The Westford Zoning Board of Appeals voted 3-2 on Tuesday night to reopen a public hearing on the contentious asphalt plant proposed just off Groton Road near the Westford/Chelmsford border.
Earlier this month the board did not approve either a special permit or variance for Newport Materials’ proposed plant in a preliminary vote that was likely required to obtain a final approval at this meeting.
However, ZBA Chairman Robert Hermann indicated that additional information has been obtained that would be pertinent enough to reopen public hearings on the two failed applications as well as an approved application on a sound variance.
Members of town staff indicated to the board that the majority of the information submitted was not new in their view, although Hermann disagreed, believing that Newport deserved a chance to discuss information relating to the new information that was submitted this week.
Newport attorney Doug Deschenes indicated that the information submitted included letters relating to concerns over executive sessions made by the ZBA as well as concerns over proceedings at the previous meeting that did not allow all pertinent information to be given to the board by those in attendance.
“We have more to say, and this reopening gives us an opportunity,” said Deschenes.
Some neighbors opposing the plant, such as Alisa Nakashian-Holsberg, also noted that not everyone got a chance to voice their views despite support for the initial decision.
She also hoped to obtain electronic versions of submitted traffic studies that could better illustrate their view that the proposed plant would have a significant impact on the town.
“We felt that the last vote was fair and reasonable,” said Nakashian-Holsberg. “If (Newport) wants to reopen public input, we feel it’s only fair that we have our due process.”
Zoning Board Members Paul MacMillan and Jay Enis voted against the reopening while Hermann, Scott MacKay and Scott Fitzgerald were in favor of it.
Due to public hearing notice timeline the reopened public hearing would have had to occur on April 16, one day after the permitting deadline. However, Deschenes told the board that his client was willing to extend the deadline as needed provided that hearings do not return to town hall.
A tentative date of April 22 was initially proposed, although that date was deemed infeasible due to scheduling conflicts.