LETTER: Zoning Board of Appeals Is More Accountable Than Framingham City Council Ever Would Be

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Editor’s Note: The following was read to the City Council’s Subcommittee on Planning & Zoning on Monday night, and submitted to SOURCE media for publication on Tuesday. It was also emailed to the entire 11-member Framingham City Council.


FRAMINGHAM – As you know, I am currently the Clerk, and formerly the Vice Chair, of the Zoning Board of Appeals.

However, I am forced to write not in that capacity, but as an individual.
I cannot write on behalf of the ZBA because this Subcommittee, and the City Council as a whole, has not bothered to consult the ZBA about any matter that is coming before the City Council about zoning.

Not only is this disrespectful, but it is depriving the City Council of the expertise and experience of those who have the most experience with the subject.

Therefore, with all due respect, I ask that these matters be tabled until the ZBA be provided with adequate opportunity to review the issues and prepare a response.

However, in the event that the Subcommittee does not agree to that delay, I am providing someof my thoughts on the matter.

The Zoning Board is most suited to make decisions on variances and special permits for a myriad of reasons, including the following:

We are the most experienced in applying the Zoning By-Laws and related statues. In fact, all three of the voting members are attorneys and two of us actively practice in the field.

As we often have to explain to people who are unfamiliar with zoning, zoning decisions are not a popularity contest. We are a quasi-judicial board. We have to take into account the law, the facts, the community’s concerns, and apply it all to come to the best decision for Framingham, as a whole- not for any particular constituency.

We are able to do this because we do not have to worry about the next election or fundraising.

That rarely results in everyone being happy. And we take flack for it. I, for one, have been yelled at, accosted, libeled, slandered, accused of crimes, and have had my livelihood threatened.

The ZBA is more accountable than the City Council would be for zoning decisions. It is all we do. Not only can we be sued, but we are also up for reappointment every three years. The City Council and the Mayor still have the ultimate authority, simply do not reappoint us if we offend you.

On the other hand, the City Council would be less accountable for any zoning decisions they might make. Their constituents may dislike one zoning decision, but it is highly unlikely the councilor will be voted out of office for that one decision.

The very premise in (District 1 City Councilor) Ms. Long’s presentation about variances is based on presumptions and a misunderstanding of zoning. There is no general agreement that use variances have been
problematic to the development of Framingham.

More importantly, the statement that variances derogate from the intent of our zoning regulations evidences a fundamental misunderstanding of

Variances are a part of our zoning regulations. They are provided for in our zoning regulations.

Therefore, to claim that variances derogate from the regulations of which they are a part is oxymoronic, at best.


Susan S. Craighead
District 3 resident


email: editor@FraminghamSource.com call or text at 508-315-7176