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Business Park Rezoning Request Moves Forward

The Planning Board this month saw a final version of a proposed Zoning By-law amendment that would allow wholesaling businesses in areas zoned for "business parks" through a Planning Board special permit process.

The requested amendment comes from the Gutierrez Company of Burlington, which told the Planning Board in May that it was having difficulty in attracting tenants to its proposed 625,000 square foot commercial office park – the Stone Ridge Corporate Center off Deer St. from Cedar St. (Rt. 85) near the Rt. I-495 on-ramp. The site is within a Business Park (BP) zoning district.

Represented by local attorney Ernest Pettinari, the developers said that the Restaurant Depot chain wanted to open one of its wholesale restaurant supply centers in Stone Ridge and to make that happen, a Zoning By-law amendment would be needed.

In the Planning Board's September 6 meeting, Town Planner Larry Dunkin said the final version of the proposed amendment included definitions of both "retail sales" and "wholesaling." Board Chairman Patrick Kennelly last month questioned the difference between the two types of businesses. This month, Pettinari said the definitions should eliminate any confusion about the two business types.

The proposed wording defines "Retail Sales" as "the sale of merchandise for direct consumption or use by the purchaser as an ultimate end consumer." "Wholesaling" is defined as "the sale of commodities in quantity to retailers or distributors for use, re-sale or further processing, rather than directly to end consumers."

"They [Gutierrez] really feel that this is their last best shot here," Pettinari said about his client's attempt to get tenants into the office park. "They really do believe that if they can get a tenant in there" then Gutierrez would be able to make the site – now raw land – more attractive to other prospective tenants. In May, company officials sent the Planning Board a letter stating that the real estate market had shifted away from single-use office-type business parks.

Dunkin explained that Gutierrez would sponsor the proposed article at next month's Special Town Meeting and the Planning Board's involvement would be to hold the required public hearing before then. Board member Joseph Calagione noted that – since a Zoning By-law amendment would affect all BP zones in town – his main concern was not Restaurant Depot, but the next wholesaling operation proposed to be in a BP zone.

"Truth be told, the whole concept of a wholesaler in a business park is contradictory," Kennelly said. Pettinari acknowledged telling his client that the board "politically" would probably not support the proposal.

Selectmen Chairman William Buckley – at his board's September 12 discussion on Gutierrez's request to put an article on the Special Town Meeting warrant – questioned whether he even wanted it to go before Town Meeting Members, but Town Counsel Gerald Moody said the request had to be remanded back to the Planning Board for its required public hearing. That hearing is scheduled for October 4.




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