Greenfield petitions seek to reverse Court Square project, return in-person meetings

  • A citizen’s petition seeks to return Court Square in Greenfield to its status prior to the reconfiguration pilot project. The project involved closing Court Square to vehicular traffic to make way for a pedestrian plaza. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 9/8/2021 7:11:59 PM

GREENFIELD — Public hearings have been scheduled in October regarding two citizens petitions submitted to the city last month.

The first petition seeks to return Court Square to its status before the downtown the reconfiguration pilot project. The project — which originally came forward in 2017 with a goal of creating more quality open space around the Greenfield Common — involved closing Court Square to vehicular traffic to make way for a pedestrian plaza.

Officials have previously said the plan was to continue the pilot reconfiguration through farmers market season while the city gathers input from the public.

The second petition seeks to amend the city charter by striking the third subsection of Section 2-6(c) — which states that city meetings must be open to the public, unless another provision is made by law — to replace it with language that requires all public meetings to be open to in-person public attendance “except in cases of a declared local or state public health emergency, or a natural or manmade disaster which renders sessions dangerous to public attendance.”

Public hearings for both petitions are scheduled to take place at the Appointments and Ordinances Committee meeting on Oct. 5, after which they will be considered by the full City Council on Oct. 20.

Both petitions were submitted by resident David Lewis, who said in an interview last week that with respect to the Court Square reconfiguration project in particular, the concept hurts nearby businesses as it restricts traffic flow and reduces parking.

As for the second petition — which was submitted in response to the recent decision to hold all City Council meetings remotely — Lewis cited access issues experienced by residents who don’t have the internet or a computer.

City Clerk Kathy Scott said both petitions were submitted to her office on Aug. 16 with signatures exceeding the minimum required.

“By charter Section 76-b, the council or a subcommittee needs to hold a public hearing … and the council has to act no later than three months after the date it was received,” Scott explained to city councilors at a Committee Chairs meeting Tuesday evening. “That is Nov. 16, which is the day before the regular council meeting.”

At-Large Councilor Christine Forgey noted that because one of the petitions dealt with a proposed charter change, it would need to go through the same process as outlined in the charter review process. In other words, while it requires consideration by City Council, it will also need to be considered by the mayor before it is ultimately sent to the Legislature for approval.

With that to consider, councilors agreed it made sense to send that petition to the Appointments and Ordinances Committee to hold a public hearing, as that committee is in the charter review process. As the charter doesn’t specify holding public hearings for different petitions on separate nights, councilors agreed to schedule both hearings at the same meeting in October.

Precinct 3 Councilor Virginia “Ginny” DeSorgher asked Scott to clarify what, if any, legal opinions the city had received on the two petitions.

While Scott said she had only asked for a clarification on the process for the petition seeking a charter change, a legal opinion was requested regarding the Court Square petition. To that end, City Council President Penny Ricketts asked what would happen if the City Council did, in fact, choose to uphold the request of the Court Square petition.

Forgey, after reading the attorney’s opinion on the Court Square petition, said that while City Council should consider the petition after a public hearing process, it ultimately is up to Mayor Roxann Wedegartner to make a decision.

“It would be the council’s opinion,” Forgey said. “The mayor would not be bound by council vote or opinion. It would be an opportunity for constituents to weigh in and for constituents to contact the council.”

Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne.




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