Resent the implication
As Winston Churchill once famously said there are some things “up with which I will not put.” One of which, is being accused by the Montpelier Planning Director of being unethical while a member, and subsequent Chair, of the city Planning Commission. The director published to the community that I have a conflict of interest because I advocated reducing the size of the Growth district to exclude property at 250 Main St., which is property that abuts mine.
A short explanation of what the Growth Center is, and what actually happened at the Commission, will show how false that accusation is.
The Growth Center is a creature of state law, which provides that the State Downtown Development Board may give benefits to developers who build less than 50 units in the district, provided “smart growth principles” are followed. Currently the Growth District includes all of Montpelier that can be accessed by city water and sewer services. Representatives of the Development Board gave me their opinion that the center is too big. Among the statutory “smart growth principles” is the requirement for “mixed use” defined as including, or having, the potential to include “retail, office services, other commercial, civic, recreational, industrial and residential neighborhoods including, affordable housing and new residential neighborhoods, within a densely developed, compact area.” If every development in the city must contain “mixed use” I am opposed to it.
The city attorney has advised the Planning Commission the growth district law is in flux and subject to change next year so the Commission should not act to conform to it until the state’s proposed revisions to the law, due in 2014, are made. I expect the Commission to follow that advice.
Like any citizen I can express my views of a matter before the Commission and argue for a result. If a motion is made to adopt a position, deliberation then follows. I have stated my intention not to vote or deliberate on a proposition in which there is a possibility that I would violate the city ethics policy. In fact the commission, to date, has not voted on any motion concerning the size of the growth center, which makes any claim of unethical behavior on my part absurd. It is a strange accusation to make by someone who claims to extol the First Amendment.
In fact, the city ethics policy provides: “Conflict of Interest does not arise in the case of votes or decisions on matters in which the public officer has a personal or pecuniary interest in the outcome no greater than that of other persons generally affect by the decision (such as adopting a bylaw of settling a tax rate) who are residents of Montpelier.” Because the size of the Growth Center potentially affects the entire city that provision applies.
The actual conflict is that I, and a majority of the Commission, disagree not only with the director’s vehement personal policy goals that are not warranted by a reasoned interpretation of the City Master Plan, but also with her unprincipled personal attacks on members of the commission. As a reader can see, another thing up with which I will not put is the director’s defiance of any policy that contradicts her views especially when mixed with false accusations impugning members’ integrity.
The writer is chairman of the Montpelier Planning Commission.
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