Last week, I shared news on Working Groups (outside of public board meetings) the town planned to use for resolving difficult issues. A few commenters were ired by what they perceived to be a lack of open process. So I promised to look into it.
At last night’s Planning Board meeting, Paul Cimino expressed frustration over the comments. He and other board members sought to set the record straight.
They clarified that “Working Groups” aren’t a formal body and don’t have the authority to make decisions. Voting and public hearings would be handled by the appropriate boards.
The groups will facilitate discussion between all the boards, departments, and stakeholders effected by an issue. They explained that individual members of different boards are allowed to discuss town issues to solicit their perspectives.
Just as the Town Planner, Jennifer Burney, is allowed to have meetings with individual board members, she is allowed to bring members of different board together for a group discussion.
Burney has already started work on forming the groups. In the effort to work out an Open Space process, Burney began reaching out to the Open Space Preservation Commission, the Conservation Commission, the Sudbury Valley Trustees, and the Department of Public Works. She also wants to speak with the new Building Inspector and local developers. And that’s just to start.
OSPC member, Freddie Gillespie, voiced concern that Burney’s scope would be too wide. She worried that reaching out to all stakeholders would evolve into a long political process beyond the immediate need OSPC was seeking to resolve.
Burney explained that she wasn’t trying to get general feedback from everyone. She had specific questions related to the process and timing of each group’s role.
Planning Board Chair Don Morris was adament that Burney needs a chance to get a grip on the complicated process. He said to Gillespie, “It is urgent. But it is not an emergency.”
Board members did question the burden the new groups placed on Burney. She confirmed that it had already been very time consuming. Both Burney and the board agreed that as the Working Groups are formed, other members of the groups should take over some of the associated tasks.