Saturday, March 3, 2012

A question for the Town Planning Board and Economic Development Committee

A leader of those two groups, which help steer development and commercial growth in our community, recently wrote:

"I’ve watched this most recent Seacoast Soccer item unfold for approximately 2 years and witnessed in person Tuesday evening the close of the issue, at least on the land near the transfer station. Personally, I was not opposed nor for their proposals, but was interested in discovering facts, weighing out the benefits and the costs and assessing Freeport’s sentiments in light of their requests through due process. As a person that owns an independent business in town, I did see tertiary benefits to having Seacoast in our community, as an indoor facility might bring some economic benefit in our very seasonal annual sales landscape. As a resident, I was interested in making sure that the location fit with the neighbors and the surrounding uses. Finally, as the chair of the Planning Board, I am tasked with looking at Zoning Ordinance language change requests and how that relates to our comprehensive plan, without actually thinking of the entity that is making the request.

"What I got out of all of these discussions and presentations is that there were valid reasons, valid legal opinions, and valid voices – on both sides of the issue.

"I have very close and dear friends, business associates and neighbors on both sides of this issue and it would be ludicrous to vilify any one of them, as a person, for their beliefs and sentiments. I appreciate a passionate presentation and I applaud a grassroots mobilization effort, but I beseech you, as you move forward, please do so with decorum – don’t divide this town. Respect all of your neighbors, even if you might disagree with their ideas at times.

"We did gain some benefits from all the time dedicated to this process; public awareness was raised to a point that a neighborhood coalition was formed and we have many new opportunities to meet and converse with various councilors.

"As a planning board member, I have said, the most intelligent planning a town can do is visionary, and conversely the most challenging planning we do is in response to a request – both happen, because zones and uses are not static and they shouldn’t be. I heard almost everyone say that the Seacoast project wasn’t the issue, it was the location. It’s easy to rail against proposals as they organically bubble up; the hard work is mobilizing an effort to create infrastructure that welcomes growth where you’d like it to go. I pose a question to this coalition now as a Planning Board member: What efforts will you pursue to accommodate future requests in appropriate zones?"

This was written in reaction to the recent decision by the town council to reject a commercial development proposal based on zoning restrictions. The comment was directed to the leaders of the group that was formed to oppose the development, known locally as "the 70%", based on their claim that they represent residential property owners who pay 70% of the community's property taxes. The writer is, as she states, a local business owner, member of the planning board and I believe, although she does not say so, a member of the local economic development board.

So I have a question to pose to her, in all of those capacities: We need to create an infrastructure that welcomes growth while protecting and supporting the quality of life of all of the town's residents; what efforts will you pursue to address the needs of our community's neediest and most at risk citizens? There are among us families that struggle just to provide the bare essentials of life, including heat and food, and they deserve as much support in the town's planning process as any other group, even if there are no lawyers in the room representing them.

Come to think of it, I guess I'd like to address the same question to the leaders of "the 70%", too.

1 comment:

  1. I must apologize to anyone who may have read the earlier version of this post, which made reference to a certain equine excretement product in relation to the remarks quoted in the piece. That categorization was rude and did nothing to promote the point I wished to make, and I am sorry I said it.