GARDNER – There is growing tension in Gardner over the possibility that a horse race track developer will move to the city, but city leaders warn that a decision is still a long way off.
On Tuesday, the city’s planning office held a meeting on multiple topics that the city council had sent for recommendation. One of these related to the possible conversion of 180 acres of land along Route 140 from rural residential areas to commercial zoning. Another item wanted the board to review the possibilities of adding “sports betting” to its destination option.
The planning office presented each of the topics at its next meeting on Sept. 19, citing a lack of information from the city council and concerns about “zone zoning.” That is when a plot of land is given a destination that does not suit the environment.
“I think we need clarification from the city’s legal department on a number of points,” said Mark Schafron, president of the planning office, at Tuesday’s meeting.
It was at a city council meeting on Aug. 7 when a city councilor said that a racetrack developer was just one of many interested parties in using the land, if it were eventually destined for commercial use. WBZ-TV spoke by phone on Tuesday with several council members who said they are interested in bringing business to the area, but are far from determining what that might look like.
Many residents said at Tuesday’s rally that they had problems repurposing that land, regardless of the potential developer who would move in. Traffic support, infrastructure and environmental concerns were the main themes of the residents who showed up.
The planning office will advise the city council, but it is up to the council to vote on whether or not to redesignate the building. The councilors who spoke to WBZ-TV said that the decision will probably take months.
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