Council president won’t put request for zoning vote on agenda

Staff Writer
Published: 8/19/2019 11:19:44 PM

GREENFIELD — Sprawlbuster Al Norman said he is willing to withdraw his civil complaint on the city — if the City Council puts the French King zoning vote from March on the November ballot.

Norman claims Wednesday’s City Council meeting is the last meeting the council could do so.

However, that request is unlikely, because City Council President Karen “Rudy” Renaud said Monday she is not going to place the topic on Wednesday’s agenda. For an item to be placed on the agenda within five days of a scheduled meeting, it must have the City Council president’s approval.

Norman said if the council were to wait until next month’s meeting, there would not be enough time to educate voters on the French King zoning.

“If the City Council were to wait until September, there would only be five weeks. It’s too short a time,” he said. “August is the time.”

City Clerk Kathy Smith said the matter cannot be brought up under new business in the meeting because it was “reasonably anticipated” before the City Council meeting. Scott also added that the City Council could not put a binding question about the zoning vote on the November ballot — only a non-binding one.

Renaud said this is not the first time Norman has made this request.

“If we were to do that (put the topic on the agenda), what message would that send to people who did the library petition or the safe city petition?” Renaud said. “I may not have the same opinions as them ideologically, but they followed the process and I admire the work they did because that’s the process.

“He had the opportunity to do the process,” Renaud said of Norman.

In July, the city submitted a response to the civil suit filed May 30 in Franklin County Superior Court.

“The defendant respectfully requests that the court enter judgment dismissing the complaint in its entirety and grant the defendant such other relief as the court deems proper, including defendant’s costs and disbursements,” states the response from Greenfield attorney Layla Taylor of Sullivan, Hayes and Quinn on behalf of the city.

The civil complaint requested the court do two things: correct an error in the charter or for the city to hold public hearings to pass a new measure that clarifies the citizen initiative and referendum process; and to allow the referendum petition Norman put forward challenging the March 20 City Council zoning votes to proceed.

The March 20 vote removed zoning laws from a majority of the French King Highway corridor overlay district in exchange for a vote to approve the library project. Norman’s intention was to pause the zoning change and send it to the ballot box for a citywide vote in November.

“The lawyers have not gotten back to me, but because the City Council meets Aug. 21, this is really the last time I can urge the council to let the voters of Greenfield decide if they want to protect the French King district from strip development or destroy it,” Norman said. “I am not asking the council to reconsider/rescind its vote of March 20, I am asking to let all voters have a say in what happens to those 162 acres that lost their protection from strip gas stations and drive-thru restaurants.”

Former City Councilor Steven Ronhave filed a petition in protest of the City Council’s March vote to approve financing for a new public library. That petition, signed by 452 registered voters, was certified.

More recently, a petition with 357 signatures was certified by the city clerk on Aug. 18. The petition filed by Douglas Cloutier sought to rescind the safe city ordinance the City Council passed in a 10 to 3 vote on July 17. The ordinance will be discussed again in Wednesday night’s City Council meeting.

Voters will go to the polls in November to vote on the $19.5 million library, as well as to decide on a new mayor and several city councilors.

However, the city ruled Norman’s petition was invalid and later noted the process had changed following a tweak to the charter in 2017. Norman protested, calling it a clerical error that led to a substantial change in the petition process.

Norman said if the city does not put the matter on the ballot, he will continue with the civil suit.

“I hope to avoid long-term litigation,” Norman said. “I want the City Council to give voters a chance to chime in.”

Reach Melina Bourdeau at or 413-772-0261, ext. 263.

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