Holyoke City Council meets over zoning issue for front yard pools

As they stand now, the city’s zoning ordinances would disallow front yard pools.
Published: Apr. 19, 2022 at 7:36 PM EDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - There is a heated debate in Holyoke as some constituents have asked the city to amend its zoning laws to allow for swimming pools in their front yards if they receive a special permit from the city council.

As they stand now, the city’s zoning ordinances would disallow front yard pools.

Western Mass News asked City Councilor Dave Bartley why residents are asking for this change, and he said it has to do with the layout of their yards.

“This allows people that technically cannot have a swimming pool because we have ordinances that prohibit front yard pools,” Councilor Bartley said. “Well, nobody wants to see a swimming pool in somebody’s front yard. Nobody wants to see that. We are normal people for the most part, and so, because there’s so many odd shape lots in Holyoke and all other communities, this one change would allow, through a special permit and a public hearing where all the abutters are notified, the potential to get a swimming pool in somebody’s yard.”

The planning board recommended against the proposed ordinance, but the city council did vote 9-4 to approve it two weeks ago. However, Mayor Joshua Garcia vetoed the vote, saying in part, quote:

“Before I sign off and approve any such language change to our zoning bylaw regarding the installation of pools, I encourage the city council to work collaboratively with the planning board and the zoning board to reach an acceptable and agreed upon zone change that appropriately addresses concerns raised and effectively meets the needs of citizens.”

Bartley said that did not provide enough explanation.

“The Mayor did not specify any direct issue, and neither did the four city counselors who voted no two weeks ago. They gave no direct argument other than to say, “Well, why can’t you just listen to the planning board?’” he said. “The way ordinances work is, the planning board simply recommends, they don’t vote. The city council takes the final action and then the Mayor has to sign off on it.”

He said he is open to taking a deeper look Tuesday night, but if the majority does not want to, he is prepared to vote to override the Mayor’s veto.

If the zoning change does pass, there will then be a public hearing before they move forward.