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Expedited permitting lesson is learned.

Byline: Karen Nugent

CLINTON - A group of town officials Wednesday evening got a lesson in expedited permitting - a way of speeding up redevelopment of old buildings or vacant property.

Adam Costa, a consultant working for the town from the law firm of Blatman, Bobrowski & Mead of Concord, explained that Clinton received a $31,000 technical assistance grant from the state to create a project review team, make a checklist for developers, and develop a user's guide. The money, which funds Costa's work, would also be used to amend some of the town's bylaws, he said, but local boards would still have full jurisdiction.

The so-called Chapter 43D law, approved by the Legislature in 2006, gives communities a local option to speed up the permitting process for developing sites designated as priorities. The only priority site in Clinton approved for 43D permitting so far is 460-530R Main St. - the former Buck Chair factory. Costa said it has 10 lots on about 12 acres, with semi-occupied buildings and undeveloped land. It is zoned industrial.

The law, which was accepted by voters at the June annual town meeting, guarantees that permit decisions would be rendered within 180 days, rather than the months, and sometimes years, it takes under the current regulations. The law applies only to commercial and industrial property, not residential.

Three other sites approved at town meeting were submitted for 43D permitting: Lancaster Mills on Green Street, the former Rockbestos factory on Sterling Street, and Bates property near sand pits by the capped landfill. They were not approved for expedited permitting by the state's Inter-agency Permitting Board.

Costa said the review team, to be made up of representatives from various town boards - planning, zoning, conservation, and the building commission - would take a week or so to review checklists submitted by developers, to make sure all of the required information is there. A two-week technical review would follow, to look at more in-depth requirements such as drainage.

Costa said there are obstacles to the 180-day decision making such as scheduling among town boards. Most meet monthly, he said, but joint hearings with several boards at once is a possible solution.

Building Inspector Tony Zahariadis pointed out that permitting takes a long time mainly because of the month time spans between Planning and Zoning Board meetings, and Conservation Commission hearings.

"Everything's a month, a month, a month, for 20 minutes of talking each time," he said.

Town Administrator Mike Ward said Thursday that Wednesday's meeting was for Costa, who has set up similar programs in other towns, to get input from town boards. Costa will draft procedures specific to Clinton using information gathered at the meeting, Ward said, and follow up meeting will be scheduled for the fall.
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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Aug 21, 2009
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