parameters for re-grading the driveway area in question for handicap access, with correct drainage.
The Planning Board's premise was that the review process had been bypassed, but Lanza said it wasn't required, citing the educational nature of the project, Minar said. Either way, her board was left out of the loop. "We were not consulted," she said.
Breslauer, who backed Minar up at the earlier session, implied that the board broke its promise. "I was here last time ... you assured us that (paving) would not happen the next day, but it did," he said. The question now is not only ADA compliance but also whether the permit process went awry. "Are you concerned that it occurred?" he asked.
Chairman Marie Sobalvarro conceded that the situation raised issues, such as the process by which zoning enforcement takes place. But she said it was a topic for "a future agenda."
When Minar asked Bragan previously if paving would be done the next day, as she feared, his response was, "I assure you it will not."
It was, though, and the job is now complete.
Following up with Breslauer last week, Bragan sketched the two-day course of events.
"The cease-and-desist was removed at midnight," Bragan said.
Citing confirmation from Lanza via a late night phone call, Bragan said the zoning officer's takeaway was that the project was exempt from site plan review, despite the Planning Board's stated concerns.
Besides, he explained, the board's action was taken via the wrong route. "The Planning Board can't order a cease-and-desist ... to the zoning enforcement officer," Bragan said. "Their avenue would be the ZBA."
But Lucy Wallace seemed to find the scenario as it played out somewhat bewildering. "I know a flurry of stuff (happened) overnight," she said. "But I thought the order would be in effect until the next day."
Another selectman perceived a gap between can do and should do in this case. "Still, it would have been a good idea to keep ... informed and wait for daylight" to proceed, Leo Blair said.
He also questioned the selectmen's involvement.
"When another elected board not under (our) jurisdiction determines an action, it's not up to us to intervene," Blair concluded. Whether site plan review was required or not, "doing business at midnight" didn't sit well with him, he said.