WOBURN - The City Council could resuscitate the Zoning Ordinance Review Committee under a proposed change in standing committee protocols.
Earlier this month, City Council President Michael Anderson and Ward 7 Alderman Lindsay Higgins introduced an order that would clarify the process for establishing and naming members to various council standing committees.
The clarification to "Rule 20" is being proposed as the City Council has agreed to review and modernize its 13-page Rules and Orders manual.
Notably, the change would authorize the city council president to again appoint to members to ZORC, a defunct advisory body that previously consisted of a combination of Planning Board and City Council members. The five-member panel, established in the mid-2000s to investigate the potential effects of complicated zoning changes, was disbanded in the spring of 2016.
At one point being just a Planning Board subcommittee, ZORC's membership was expanded in 2007 to include City Council appointees during discussions about creating the St. Anthony's Church overlay in North Woburn, as well as for the Commerce Way Corridor Overlay District.
In the years thereafter, ZORC vetted a number of other proposals, including new rules governing no-disturb buffer zones between commercial and residential properties and the potential establishment of an in-law or accessory apartment ordinance.
City officials originally intended to use ZORC as a mechanism to review city-led planning initiatives, as opposed to zoning changes pitched by private parties in order to facilitate individual developers.
At the time, proponents of ZORC argued the city should be proactively determining its own zoning future instead of reacting to changes being proposed by developers. However, that line slowly became blurred over time.
In the spring of 2016, a resident, concerned about development proposals being shuffled over to ZORC instead of being vetted from start-to-finish during televised Planning Board of City Council hearings, challenged that practice and inquired about the genesis of the government body.
City Solicitor Ellen Callahan-Doucette subsequently discovered the group was never legitimized by a formal order of the council, and as a result, the group was disbanded.
Since ZORC's disbandment, Planning Board members have repeatedly tried to convince the City Council to resurrect the government body.
The city solicitor has suggested the group could be legitimized by passing legislation that defines the advisory body's membership and purpose, but the aldermen have been reluctant to do so.