Controversy Visits Final Public Hearing On Town Plan

The last public hearing on the Town Plan occurred on June 28. I expected a short hearing but this Town Plan has a rain cloud following it. 

As a result of the work of two residents, the Selectboard learned that nine changes in the June 12, 2018 Draft Town Plan were not expressly approved by the Selectboard. Why no public official discovered these changes was not discussed. 
These nine changes put the Selectboard in a box. Because of the looming deadline of July 13, the Selectboard could only make technical, not substantial changes, to the document.* A substantial change at this late date would effectively kill the draft plan, sending it back to the Planning Commission. See Town Plan Deadline Looms.

Three of the changes looked like scrivener errors, leaving in or taking out Action items. The Selectboard viewed those three errors as technical and voted 5-0 to revise the Town Plan. 

The other four discovered changes were more problematic. Two of them, each added a paragraph of text to the Town Plan. Whether innocuous or not, they seemingly do not qualify as the de minimis changes authorized by the Selectboard at its June 10 meeting. Plus, as some residents noted, and I think appropriately, the added paragraphs suggest that changes are afoot regarding zoning districts. Why these changes were inserted was not discussed. 

Four Selectboard members expressed concern that removing the four changes would constitute a substantial change. Selectboard member Linda Cook thought they were unauthorized and removable.  Her motion died for lack of a second. 

Do the changes matter? Hard to say. But, the last line of page 1-1 of the Town Plan resolves inconsistencies, saying: 
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Where the language of this plan is inconsistent regarding scope and nature of future developments, it is the intention of this plan to limit the scope and nature of such future development to be consistent with the size and scale of existing developments in Norwich.

* 24 V.S.A. § 4385(b) provides in part: 
If the [Selectboard] at any time makes substantial changes in the concept, meaning or extent of the proposed plan or amendment, it shall warn a new public hearing or hearings under subsection (a) of this section.


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