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Staff Writer

TOWNSEND — The push that prompted selectmen to appoint a committee to review the town’s zoning map has presented the Planning Board with a unique problem — deciding how to use so many volunteers.

Five volunteers arrived at the Planning Board’s meeting on Jan. 29, interested in serving on the Zoning District Change Committee, which is spearheaded by board member Stanley Vladyka.

Last year’s “explosion” of zoning change requests — there were several articles requesting zoning changes on the November Special Town Meeting warrant alone — were primarily aimed at changing residential districts to commercial-industrial zones, according to board Chairman Jeffrey Peduzzi. The influx of requests indicates a need to look at the town’s zoning as a whole, something Peduzzi says the board has had in mind for a long time. Hence, the board asked the selectmen to consider appointing the change committee, which they supported late last year.

The biggest debate has been whether (and how) to allow businesses to become established or expand in town, Peduzzi said. Some residents fear that the Route 119 and Route 13 “corridors” will begin to look like the John Fitch Highway in Fitchburg, he said. Others believe those main thoroughfares are the perfect place for businesses, he said.

Selectmen asked the Planning Board to recommend two appointments to the eight-member zoning change committee — with one representing the Planning Board and one at-large member.

Board members took advantage of the unusually-high volunteer turnout to enlist two residents to serve on the Master Plan Committee, as well.

“The Zoning District Change Committee will provide a great deal of knowledge if representatives are interested in carrying on,” Peduzzi said.

Peduzzi and the Planning Board have noted in prior meetings that the town’s Master Plan calls for an update every five years. However, the last update was undertaken in the 90s. The Master Plan Committee helps identify how the town wants to plan for its future, and acts as a tool to implement those plans.

The board voted to recommend resident volunteer Jessica Halloran, who works for engineering firm GPR Inc., and local land surveyor Stanley Dillis, to serve as its representative members on the zoning change committee.

They will share the responsibility, members agreed, since there is only room for one member to represent the Planning Board on the committee.

“I think it’s a shame to throw away the talent Stan brings to the table,” said board member Gerald Coughlin about Dillis, who arrived after the other volunteers had left.

“To have a volunteer and to not have a slot for him would be a tremendous loss,” clerk Louis Kiklis agreed.

Selectmen on Tuesday night voted to name Dillis as the Planning Board representative, with Halloran as an alternate.

Dillis and Halloran were also appointed to the Master Plan Committee.

“Having a person on both committees there’s a lot of synergy there,” said Peduzzi.

Three-month resident and engineer Richard Guerrero was also appointed to the Master Plan Committee, after he expressed an interest in serving in either capacity.

Finally, the board voted to recommend that resident Francis Dold be appointed to the zoning change committee as the board’s at-large member, based on his interest and passion for speaking with the public about business growth in town.

Dold doesn’t have a degree, he admitted, but said he can talk to the small business owners, who he believes don’t always speak out.

Dold and his wife were among the property owners seeking a zoning change at the Special Town Meeting, but they withdrew their article when it appeared they wouldn’t be able to secure the town’s vote.

“I want to see the town change,” said Dold.

A fifth potential volunteer left the meeting before the appointments were made.