Letter: Apples and oranges
Apples and oranges. This characterizes John Bos’ comparison of the Greenfield Planning Board’s written decision on the French King Highway project with Albert Norman’s revisions of the Greenfield Conservation Commission’s town wetlands protection ordinance.
Bos of Shelburne Falls has never served on the Greenfield Planning Board and may never have served on any Planning Board. On this matter, he is completely misinformed on both the process for writing Planning Board decisions and proper process for creation and public input into various town ordinances written by appointed boards.
When writing a defensible special permit decision by the Planning Board, the board must ultimately own the findings and conditions in the decision. However, the practice of having applicants participate in the writing of decisions is ethical, legal and common in Massachusetts. The point of having a written decision is to condense the facts, clearly describe how the facts are applied to the legal requirements of the ordinance, and use the document as the legal, binding agreement between the applicant and town. Regardless of who creates the initial draft, the end result is the same: agreement by both parties as to the facts and conditions. Everything written in the decision was discussed and agreed upon in an open, public hearing or in public meetings of the Planning Board; in this case, 10 public hearing meetings and five regular meetings of the Planning Board.
Writing or revising a city ordinance is a whole other kettle of fish. The only similarity in it and issuing a special permit for a development project is the requirement to hold a public hearing. In this case, the Conservation Commission has particular expertise in the subject and ultimately must be able to adjudicate legal decisions based on what is written. They can seek outside input prior to the public hearing, but there is no requirement for them to do so. The general process is to give all interested citizens equal opportunity for input at the public hearing.