Friday, January 22, 2010

P&Z Lawsuit Decision “Deeply Regrettable”

Drop Cap Letter: The Westport Planning and Zoning Commission decision Thursday night to commence legal action against the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) is deeply regrettable.

Not only is it embarrassing to have one elected body seeking to sue another, it reduces confidence in our overall government process. That is not good.

As a 14-year member of the RTM and having served 10 years as its moderator, I am a strong supporter of that body and its hard working members. In its 60-year history, the RTM has demonstrated repeatedly that it is indeed the conscience of our community.

But that is not to say that all is perfect in how it goes about its work. That’s why the RTM has a Rules Committee and the ability to modify its procedures to meet changing needs.

Clarification of how the RTM exercises its right to review P&Z actions granted by our town charter needs to be decided here, by the representatives of Westporters, and not by some court elsewhere.

That is why I have called a meeting of the relevant parties to begin the process of clarifying how the RTM should carry out its responsibilities. Given good will on both sides, I am confident it will lead to resolution of this issue without need to resort to the courts or anyone else.

Members of the P&Z are duly elected representatives and have broad experience in handling land use issues. It is important to note that they do not dispute the RTM’s right to review some of their decisions.

They may not like it, but that is not what they are disputing. They want to have the RTM review to be carried out much like their own review of land use decisions. This is an understandable request and will likely require modification of RTM rules for these occasions.

It also may require more and lengthier RTM meetings when such reviews are carried out. If that improves the process, it should not be a problem.

So I call on both the RTM and P&Z to come together to work out procedures acceptable to both bodies. With good will on both sides, this can be done in an accelerated manner with the clear winner Westport and its residents.