Planning Board: Progress on Open Space protection; Hearings for regs and Warrant Articles

Last night, the Planning Board meeting included discussions on necessary public hearings and ongoing work to develop an Open Space protection process.

Town Planner Jennifer Burney recounted her efforts to resolve the town’s lack of Open Space process. Board members characterized the work as serious progress towards consensus on an important issue. They also noted that there is still a lot of work to do.

Burney explained to the board that the first step should be to amend their existing regulations for protecting Open Space. The second step is working to revise Open Space bylaws.

To seek advice and consensus, Burney reached out to relevant town committees and departments, developers, and other towns. She informed the board that the process issue is common for towns.

Based on feedback, Burney drafted a proposed “Amendments to the Board’s Rules and Regulations for Protection of Open Space within Subdivision Developments“. (You can click here to see my scanned copy. Note: redlines are just the difference between the version she gave the board a week prior to the meeting and the version she updated that day.) 

At Monday’s meeting, Burney read through the document. The board tabled their edits and a substantive discussion of content for their next meeting. (Though they did allow a few comments from the attending public.)

The board plans to hold a public hearing on amendments before a vote.

Open Space Preservation Commission member Freddie Gillespie voiced concerns about process status. She said that she still didn’t understand how problems that are occurring right now will be addressed. She likened the problem to firefighters leaving someone in a burning building while they work on revising procedures.

Gillespie gave a development on Deerfoot Road as an example. She claims that a complaint was lodged that the developer is violating the outlined terms and no one is following up.

A debate ensued between Planning Board Chair Don Morris and Gillespie about the accuracy of the charge, who is responsible for inspecting the site, and how enforcement should work. Morris asked for time for Burney to continue working out that issue.

Moving on to a different subject, Morris tried to ascertain how many public hearings the board would need to hold prior to Town Meeting.

The board will hold public hearings on all of their Warrant Articles. They also plan to hold hearings on Citizen Petition articles. Burney was assigned the task of determining which of those articles were appropriate for their board to handle.

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