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ZBA chairman honored for 3 decades of service.

Byline: George Barnes

GARDNER - Few mayors, city councilors or other officials have been at the apex of city life for as long as Raymond LaFond.

For 30 years, Mr. LaFond has pored over the details of many of the city's largest municipal development projects as a member and longtime chairman of the city's Zoning Board of Appeals.

Before a meeting of the Mount Wachusett Community College board of trustees last week, Mayor Mark P. Hawke presented Mr. LaFond with a certificate from Gov. Deval L. Patrick honoring his three decades of public service.

Known for his fairness in considering both sides of every issue, but always with a focus on the public good, Mr. LaFond said he joined the Zoning Board in 1980 as an alternate at the invitation of Chairman Frank Zampogna. Several months later, Mr. Zampogna died during the city's winter carnival and Mr. LaFond was appointed a regular voting member of the board. He has served the city in that capacity ever since.

The Zoning Board oversees appeals by individuals and companies whose development projects were rejected by the city Building Department because they did not conform to the city's zoning ordinance. The board determines if the nonconforming projects should be allowed to go forward. The board also determines if a hardship exists for the petitioner because of topography of the land and that ruling in favor of the petitioner could be done without substantial detriment to the public good and would not nullify or substantially derogate from the intent of the zoning ordinance.

Mr. LaFond said that over the years, many interesting projects have passed through the board, some winning approval, others not. Among them have been large condominium developments, some of which were never built, and all three phases of the Heywood-Wakefield complex renovation.

The hearings have not always been easy, but some were memorable. In one case, a petitioner who was disruptive at a previous meeting came in wearing a spiked dog collar on all fours. He was led on a leash by a friend and sat panting during the meeting.

In another case, Mr. LaFond said a petitioner became so angry that he leaped onto the table to express his unhappiness with the board's actions. He was ejected from the meeting.

"In another case, after presenting his case, I was informed by a petitioner I was `very Neanderthal,'" Mr. LaFond said.

Mr. LaFond, who plans to continue on the board, said he has found his time on the board both interesting and challenging.

"It has been a great time," he said. "I've enjoyed it a lot."

ART: PHOTO

CUTLINE: Gardner Mayor Mark P. Hawke presents a certificate from Gov. Deval L. Patrick to Raymond LaFond, honoring Mr. LaFond for 30 years on the Gardner Zoning Board of Appeals.

PHOTOG: GEORGE BARNES
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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Aug 26, 2010
Words:468
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