To the editor:
On Thursday, Feb. 17, a public hearing with the zoning board of appeals was held in Wilmington. It was held to discuss a company’s request for a variance to expand development on a site that abuts Wilmington’s town beach property — the location known as Lake Everest.
The developers purchased property zoned for 16 townhouses and are asking for a variance to increase the amount to 27 units. There were about 70 people in attendance. 14 people spoke in opposition to the variance while only six people spoke in favor of it. The community’s dissatisfaction of this project has been repeatedly voiced over several years. The beach is a community recreational park and current zoning barely protects this waterfront area. At the public hearing, there was an assertive effort made to keep public voice and opposing viewpoints to a minimum. Spokespeople were instructed to face and speak only to the zoning board and to keep their backs to the audience. The microphone amplification was spotty and any audience response and/or reaction was immediately shushed. Therefore, in an effort to be heard publicly, I restate my opposition to the expansion of this project.
At the meeting, the project’s developers spoke of repercussions if their request is not permitted: larger units with garages; units situated even closer to the beach area. Why will they impose negative alternatives (consequences?) for a proposal that they say will supposedly enhance our community?
The Wilmington beach is a beautiful location with an unlimited amount of choices on how to enjoy it. Yet with all the extensive choices it offers, it offers a limited amount of space. The beach has a history of being well used as a recreational community park, but it is not a large area of land. I have lived near Lake Everest for much of my life, and my opinion is that residential development will adversely impact its natural environment, aesthetic beauty and daily use.
Nonetheless, the current zoning in our town allows for such development and the developers purchased the property with that intent. But why is the Wilmington Zoning Board of Appeals seriously considering a variance to increase the number of dwellings to be built? The developers knew in advance of the zoning restrictions on this property, and the majority of our town residents are clearly against a variance to increase development in this location. Therefore, it is appropriate that development proceed in accordance with our town’s current laws and regulations. To do otherwise is to disregard and discount both the law and the people of Wilmington.
The zoning board of appeals must accept the expectations of the residents whom they represent. They must advocate for the whole community and not for individual business interests. I trust that the ZBA members will remain independently vested and that they will provide wise stewardship of the property neighboring our vulnerable town beach. On March 10, I hope they’ll listen to the majority of the community's sentiment and vote “no.”