In its letter, the planning commission summarized the hearing by stating that “The Bylaw in and of itself is not the issue at hand, but the administration of the Bylaw lacks credibility, and is viewed as being biased, with lack of follow-through and with minimum or no support from the Planning Commission, Development Review Board and Selectboard.”
This was a feeling expressed by many at the June meeting, including Larry Hopkins who circulated the petition. Hopkins said the petition was a final option following years of unchecked and unenforced zoning violations in setbacks, as well as the construction and size of structures in town, many of which he observed in his time serving as a lister. Others at the meeting called for abolition of the bylaw because they feel it is a hindrance, and simply not necessary in a state where zoning is only in place in about half the towns.
Those who did not support the abolition of the bylaw came to the conclusion that its administration and enforcement was the issue, including former planning commission member John Winther.
“Larry and the petitioners scored success forcing this meeting but what has been proposed is not what we need,” said Winther.
In its recommendations, the planning commission came to the conclusion that zoning in Readsboro needs reformation, not abolition. “Recent publicity may lead many people to believe that the process is totally broken and can’t be fixed, however, the Planning Commission strongly believes that with appropriate co-operative corrective measures we can fix the problems. Since the Bylaw is not the problem (as written), we have a good foundation to rebuild and resolve the issues around the administration of the Bylaw.”
The commission believes that the appointment of a new zoning administrator (the position is currently vacant) would only help ease public concern if the criteria of the job description were met consistently. The commission recommended hiring a zoning administrator who does not live in Readsboro, to help with concerns over the issue of favoritism. “The Planning Commission, based on comments from the hearing, doesn’t believe that any resident of the town appointed would ever be perceived as unbiased and objective.”
Another recommendation calls for the development review board, planning commission, and selectboard to keep better records of their conversations and actions regarding zoning to help create a clear picture of what each boards’ roles are in the zoning process.
Last, the commission mentions the need to resolve the issue of “the man on the street that spreads gossip or unrealistic rumors about what they think they know.” The commission goes on to say they’re not sure what can be done to help get the real facts out, but they believe these recommendations may help at least at get the facts on record.
The next step in the process will be another public meeting held by the selectboard to gather public comment. At Wednesday night’s meeting, the selectboard set the date for the meeting for Tuesday, October 7, at 6:30 pm at the school.