Letter To The Editor: Postpone 6/11 Town Meeting Vote


To the Editor,

I am writing with great concern about the rapidly approaching vote scheduled for the Special Town Meeting on 6/11 when voters will be asked to approve SIGNIFICANT changes to the town zoning regulations – proposed changes, which unfortunately are still undefined as of this writing. As outlined below I am asking that the Planning Board and Select Board pass over and delay the vote on 6/11 on these proposed historical zoning changes.

Clearly the Planning Board has been working diligently to address many pressing Town issues, including senior housing. The fact that it has taken 2 ½ years -- and the plan is still unfinished -- is indicative of the magnitude of the issues involved. At the PB’s final Public Hearing on 5/19 several critical issues came to light.

The concept of development “by right” is being set as a goal to “encourage development”. If passed, the Town is saying that it has the right to deny the current right of “due process” to its citizens -- a dangerous precedent. If the Town intends to remove the right to “due process” from ALL MBTS citizens, it should say so. It should be presented on the Warrant as a separate item on its own merit, not disguised in the wording as “a much-needed revision to outdated Town Zoning ordinances.”

This is what should appear on the Warrant-Do you agree to establishing “By Right” as a means to encourage development in the Town, thus allowing the Town to remove your right to “due process” concerning development affecting your living environment? A yes vote means that you support the elimination of the right of appeal of ALL MBTS residents concerning development in their neighborhood.

Historically the overall key goal of zoning regulations is to enable all regulatory authorities the ability to assess the impact of a proposed action BEFORE their approval is given. Yet the PB acknowledges that throughout their 2 ½ years of formulating new development regulations to guide our Town for the next 50 years, they themselves have made NO effort at ANY research and analysis to project even a basic range of the potential cost burden/impact of their actions on the infrastructure and related services of the community they serve- nor do they feel a need to do so, Ironic indeed, as the first thing the that the Zoning Board asks of a development applicant is an impact study concerning their proposal. The Planning Board must be held to the same standards of impact accountability.

PB hearing comments are illustrative. On rushing a hastily finished document to the ballot- “we’ve been working for 2 ½ years- don’t let the Perfect be the enemy of the Good”. On determining who will define the “by right” goal of development “in the best interest of the neighborhood” “It’s a judgement call”, “it’s the ZBA and Building Inspector’s responsibility to evaluate each case.” The most telling remark indicative of lack of foresight? The subsequent summary “defense” of their overall position, “Zoning changes are not forever”- left unsaid- “but their impact is.”  This is a formula for “spot zoning”. If this proposed legislation is passed as is, total development chaos will ensue.

The key principal in successful planning is forecasting and NONE has been done is this instance. We, the citizens and the Town leaders who serve them, should be acting as one, working on a collaborative not confrontational basis as adjacent Town authorities are - listen to the citizens. Hit the pause button on putting the proposed zoning changes to a vote, as it is very premature at this point. To go forward, many questions need to be answered - what are the PB’s goals for the proposed zoning changes beyond “encourage development”, how many housing units do they want to see built- over what period of time, how many units are too much, how does their proposal mesh with State mandates- and should it- what is the capacity of the Town to absorb the incremental costs of all the new residents on the infrastructure and related services, parking, traffic, fire, police, school, etc.

The Planning Board is racing to meet a self-imposed deadline - there is no need to arbitrarily rush these precedent shattering regulatory changes forward. It’s clear that 2 ½ years is not a reasonable time to get it all done, nor is 2 ½ weeks a reasonable time for the citizens to digest these critical complex proposals and come to a proper conclusion. Do it properly and give the citizens time to fully digest the content of the finished product and the full implication of the potential changes, in a timely manner. Let there be a true outreach to educate residents on the full implication of “by right” and the proposed loss of “due process, with a full public discourse on the finished product BEFORE the matter is brought to a vote.

In a democracy, if the Government intends to take away some of the rights of its citizens, does it not have the moral obligation of fully informing them of its intent, and then allow them a voice in the matter by voting on the issue in a full-fledged referendum?

John Jay


planning board, town meeting, government, zoning board, john jay, zba and building inspector