CHATHAM — As they did last week, selectmen on Tuesday again rejected a request to have a special town meeting sometime this fall.
At issue is a proposed zoning change designed to facilitate the redevelopment and preservation of the Monomoy Theatre property. Developer Greg Clark last week asked the board to consider calling a special town meeting to address the zoning request, which was among many articles removed from the May annual town meeting warrant. That meeting was abbreviated and held outdoors to facilitate social distancing during the pandemic. The board last week decided to handle all of those articles at next year’s annual town meeting instead.
After the session, Clark called Selectman Cory Metters and said that he is interested in forcing a special town meeting by collecting the requisite 200 signatures to do so. Metters said Clark told him that delaying the zoning article until next May might cause the redevelopment project to be delayed for two additional years.
Given that the project seems to enjoy strong public support, Metters said he believes Clark would succeed in getting the necessary signatures, but it would be dangerous to hold a petition drive during a pandemic. Therefore, selectmen should consider calling the meeting “to avoid the risk of putting people out and collecting the signatures,” he said.
The other four members of the board said that while the also support the project, they stand by their previous decision to skip a fall special town meeting. By preserving the theater venue and by creating housing units, the Monomoy Theatre project clearly would have community value, “but so many other things do, too,” Selectmen Chairman Shareen Davis said.
Board member Peter Cocolis said that, given the pandemic, times are uncertain. “The applicant even said it himself. He doesn’t know what a year from now will bring, whether people will be going to theaters or not,” he said.
Selectman Jeffrey Dykens agreed, saying the proponent’s need to advance his project does not outweigh public safety. Board member Dean Nicastro concurred, and said that even if a special meeting were held, it might be sparsely attended and the project might not win the needed two-thirds majority vote to proceed.
The board took no action to call the special town meeting.