More Departures in Framingham Planning, Economic, & Community Development Department As Council Set To Approve Re-Organization

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FRAMINGHAM – Two more employees are gone from Framingham Planning, Economic & Community Development Department.

The department consists of 13 positions, not counting two seasonal employees, according to City documents.

In the last year, five employees have left the department, including its director Art Robert.

The department is scheduled for a re-organization and a new name, with new functions. A proposal, required by the City Charter, is finally before the 11-member City Council, submitted by the Spicer administration in mid-June 2020.

Robert, who had headed the department for 5 years, left on July 5, 2019.

His replacement Kevin Shea did not start until December 23, 2019.

In August 2019, after five years with Framingham senior planner Marianne Iarossi left the City for neighboring Natick, in a lateral move.

During the summer of 2019, Community Development Coordinator, who oversees the City’s CDBG program, Nathalie Jean went on leave. At the time she complained about the “apartheid-like” working conditions in the Memorial Building under the Spicer Administration. She came back to work in the economic & community development department in the fall. Recently, she left the department, too.

In December 2019, Planning Board Administrator Amanda Loomis, after 6 years with Framingham, left to become the Town Planner in the Town of Lexington. Her position has not been filled. The City is now on a hiring freeze due to the coronavirus pandemic.

When Iarossi left the City of Framingham, Planner Sam Scoppettone was promoted to senior planner in September 2019. And now, he will leave the department this month, marking the fifth person in the last 12 months. Scoppettone was hired in October 2015.

Mistakes by City’s Development & Planning Department

Tonight should have been the last Zoning Board of Appeals meeting for Scopperttone, but the meeting’s agenda was not posted 48 hours in advance, in accordance with the state’s open meeting law.

SOURCE contacted ZBA chair Steve Meltzer this morning about the missing agenda and possible Open Meeting Law violation.

He replied “an agenda was originally posted on June 30, 2020. Sometime subsequent to the 30th, an amended agenda was produced and the intent was to post the updated agenda on the website. Due to a combination of miscommunication and technical error, the amended agenda, as well as the original agenda were taken off the website. Due to the requirements of the Open Meeting Law, the July 8, 2020, Zoning Board Meeting is cancelled. We are working with the applicants and the Board members in order to attempt to reschedule the meeting for as soon as practicable and an update will be posted. We apologize to the applicants and to the public for any inconvenience that this may cause.”

On July 1 at 5:25 p.m. Scoppettone wrote to the Zoning Board of Appeals members the July 8 ZBA meeting would be his last as he was “leaving the City and enrolling in graduate school (again). … This will result in a temporary lack of staff for the ZBA and we have advised Steve (Meltzer) that it may be best to either cancel the August meeting or at least postpone any new hearings. Sarbjit has graciously stepped up to help over the last year but ZBA was never part of her job description and she is juggling many other responsibilities. I will add an agenda item for discussion per Steve’s request.”

This mistake in filing the agenda for the ZBA meeting, now cancelled, is the third mistake in the Framingham Planning, Economic & Community Development office in the last couple of months.

Last month, a hearing notice was not posted in time under the state’s statute, and the Framingham Planning Board’s meeting had to be cancelled.

Earlier this spring, the department made a mistake with a legal ad needed for a historic re-use bylaw change. The meeting was “advertised on WebEx rather than Zoom,” and the zoning bylaw reference in the ad was Article 5 Section F, which is the Land Disturbance and Storm Water Management bylaw, which should have read Article 5 Section B, which is the Historic Reuse bylaw, according to City emails.

District 1 City Councilor Christine Long, who was chair of the Planning Board for years, and District 6 City Councilor Phil Ottaviani Jr, who headed the Zoning Board of Appeals for decades, will have a say in the future of the city department, along with their fellow 9 City Councilors, as a re-organization plan submitted by the Spicer Administration is now before the City Council to approve.

Reorganizing of the City’s Economic Development and Planning Departments

When Framingham became a City, the Charter called for a new Division of Planning and Community Development (DPCD), which manages the functions of three formerly separate divisions in order to streamline planning, economic development and permitting
functions. That should have happened in 2018.

A plan was recently submitted on June 9 and then revised again on June 16 by the Spicer Administration.

The 13-member department, not counting two seasonal employees, is headed by newly-hired director Shea, with a salary of $118,454. Shea’s assistant director is Erika Jerram at $99,768.

The department also would include the Conservation Administrator Robert MacArthur and an assistant conservation administrator, who were previous under the Department of Public Works division.

With Scoppettone and Jean leaving, there are now five open or vacant positions in the department, besides the two seasonal positions, which will not be filled due to the coronavirus hiring freeze.

According to Spicer Administration the new plan “maintain 5 key functions,” moves the conservation department from the Department of Public Works, and “repurpose key roles to support all functions.” The proposal also adds “economic development capacity” and reclassifies the Planning Board Administrator position – vacated by Loomis.

The re-organization creates one new position and re-purposes two, according to Shea.

The new position is “Economic Development Coordinator.” The position would serve a “key role” in the new Department of Planning & Community Development “including professional, technical work advancing the City’s economic development activities, strategies, and
goals, recruiting and retaining businesses, increasing the business and commercial tax base, and meeting with multiple stakeholders to
maintain economically vibrant business districts and strategically position the City to compete regionally for economic development,” according to the Spicer Administration.

The former Planning Board Administrator position would become “Land Use Manager/ Department Director.” The individual, when hired, is “intended to serve ZBA and Planning Board, work with applicants to get projects ready for application, run the TRT, write decisions and manage board expectations. Participate in planning process and drive rezoning efforts.”

What was the Community Economic Development Administrator position would become the “fiscal office manager.” The person would “manages all payroll, accounts payable, contracts, requisitions, office management, reception, assists with Permitting Administration.”

This was the organization when Framingham finished as a Town in 2017 and in 2018 as a city.
This is the newest re-organization plan by the Spicer Administration submitted on June 16.

“A reorganization plan for the Planning & Community Development Division is currently pending before City Council. There is a lot of work involved in coordinating with ZBA applicants, preparing for meetings, writing decisions, and ensuring legal deadlines are met. I would encourage you to voice your support to City Council for staffing our department, as I know some City Councilors question the need for staff,” wrote Scoppettone to members of the Zoning Board of Appeals on July 1.

The City Council’s Economic Development subcommittee has a meeting tonight at 7. The re-organization plan is on the agenda.

editor

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

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