Marion Planning Board faces tricky zoning choice

Apr 6, 2020

MARION — The Planning Board on Monday discussed — but did not take a position on — rezoning 29 acres of Wareham Road land on which the owner wants to build a 50-unit housing complex.

The land is adjacent to a 13-acre plot where Steen Realty and Development Corporation is nearing approval of a 97-unit housing project.

While in favor of Henry DeJesus's plans for a development, board members hesitated to sponsor the zoning change at Town Meeting because they worried that once the land was rezoned for multi-family housing, it would set a bad precedent for future projects.

For the project to exceed 15 units, it must be rezoned as multi-family at Town Meeting. If re-zoned, it would trigger a restriction on the project until approved. DeJesus’ attorney, Patricia McArdle, was present to review the deed restriction.

If the zoning is approved, but the project is not, Town Counsel Jon Whitten said a different developer could build a much higher density project.  He said that Town Meeting voters have no say in approving the project and should only approve the zoning change if they believe it is in line with the town’s Master Plan, not because they favor the project.

The Planning Board hesitated on the zoning change because Marion developer Sherman Briggs rezoned a 27 unit project by The Brew Fish but withdrew and refiled to put 42 units in the same spot in two buildings. They felt the zoning change there only passed because they backed it. DeJesus’ project relies on the same process as Briggs’. 

McArdle said her client should not be judged on Briggs’ actions and that DeJesus’ 50 unit project was “self-limiting” because of its septic capacity.

She said if this project fails DeJesus will sell the land. This could allow Steen to expand his project.

Selectmen will vote on the Town Meeting date on April 9. If it is kept at May 11, the Planning Board will hold a meeting early next week to resolve the question.