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SHIRLEY — The Planning Board held two public hearings Feb. 4 to air proposed zoning bylaw revisions forwarded by the Economic Development Committee.

Among other changes, the proposals — slated for the Feb. 23 Special Town Meeting warrant — seek to rezone part of Lancaster Road as commercial and industrial and identify a parcel there for expedited permitting under state law.

The other hearing zeroed in on a plan to create a single mixed-use district on Great Road, or Route 2A, which is now divided into Great Road West and Great Road East mixed-use districts with residentially zoned parcels here and there.

Although the Planning Board discussed and voted on the two proposals separately, they are to be presented as a package at Special Town Meeting, when voters will be asked to consider rezoning proposals for Lancaster Road and Great Road in a single article.

So it’s all or nothing, up or down, as one resident pointed out.

Janet Tice, of Whitney Road, said that approach was risky and that forwarding the proposed zoning switch for each area separately might fare better.

Based on some of the comments from the crowd of about 25 people, others thought so, too.

That’s the way the EDC chose to do it, Town Administrator Patrice Garvin explained, in part due to the “complexities” of redlining a long list of existing zoning regulations and replacing them with new ones.

Although they didn’t read much differently, some are more stringent than the earlier versions, Economic Development Committee Chairman BryanDumont said.

But some people who spoke seemed to favor splitting the articles, parcel by parcel, and Town Moderator Enrico Cappucci indicated he might consider doing so.

Planning Board Chairman Jonathan Greeno said he hoped not. If the moderator makes that call, the entire process leading up to the meeting would be “a huge waste of time,” he said. He said the issues some at the meeting were leery of, such as wetlands protection, were well covered under existing bylaws, even with new district designations established.

But a Horse Pond Road resident said that considering Lancaster Road and Great Road as separate articles made sense to him. People are unlikely to object to rezoning Lancaster Road, where development is sparse and mostly commercial or industrial already, he said. But Great Road is a horse of an entirely different color.

All things considered, there’s not much in the way of business on the stretch of state highway that passes through Shirley but that could change someday, gradually, with more user-friendly zoning and a long-range plan in place.

At least that’s how the EDC apparently views it and the Planning Board tended to agree.

One Great Road parcel in particular seemed to raise concerns, Dumont acknowledged, noting about 50 acres with one owner and not much on it now. If that landowner sold out to a developer, for example, some might envision a large grocery store or even a Walmart cropping up.

Another resident pointed out that there are sensitive environmental areas such as wetlands and nearby residences whose wells and septic systems could be adversely affected by large-scale development.

Dumont said the landowner he referred to had no intention of selling his family’s acreage any time soon but was friendly to the idea of rezoning his property as mixed use because he wants options for the future.

Planning Board Chairman Jonathan Greeno’s reasoning was similar, but in a general sense rather than lot specific.

In his 10 years on the board, there has never been a significant project proposed for Great Road, he said and given the low traffic volume relative to most retail business plans it isn’t likely to happen soon.

But with homeowners providing nearly all the town’s tax revenue and a tax rate that is “pretty high” at more than $17 per thousand, something has to change or that figure will continue to rise.

Some folks, though, want the town to stay small, and relatively rural versus sprouting the kind of city-like development that could tip the balance toward businesses and up revenue significantly.

“I’ve lived in Brooklyn and L.A.” said Emile Faucher, of Groton Road, who grew up in Shirley and moved back to town several years ago. “I didn’t come back … to live in a place with burger joints and a CVS,” she said, citing a couple of the possible new businesses others had mentioned.

“There’s always someone who doesn’t’ like something,” Greeno commented. “Change isn’t always a bad thing.”

The Planning Board, which is co-sponsoring the articles — there are four in all — with the EDC, voted unanimously to support the rezoning plan as presented for each of the two areas and to recommend favorable action on the warrant article.

Selectmen scheduled a special meeting Thursday morning to sign the warrant as their only agenda item.

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