Resident Suggests Charter Change to Require Hearings on Contracts

Resident Mike Speltz went before the Town Council Monday night to express his disappointment that the Council had accepted the 600-plus-acre Woodmont Commons Planned Unit Development (PUD) Development Agreement without holding a public hearing on the matter (see related story page 2).
“I am profoundly disappointed that the Town Council entered into a 20 year development agreement with the developers of Woodmont Commons without noticing and then conducting a public hearing on such a long-term commitment,” Speltz said.

Speltz cited two mitigating actions that the council could initiate.
“First, the council can instruct the Town Manager to propose either an update or a reauthorization of the town’s Growth Management Ordinance (GMO),” he said. “The GMO is our last best line of defense against a rate of development that could overwhelm our existing public safety and education infrastructures.”
Speltz said the long-term phasing of the Planning Unit Development Ordinance and the “five points of law” of the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) were surrendered.
The second suggestion Speltz raised was that the Council could instruct the Town Manager to initiate a process that would allow the Town Charter to be amended to require the Town Council to hold public hearings on any contract or agreement, and to notice the public hearing before entering any contract or financial obligation that extends for a period of over three years.
Councilor Tom Freda responded that the town was advised on the ZBA issue during the PUD process.
“The town had made an election,” Freda said. “We could have had the Town Council be the final arbiter of everything, the Planning Board or the ZBA. The town elected, by prior Council, to have the Planning Board as the determining body in this case. Counsel for the town said that this included zoning decisions. So it’s just not accurate to portray that we didn’t allow the zoning board, we’re barred by statute from doing that.”
Freda emphasized that the town had made a choice, and the choice is the Planning Board.
“Secondly, we put in the agreement that the five points of law that the ZBA uses will be used by the Planning Board,” Freda explained. “From my own point of view, I would say that it is a lot harder to convince nine members of a Planning Board than five members of the ZBA. I think you get a lot better protection from the Planning Board, just because of the numbers.”
Freda said the development agreement Speltz cited is a contract, and while it wasn’t noticed, people came and commented on it.
“Nothing different was done with that contract than is done with any other contract. If you’d like to amend the charter about contracts over three years, I don’t see a problem with that,” Freda said.

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