Apparent Violation of State Statute
Don Guire, represented by George Smilas, came before the Commission to apply for a change in a special exception permit. Guire would like to modify his plans for the Autumn Meadows active adult community located off of Saybrook Road; his revision would replace a duplex and a triplex that were in the previously approved plans, with 5 separate detached homes. He told the Commission that market pressures dictated this change, "My customers don't want attached units."
Michiel Wackers pointed out to the Commission that two of the homes were in the Inland Wetlands review area, and since the original plan required Inland Wetlands approval, the revised plan should also be evaluated by the Agency. Guire objected to the delay that an Inland Wetlands review would cause, saying it might cost him a sale of one of the properties, "I just don't see the need to go back to Wetlands."
The Commission was sympathetic to the harsh economic situation in which Guire is trying to sell homes. They agreed to rush the application through, and approved the revised plans, subject to the condition that Guire submit the revision to Inland Wetlands for its approval.
This approval appears to have violated a state statute which requires that developers gain approval from Inland Wetlands BEFORE seeking approval from Planning and Zoning. Chapter 124, section 8-3 states that if wetlands review is involved,
... the applicant shall submit an application for a permit to the agency responsible for administration of the inland wetlands regulations not later than the day such application is filed with the zoning commission. ... The decision of the zoning commission shall not be rendered on the site plan application until the inland wetlands agency has submitted a report with its final decision. In making its decision, the [P&Z] commission shall give due consideration to the report of the inland wetlands agency and if the commission establishes terms and conditions for approval that are not consistent with the final decision of the inland wetlands agency, the commission shall state on the record the reason for such terms and conditions.Neither Wackers nor any of the Commissioners raised any concerns about this State Statute. Commissioners Bolz, Fazzino, and Pelletier each explicitly endorsed P&Z approval prior to Inland Wetlands review, and the conditional approval was unanimously granted.
Pelletier Elected Vice-Chair
The Commission had deadlocked at the last meeting, over the election of vice-chair with the Republicans contending that the Chair and Vice-chair positions should go to members of the opposing parties. As no party can hold more than 4 seats, a modicum of bipartisanship is required for the 5 votes necessary to pass anything.
At the start of tonight's meeting, only 4 regular members were present: Nick Fazzino (R), Quentin Phipps (D), Barbara Plum (D), and Richard Pelletier (D). Alternate members Michael Johnson (D) and Carl Bolz (D) were present and were seated in place of the missing regular members.
As soon as the Pledge of Allegiance had been recited, Johnson introduced a resolution to rearrange the agenda so that the election of officers would take place immediately. Fazzino said that two Republicans (Catherine Johnson and Ken McClellan) had stated that they would be late coming to the meeting, and objected to the rearranging of the agenda, "I would like to request that we wait until they arrive."
The commission voted along party lines to rearrange the agenda, and then elected Richard Pelletier Vice-Chair also along party lines.
After the meeting I asked Michael Johnson about his motion and subsequent nomination of Pelletier. He said that moving the election to the beginning of the meeting was not motivated by a political calculation, he said that he wanted to "Get it out of the way," so that the commission could focus on its real business. Johnson similarly said that his nomination of Pelletier was not based on any party affiliation, he said it was a "Judgment of qualifications." He felt that of all the possible candidates for vice-chair, Pelletier had the best "ability to respond with P&Z matters on a consistent basis."