Thursday, June 11, 2009

Planning and Zoning Commission Discusses Bylaws

Planning and Zoning Commissioners scheduled no public hearings at their Wednesday meeting, so as to devote time to Commission affairs. They spent about 30 minutes discussing how to discuss their bylaws, about 10 minutes discussing their bylaws, and about 10 minutes discussing what to do next with their bylaws. In addition they failed to elect a chair (Richard Pelletier received votes from 3 Commissioners while Deborah Kleckowski received votes from 4). Unfortunately, the meeting was scheduled at the same time as Cruise Night on Main Street, perhaps this is why attendance was somewhat sparse, the Council Chambers held only the Commissioners, Deputy Director of Planning Michiel Wackers, and yours truly.

The first decision about the bylaws was whether the commissioners should vote on the packet of changes which the bylaws subcommittee had prepared. This subcommittee, chaired by Barbara Plum, and composed of Kleckowski and several other occasional members, met about 5 times this spring, to recommend revisions to the bylaws. Their suggested changes ranged from substantive alterations to minor wording changes.

In addition to the subcommittee's recommendations, Wackers told the commissioners that he had received substantial suggestions for other changes from two commissioners, Planning staff, and the city attorney, but that those changes could not be voted on because they had not yet been filed with the city clerk. In fact, he refused to allow commissioners to even see these other changes until after they had either approved or rejected the subcommittee's recommendations.

The commissioners spent considerable time discussing whether to proceed with the subcommittee's recommendations first, or to table everything until the entire set of suggested changes could be analyzed and considered together. Plum, with support from Pelletier and James Fortuna, wanted more time for the commissioners to be able to cover everything at once, "We want to get it right. ... Let's wait until it's all together."

Catherine Johnson demurred, saying that it was important that the Commission get the bylaws over with soon, so that it could devote energy to the Plan of Conservation and Development. She suggested going over the articles of the bylaws one by one. Kleckowski, Ron Borelli, and Les Adams agreed with her, and this is what the commissioners did.

Unfortunately, only the most innocuous articles of the bylaws were approved (no article with more than two sentences passed muster). The bylaws articles remaining to be discussed include those dealing with Commission Membership, the Election and Duties of Officers, Public Hearings, Standing Committees, and Submission of Applications.

Some of the proposed changes could have dramatic effects. For example, one recommended change would provide a mechanism for determining the Commission Chair if the commissioners failed to elect one at their annual organization meeting. Two alternatives were put forth by the Bylaws subcommittee: choosing the chair by a random drawing, or determining the chair by the number of votes received by each candidate in the most recent election.

At least one Commissioner objected to the language proposed by the Bylaws Subcommittee. Plum, despite being chair of that subcommittee, proposed suggestions which contradicted its recommendations. One of these was to delete all of the subcommittee's proposals for alternative methods for choosing a chair in case an election failed to produce one. Mrs. Plum told me after the meeting that it was only after considering the Bylaws in totality that she noticed problems with how they were written.

The commissioners decided to ask Planning Staff to consolidate all of the proposed changes into a single document for commissioners to review. The gallant Quentin Phipps promised a handsome bouquet of flowers to staff members for doing this. Commissioners voted to devote their July 22nd meeting to a discussion of the Bylaws.


Anonymous said...

It's a good thing election is in November. Maybe the new members will be able to get the Bylaws finalized, elect a chairperson and get working on planning and zoning issues. It sure appears that these members can't do it.

NOBO said...

Do you really think it's going to make ANY difference come November? Our P&Z Board is known throughout the State as being difficult to work with. More business is driven out of Middletown by P&Z politics than you can imagine.Just on Saybrook Road we could have had a shopping mall(remember?), a Home Depot (ring a bell?),and a restaurant by the medical centers (didn't know about that one?). What did they all have in common? Too far from Main Street.Can't draw traffic away from Mecca.
The restaurant was nixed because it apparently didn't fit the area.I guess the other four do.