Singer/My Turn: Taking town in different direction
I have read and thought about the articles and editorials written in The Recorder on Friday, Feb. 14, and Saturday, Feb. 15, concerning the appearance by Al Norman before the Appointments and Ordinance Committee of the Town Council of Feb. 10 to discuss the revised wetland ordinance.
First and foremost, I am the councilor and chairman of the A&O who made the decision to invite Al to the meeting and I am willing to take full responsibility for my decision. So far, what I have read has been discussed through the lens of others who feel impacted by my decision. I would like to share with the community why I acted the way I did so that the community is able to see what happened through my lens.
At an A&O meeting in the late summer, Alex Haro made a public presentation (with the new ordinance attached in digital form) of the revised wetlands ordinance to the committee. Al obtained a digital copy, which he then proceeded to mark up and deliver in digital and redline form back to the council. Upon my learning of his suggested changes and reviewing them, I thought about what has transpired in our community for the past 20 years and how before me was an opportunity to move our community in a different direction.
What struck me is that Al has been a force regarding mayor development in this town, and whether you agree or disagree with him, he is both effective and learned in development issues. He has, with a certain degree of success, managed to slow down or stymie development using loopholes or weaknesses in our local ordinances to generate effective legal challenges, such as those used in the high-profile cases of Walgreens and the big box on French King Highway. Whether the town has been successful or not in fighting those challenges, it has cost the town money and divided the town along very clear lines, both of which has slowed down and prevented Greenfield from achieving its development potential.
My intention for inviting Al, after I reviewed his suggested changes, was to bring Al “in to the tent,” to include him and allow him to discuss, transparently and openly at a public meeting (which was in fact televised) his thoughts, comments and concerns about the draft wetland ordinance. Why not include Al early so that his comments are on the record right away, not to be given greater weight, but to allow for more public comment? Then, through public hearing with input of the public and continued discussion among the Conservation Commission and the Town Council, an ordinance can be drafted that is strong not only for the community with regards to wetlands, but also from legal attack.
With more forethought, I could have better prepared the Conservation Commission and the public before inviting Al to the meeting. For that error, and in response to the loud and strong voices of those who have commented on that error or others who question my actions, I want you to know that I appreciate and hear your concerns and apologize for not being more thoughtful about my approach. I mean this sincerely as I can state this, I meant no disrespect for the hard work of the Con Com or the right of the public to have total confidence in and be able to see total transparency, the working of its government.
I also want the community to understand that the A&O has not yet thoroughly and publicly reviewed the ordinance and will present the version drafted by the Conservation Commission to the public at a public hearing in March or April. We will be sure that the community has ample notice of the meeting and I can say for myself and the council that we invite all public input, will listen to all persons and ideas and work hard to produce through open, transparent and thoughtful dialogue an ordinance that has the full public confidence.
David Singer represents Precinct 5 on the Greenfield Town Council.