Rowley Planning Board Staff Kerfuffle, and Potential 601 New Housing Units

Wednesday July 03, 2024

ROWLEY A spat erupted in the town’s Planning Board last week over who would be its chairman, but no member, including long-time chair Chris Thornton, is resigning.

Thornton and vice chair David Jaquith threatened to quit the board and walked out of the meeting after Craig Copland, another, more junior member of the board, was elected chairman on a vote of three to two.

The dispute erupted unexpectedly during what is usually a routine reorganization vote. It comes at a time when the board, which regulates residential and commercial construction in town,  is under more than normal stress because the town voters turned down a major new rezoning plan the board had approved.

The two members, who have headed the board for several years, decided after the meeting that they would stay on the board. Jaquith will remain as vice chair, and Thornton, who has been a member of the planning board since 2015, will become a member.

“We patched it up,” planning director Kirk Baker said. As a result, the board’s composition will remain the same.

The motion to seat Copland as chair was made by Kevin Moriarity, who expressed a desire for change in leadership. He also complained that Thornton was not providing information about upcoming decisions early enough. He was joined by Copland and Robert Piersielak.

Thornton blamed much of the unhappiness on a local social media site, Rowley Rants. Copland defended the social media posts as coming from people the board members know well.

Rowley, which is designated as a commuter rail community, is required to set aside at least 40 acres that will be in a 3A district and will allow for a minimum of 601 units at a minimum density of 15 units per acre in two sections, one near the train station and another in the western part of the town.

Town Meeting members, who voted down the plan on voice vote this spring, has until the end of the year to comply with the state requirement.

Baker said much of the objections in town is to the density requirement. Rowley is not a particularly dense community.


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