Reappointment of ZBA Chair Stirs Heated Debate Among Council, Others

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Watertown City Hall

Watertown Town Hall

Watertown Town Hall

Despite objections from residents, the Town Council recently voted to reappoint Melissa M. Santucci Rozzi as Chair of the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Councilors voted nearly unanimously to reappoint Rozzi during a Town Council meeting Tuesday, March 10. Prior to the vote, several councilors said they had heard from residents who were unhappy with Rozzi after the ZBA approved a controversial proposal for a CVS in Coolidge Ave. Despite objections from residents, every member of the council expressed support for Rozzi except Tony Palomba, who said he was disappointed at how his fellow councilors reacted to the public’s criticism of Rozzi. Palomba voted present.

While some councilors expressed disappointment at some of the comments that had heard regarding Rozzi, even calling specific comment disturbing, Palomba said that not every member of the public who spoke out against her should be lumped into the same category.

“Those comments that are attached to the minutes, those are thoughtful comments,” Palomba said. “If you want to decide that everybody who makes any thoughtful comments should be all put in on big box and said they’re disrespectful, that’s your choice.”

Residents reached out to councilors and expressed their dissatisfaction with Rozzi after the ZBA approved a controversial proposal for a CVS in Coolidge Square in late January. Members of the public and some council members attended the seven-hour ZBA meeting and spoken out against the project, which the ZBA later approved unanimously, according to previous reports.

Despite the public outrage, other councilors remained supportive of Rozzi and other members of the ZBA.

“Perfect is the enemy of good,” Falkoff said. “I am voting for Santucci Rozzi with the expectation that she will be working with us to make the process better.”

Councilor Cecilia Lenk said she thought Rozzi is more that qualified for the position.

“I’m consistently impressed by her organizational skills, her knowledge of the zoning requirements and laws, and also her professionalism in all of the cases,” Lenk said.

Lenk said that while not everyone will agree with the ZBA’s decisions, it is a volunteer board that requires people of a certain skill set to give their time and commitment to doing very specific work. She said that she’s very satisfied with the work the ZBA has done.

“I think she has don’t a fine job,” Lenk said of Rozzi. “I’m only sorry that this reappointment has become personal and in some cases the dialog has been inappropriate online.”

Councilor Angeline Kounelis said Watertown has survived other controversial developments, and felt that Rozzi’s reappointment had become personal, and that it was inappropriate.

“To actually speak against a particular individual because of their vote, and to make sure negative comments is wrong,” Kounelis said. “One email that was sent out today to the Town Council was very, very disturbing … especially the last sentence, and I won’t repeat it, but it is a public document and maybe it should be brought out.

“I’m very, very disappointed in some of the citizens of our community,” Kounelis said.

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