“NORWICH TOWN PLAN- SURPRISE, SURPRISE!!”
The wise ones recommend we not sleep with our smart phones on our bed side tables. I adhere to this often, but unfortunately not tonight.
About two hours into what I hoped would be a badly needed 10-hour uninterrupted sleep, I took a peek at my iPhone and caught a message forwarded to me from the Norwich List Serve entitled “NORWICH TOWN PLAN- SURPRISE, SURPRISE!!”
“They won’t believe you,” the President said.
The Senator replied, with a smile, almost a smirk, “They won’t have to. As long as the seed of doubt is planted, that’s all I need. Something to water, and then let grow.“
And that seed is… NOTHING COULD BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH.
Regardless, we will move to adopt this Town Plan on July 11 – it represents a reasonable and comprehensive plan that meets the statutory elements required of a municipal plan. And despite the continued input on various elements of the proposed plan, to ensure the Town is properly enabled to carry out its overall goals I, and others, firmly believe that a Town Plan duly adopted before the deadline of July 13, 2018 far outweighs not having an adopted plan.
Most importantly, I will expect that the Selectboard will formally charge the Planning Commission with reviewing and reasonably considering all comments offered by the public these past many months for possible inclusion into a comprehensive re-write of the successor Town Plan.
In closing, Stu mentions me in the “SURPRISE SURPRISE” post as follows:
Both John Pepper, SB Chair and Herb Durfee Town Manager have expressed a strong desire to make corrections in the Town Plan after passage. We’ll have to see if they can make that happen in a timely way. It’s concerning that these corrections may be made after passage and not before.
As Stu and I discussed at great length today, the changes that were made between June 10 and the submission deadline of June 12 were done by chosen members of the PC and the Selectboard to meet Vermont Open Meeting Law requirements. By law, only two of us could be part of those edits. And once the edits were submitted, they could not be changed without putting the Plan in great danger of falling outside of the statutory requirements and failing entirely. While I, too, didn’t know some of the changes were being made, they are, in my opinion, immaterial. Only one with an overly suspicous bias would see them as “disturbing”. Far more disturbing would be to let these 2-3 sentences threaten the adoption of the Town Plan. That would truly be throwing the baby out with the bath water.
I’ll look forward to having a Town Plan in place again for Norwich. It has an enormous number of benefits, including grant money for various projects and causes, that we apparently don’t have access to today. There is also much discussion and debate on additional monies (ranging from $0-$200,000 depending on who you talk to) that might have been available to the town following the July 1, 2017 Storm that caused over $4M in damage.
John Pepper, Chairman of the Norwich Selectboard
From: “Stuart Richards
Date: June 29, 2018 at 9:52:13 PM EDT
Subject: [Norwich] FW: THE NORWICH TOWN PLAN – SURPRISE, SURPRISE!!
Dear Readers,After the Town Plan June 10 public meeting it appeared that the Select Board had agreed to listen to citizens who were concerned about mega development. The SB voted to include in several places language that specifically limited development and that development “be consistent with the size and scale of existing developments in Norwich.” Many people left the June 10 meeting with a good feeling that the historic character of Norwich, its historic downtown, rural nature and Route 5 South had been safeguarded. Moreover, that good feeling brought people together in support of the Town Plan.What these folks at the meeting didn’t realize was that the Land Use portion of the Town Plan was about to undergo substantial change late that night and following day. A private rewrite requested by the Select Board was conducted by Jaci Allen, Planning Commission Chair, Herb Durfee, Town. Manager and Linda Cook, Select Board member (who ultimately tried to remove the changes but received no support from 4 other Select Board members). Among other things the Select Board rewrite authorized the following: “it is understood that the scale, size, density, etc. of established planning districts may require amendment.” Additional language that was added was: “Several parcels on the west side of Route 5 South and along River Road are served by state highways and easily accessible to Interstate 91, schools, municipal services and public transportation. Due to this area’s accessibility, some discussion already has occurred to change the planning and zoning for this area.” What is not said in this new language is that 15 people stood up at a February, 2017 public meeting and were severely critical of changing the zoning for Route 5 South. In addition, the listserv has been filled with negative comments about the Planning Commission’s attempt to promote mega developments and change the zoning on Route 5 South to include 350 acres with densities up to 8 units per acre.So why did the SB reopen a controversy that many thought had been put to rest on June 10 and and undermine a solution which gained wide support? Surely they must have realized that it would upset quite a few people. Why were these changes made which so clearly contradict the previous agreed upon language which had wide support? Just as disturbing is the manner in which they were inserted while the public was unaware.There’s been an inordinate amount of hard work put in by the Select Board, the Planning Commission, Town Manager and let’s not forget the public. Both John Pepper, SB Chair and Herb Durfee Town Manager have expressed a strong desire to make corrections in the Town Plan after passage. We’ll have to see if they can make that happen in a timely way. It’s concerning that these corrections may be made after passage and not before. Many continue to feel that the insertion of statements that contradict what many understood to be the future of the Town on June 10 will result in further unneeded controversy.Thanks for reading.