Town Council Votes to Rezone Property Directly Adjacent to Residential Neighborhood to Commercial
Watching last night's Town Council spectacle reminded me of the saying, "not my monkeys, not my circus." But the more I think about it, that is my circus. The very people elected to represent me and all town citizens made a mockery of what should have been a serious, thoughtful, fact-based, and unbiased hearing.
I cannot fathom how our Town Council is tasked to act in the manner of a Board of Appeals. At a minimum, a Board of Appeals should be a neutral, unbiased party who can fairly and reasonably listen to testimony to arrive at a decision. Nothing from the Town Council in last night's six hour (yes, SIX HOURS!) proceeding was neutral or unbiased. When the presiding council member refers to the applicant by his nickname, versus his formal name, you know there will be preconceived notions and bias. The double standard was more than evident. Citizens opposing the applicant were continually interrupted and told they could ask questions only. However, the applicant's attorney and their witnesses were not held to the same standards. Citizens who spoke in support of the applicant were allowed to speak about his personal character, could drone on for minutes uninterrupted, while not once addressing the facts of the hearing. Yet citizens who were not in support of the applicant could not get more than a sentence or two out before being rebuffed for not addressing the facts.
Speaking of facts, there were very few to be found. Opinions, perceptions, perceived truths and flat out inaccuracies were presented as fact and no one on the Town Council batted an eye. It's almost as if they didn't have to listen because their minds were already made up. The "facts" presented for the applicant's zoning request meeting a mistake and/or change were laughable at best. If anything, these "facts" supported NOT rezoning the property as requested, yet again, our Town Council sat unfazed. They had neither the patience or common sense to absorb what was presented and understand it for what it was. It was bunk. Further, the council had no clue how to determine what zoning to change the property to once they voted. Not one member, not one, could accurately say what was outlined in Community Commercial or Limited Commercial zoning. And no one bothered to look it up! So a vote was taken, a property was rezoned, and not one council member fully understood what they just did.
This town has been on the wrong path for close to a decade, if not more. With the previous mayor and his social circle setting the town up for unwanted and unnecessary change, the mayor and the new council will be tasked with righting the ship, righting the wrongs. It's ok to say no. It's ok to put current residents' wants and needs ahead of what may be in the future. The Town Council has to take a real stand. Enough with the laissez faire attitude. Enough with the, you want a waiver? Absolutely! Special exemption? You got it! Rezone your property? Sure can! Put the wants of one over the needs of many? Yes indeedy!
Enough. Honestly, enough is enough. We are running out of time to do what is right, what is necessary to keep our town a balanced and wonderful place to call home. There is no need to continue to rush decisions. This should be a marathon, not a sprint. The town should make decisions with due diligence and in its own time. We are not at the mercy of those who want to take what they can get from us and run. We must do better. And it starts with our town leadership.