PEPPERELL -- The Planning Board wasted little time reaching consensus as they voted unanimously not to endorse the Board of Selectmen's proposed warrant article to change the zoning of the Peter Fitzpatrick School property from residential to commercial.
The vote removes the Selectmen's article from the Oct. 29 Town Meeting warrant, but does not preclude the Planning Board from submitting their own modified rezoning article in the future. Planner Dennis Kane echoed the sentiments of many residents who attended last week's public hearing.
"I just don't think the time has been given to look at all the options," he said.
"My main concern is the schools. I want to make sure we don't make a choice now that's going to come back and bite us and hurt the school system," said Planner Matthew Nesbit.
"If you think about down the road, if we lose that property and then there comes a need for a school, a town hall, police -- whatever it is -- then we've got a double whammy -- we've got to buy property and then we've got to build it," said Kane.
"I understand our constraints and our fiscal responsibilities and the potential that the sky is falling and boilers can go and roofs can collapse, and we've got to pay for it. And I'm willing to be the target on that one," said Chairman Richard McHugh.
"We could in the next 12 or 18 months be able to come back, at the end of a lease and present for town warrant a recommendation for a change. It's still probably isn't enough time to do the proper amount of uncovering, getting all the school situations aside, not understanding the process of where town departments are housed by whose say-so," he added.
With two dozen residents, including all three members of the Board of Selectmen in attendance, board members discussed next steps following their vote. Planner Nesbit volunteered to start exploring sources of information to assist in resolving unanswered questions.
One resident in attendance suggested that existing resources be utilized, including the selectmen's Land Use Study Committee.
"What it does is it saves you from bearing the brunt, but it's a larger committee and allows more opinion," said Scott Blackburn of Jewett Street.
"I think we should form a committee so that we get the most information that we can possibly get," said Planner Anna MacDonald.
"I was thinking about taking a look at other towns with multiple layers of commercial districts and seeing how they delineate that out," said McHugh.
Board of Selectmen Joseph Sergi advised that with the Planning Board's vote, both Articles 9 and 10 would not be on the warrant at Town Meeting.