Board endorses zoning change proposal

WESTFIELD – The Planning Board members voted unanimously last night to give a positive recommendation to a zoning ordinance change that will allow another use in land zoned for industrial A (IA) uses.
The ordinance amendment will allow “commercial amusement, recreation, and assembly” by special permit and site plan review in the in the Industrial A zone similar to what has been allowed in the Business B zone,
City Council President Brent B. Bean II, who presented the amendment to the Planning Board, said change allows a “pretty passive use” in the IA zone.
“We’re lucky we have open land, most of it in the Industrial A zone. I’m trying to give this option in that zone,” Bean said. “It’s allowed in Business B and only makes sense that we have it, by special permit through the Planning Board, in Industrial A, as well.”
Bean said that there is a project under consideration, but said that the amendment language “is pretty broad” and “doesn’t speak to a specific project.”
“Zoning changes, 95 percent of the time, are related to projects because we just don’t go through our ordinances (on a regular basis) to see if they need changes,” Bean said. “This is indoor/outdoor recreation that can’t be done in the Industrial A zone. It was allowed in 2007, but was deleted.”
Principal Planner Jay Vinskey said the language of the proposed amendment is the same language for Business B zoning.
“So that use category already exists,” Vinskey said. “So we’ve taken the exact same language and added it to the industrial A zone. This use was never a special permit use in the Industrial A zone. Special permits are discriminatory.”
Planning Board Chairman Phil McEwan said he could not remember why that use was removed from the Industrial A zoning, but that it “may have had something to do with the (former Whip City) Race Track and a reuse project coming down the road.”
Ward 2 Councilor Ralph Figy spoke in support of the amendments “as it will give another possible use for Industrial A land, a use compatible with aquifer protection.”
Planning Board member Peter Fiordalice said the amendment will allow “the lightest use you’d see in the Industrial A zone.  It would allow parking but not a processing plant.”
The zoning amendment was opposed by Barbara Rokosz of Lockhouse Road and Mary Ann Babinsky of Rogers Avenue.
Rokosz said the city continues to rezone the industrial A property “to allow more business in, but families don’t count.”
Babinsky said she is concerned that the amendment will allow businesses that generate more traffic and require parking lots, especially in the Barnes Aquifer Protection District.
The Planning Board voted 7-0 to send the City Council a positive recommendation for the proposed zoning amendment.

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