WOBURN - City Council President Edward Tedesco recently advocated for closing an approximate $3,000 gap between stipends paid to members of the Zoning Board of Appeals.
The council at its latest meeting in City Hall laid on the table legislation that will bring the annual stipend for associate members of Woburn’s Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) in line with the compensation granted to full-fledged appointees.
The proposed order will have to be listed on at least one other regular council agenda before it can be acted upon. The aldermen are next scheduled to meet next Tuesday.
According to Tedesco, he decided to sponsor the initiative after discovering that associate members are paid $1,350 per year for their volunteer positions, while all other regular ZBA representatives receive a $4,500 stipend.
“It was brought to my attention that the alternate is paid less than other members of the board. The alternate still has to attend all meetings of the board. They just might not get to vote,” the City Council president told his colleagues.
“If they have to go to the same meetings, [they should be paid the same],” Tedesco later reasoned.
Harkening back to a time when state law forbid members of government bodies like the ZBA from voting on variances or comprehensive permit requests after an absence from a public hearing, associate members sit in on all meetings but generally refrain from voting on most petitions.
However, in circumstances where a regular member is disqualified from voting on a variance request due to absences or conflicts-of-interest, the associate member can step in to cast a vote.
In the past, particularly in circumstances where the ZBA was handling controversial petitions likely to result in a divided vote, applicants were placed at a disadvantage where their request was more likely to be rejected once a regular member was disqualified from participating in deliberations.
As a result, variance and comprehensive permit applicants were prone to withdraw and refile a petition - if an absence drove the loss of a voting member - in order to be sure the full membership of the government body was able to act.
The appointment of associate members is intended to prevent such occurrences.
A few years ago, state laws were modified to allow members of deliberative bodies to still participate in a public hearing if they missed just a single meeting. In order to do so, board members must watch or listen to a recording of the missed meeting and review any recently submitted evidenced. They can then sign an affidavit certifying that they have caught up with the proceedings.
The ZBA is one of a handful of government bodies in the city where members are paid for their work. The City Council, School Committee, and members of the Conservation Commission also also receive an annual stipend.
The compensation rates for each of the government bodies is set by the city charter.