Board responds to zoning abolition
by Jack Deming
Aug 27, 2014 | 2421 views | 1 1 comments | 48 48 recommendations | email to a friend | print
READSBORO- The planning commission sent a recommendation letter to the selectboard this week, detailing what they believe needs to be done to save zoning in the town. The commission was required to make its recommendations following a public meeting in June at which a group of residents voiced their disdain for the town’s zoning process as well as its enforcement, which they believe is fraught with favoritism. Thirty-five signatures, representing approximately 6% of the town’s registered voters, were collected for the petition to force the meeting.

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.
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August 27, 2014
Winther claims its not what we need?

He makes it sound like this was a complete surprise dropped in the Planning Commission's lap. When I was approached to sign on and asked for more information, it seems like the basis for the petition was the fact that neither the Planning Commission, Zoning Administrators and Selectmen would never take the issues seriously and blew them off for the last four to five years. This was a statement to force some type action, which in retrospect, I fully support now as I did not originally sign on.

The PC will only recommend someone they can have full control over so they can essentially control the whole system of permits, hearings and decisions.

None of what came out at the hearing was new to anyone in attendance ( although they seem to make you want to think they were blind-sided )as the issues have been totally ignored and its been verified by more than just a few.

Their position that no one in town could do it without being biased is baloney. Many towns do it, but its the fact they can not do it without showing bias so they feel no one else could. The roles of boards are definitely in question as they get involved where they do not belong ( creating bias as they will get involved if a biased reason arises ), but know their place when they have to.

The final comments show their actual disregard for people in town. "The man on the street that spreads gossip or unrealistic rumors about what they think they know "...speaks volumes that they are just obstacles in their way to keep the biased process intact.

They go on to claim "they don't know what can be done?"........obviously they should have done what they did not do that initiated this petition in the first place. If its not clear by now.....treat everyone equally, fairly and stop promoting the "looking the other way" when situations arise that involve certain people or situations.