Thursday, November 3, 2011

Breaking News Broken: Planning Board Decides to Do . . . Nothing

I had hoped to be able to post a fuller report of the four and a half hours of deliberations by the Zoning Subcommittee and Planning Board last night. However, fate is not cooperating. The latest bulletin from Town Hall announced that 99% of Amherst residents were expected to have power by 6:00 p.m. Unfortunately, I find myself in the 1 percent. For Occupy Wall Street, I'd be part of the 99%, and I'd much rather be in that category in this case, as well.
In any case, since I am forced to give an abridged report: Jonathan O'Keeffe of the ZSC, working with Planning staff, had crafted a set of proposed compromise amendments to the North Amherst warrant article, addressing the strongest objections by a vocal group of Amherst residents, as well as other likely concerns of Town Meeting members.
The Planning Board, after much back-and-forth, rejected these recommendations, mainly on the grounds that they seemed to undo the Board's previous stance, taken through due process and at the appointed time. Mr. O'Keeffe withdrew the motion. The Board then likewise declined to consider an alternative motion that would have signaled the Board's willingness to endorse any hypothetical Town Meeting amendment in the spirit of the recently withdrawn motion. (Got that?). And so it went.
As the hour grew late, a hopefully offered move to adjourn found no second. This allowed time for debate on changing the current "date certain" on which Town Meeting was to take up the Rezoning article. The result: another discussion that in the end left things exactly as they had stood when the meeting began.
It's a shame, really: each argument had some merit. The proponents of the amended article hoped to address significant resident concerns, and thereby to give the controversial measure a better chance of success. Of course, the initial endorsement by the ZSC irritated the originators of proposed new denser development projects. The Planning Board's refusal to endorse the amendments, although rooted in an avowed desire to uphold the integrity of that body's process and preserve the full and proper deliberative rights of Town Meeting, irritated already restive residents.
As a result, both contending parties--the protesting petitioners and the prospective builders--were angered. And everyone who attended the meeting (I wager) went home frustrated as well as tired.

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