PETERBOROUGH — Selectmen will re-evaluate two petitions this week that changed the vote requirement on a controversial zoning amendment at the polls last month from a simple majority to a supermajority.
The petitions ultimately led to the amendment’s demise, as it received more than 50 percent of the vote, but less than the 66.7 percent supermajority.
Zoning amendment 15, submitted by a group of 44 residents, sought to alter town ordinances on two roughly overlapping areas that cover the downtown and some of its surroundings.
The ordinances, both enacted within the past five years, allow for denser housing in the areas.
Traditional Neighborhood Overlay Zone I, adopted in 2014, defines geographical boundaries and allows open spaces in neighborhoods to be developed into homes. A second area, Traditional Neighborhood Overlay Zone II, established in 2017, allows for homes to be closer together and permits the construction of multi-family homes and buildings with up to 10 apartments. It also allows for the construction of small stores that serve the neighborhood, such as a coffee shop or a small repair service.
Zoning amendment 15 sought to get rid of Zone II and to alter Zone I so new homes would need to be farther apart. It failed at the polls on May 14, 778-719.
On May 6, the town received two protest petitions that sought to change the voting threshold from a simple majority to a two-thirds vote. Selectmen discussed the petitions at the end of their meeting the following day and then signed the notice of receiving the petitions, allowing them to go into effect.
The residents who submitted zoning amendment 15, through lawyer Mark D. Fernald of Peterborough, argued that the protest petitions aren’t valid on procedural grounds.
In a May 11 letter to the town, Fernald argued the petitions didn’t have enough signatures to be valid. He also argued that since the protest petitions focused only on the voting threshold, and not the entire amendment, they violated state law.
When asked about the town’s options on the matter in an email Monday, Deputy Town Administrator Nicole MacStay did not specify what actions selectmen might consider, but in a May 17 news release, Town Administrator Rodney Bartlett said the town will review the signatures on both petitions and consult a lawyer, presenting the report on Tuesday’s meeting.
Selectmen will meet Tuesday at 5 p.m. at the Peterborough Town House.