Dolores Barbieri had large shoes to fill when she became president of the Somerton Civic Association. Some would say those shoes were enormous.
After having served decades as vice president of the group, Barbieri assumed the presidency following the November 2009 death of Mary Jane Hazell, the longtime public face and motivational leader of the SCA.
During Barbieri’s tenure, the civic group maintained its dogged policing of local development projects and zoning cases while creating an annual community festival that pays tribute to the nation’s veterans and the city’s first responders. On May 13, Barbieri announced to the group that she has decided to pass the reins to someone else. She will not seek re-election to another two-year term on the SCA board.
The organization will elect a new slate of officers during its next general meeting on June 10 at Walker Lodge 306, 1290 Southampton Road. The public is welcome, but only dues-paying members are allowed to vote. Sitting zoning chairman Seth Kaplan is the lone nominee for president, while other nominees include Lou DeCree for vice president, Mary Jane Roberts for recording secretary, Pat Cantwell for treasurer and Natalie Sherman for membership chairwoman. There are no nominees for zoning chairman, although Barbieri said she may help with that until a permanent replacement can be found.
“I want to thank everyone for coming every month, supporting the organization and your interest in the community,” Barbieri said. “There’s so much going on.”
Barbieri added that she has been doing volunteer work with the SCA and other organizations for a long time, so she’s ready “to take a rest and enjoy other things.”
“I’m not resigning. I was told by the board that I’m retiring. So I expect my gold watch and my pension,” Barbieri joked.
Earlier in the meeting, the civic association voted on one zoning issue. William Loesche Elementary School seeks a zoning variance to erect a free-standing digital sign in front of the building alongside Bustleton Avenue. The Department of Licenses and Inspection refused to issue the school a permit on the basis of three factors. The face of the sign would be larger than the code allows; it would stand taller than the code allows; and would be positioned closer to the street than the code allows.
The digital or “animated” sign would be double sided, measuring four feet by eight feet on each side for a total of 64 square feet of display space. The code allows for only 15 square feet.
Mounted on a pole, the sign would rise 7-1/2 feet above the ground, whereas the code calls for a maximum height of seven feet. Further, the sign would be positioned five feet from the curb, but the code calls for a minimum of 25 feet.
Loesche Principal Victoria Velasquez said that students spent two years raising $17,000 for the sign as a tribute to a beloved teacher who passed away. Students held dress-down days, candle sales, bingo games and other fundraisers. They did it “one dollar at a time,” the principal said.
Velasquez said that when she asked City Councilman Brian O’Neill to endorse the project, he requested that the school not use the digital sign to promote for-profit businesses, that the school allow the community to submit messages for the sign and that the school not rotate the digital messages too rapidly.
As part of a persuasive writing lesson, students authored letters advocating for the sign and submitted them to the civic association. SCA members approved the sign unanimously. A Zoning Board of Adjustment hearing is pending. ••