The Town is beginning its once-a-decade planning process. The Plan determines what your street, your neighborhood, your village, and your Town will look like over the next ten years. So it matters to you.
TOWN STAFF ON WHERE YOU BOUGHT YOUR HOME:
A “Burden to the Community”
This year, staff announced its view that single-family residential zoning is a “burden” to the community. (Source: Channel 18) Where you bought your home is a problem staff wants to solve.
Now, staff wants to change the local planning process. Because the process drives the plan that drives zoning changes. If you care about where you bought your home, if you care about your Village center, you care about the planning process.
Staff’s announcement of its desire to change the process came months ago - before our Town Council talked about it. Before any community conversation about it. And before the staff even sought a planning consultant. (Source: Channel 18, Town Council Agendas, Town RFP website)
VILLAGE PLANS MATTERED IN PRIOR PLANNING
Villages have always had a voice, from individual Village advisors in the 1980s, to Village Plans in the 1990s, and the 2010 Plan started with Village Visioning, and each Village again prepared a Village Plan. Indeed, the 1st goal of the 2010 Plan was this: “Sustain diverse villages and livable neighborhoods for year round residents while providing housing opportunities for all.”
Staff’s current recommendation to abandon village plans as input and not to have dedicated village seats on a committee is new (unwelcome) ground.
This time, staff says updated Village Plans “IF” needed would be an outcome, not an input
Now, staff said it wants to take you in a "different direction." It wants to “Zoom Out" from the Villages” (staff words). Staff said “IF” there is a need to update Village Plans (staff words), staff anticipates that being part of the Local Comprehensive Plan recommendation and an outcome of that (staff words). If needed, an outcome, not an input. These are staff words, not an interpretation of them. (Source: Channel 18)
IT'S ALL ABOUT SEWERS...Yes, Sewers!
Staff said its objective to "align this process with the town wide Comprehensive Wastewater Management Plan and the impacts of that plan necessitate that we zoom out from the villages." (Source: Channel 18)
It’s your home, your neighborhood, your Village, your community – it’s your plan. You may hear it said that your plan is required to comply with what the Cape Cod Commission put in its plan. That’s not the case. This is a local plan; you decide whether, why and to what extent you want it to line up with a plan created elsewhere.
INSTEAD, A CENTRAL COMMITTEE
Staff issued a memo explaining its preferences for its central committee. (The Town Manager memo gave residents only 5 days to comment. After residents asked for a more reasonable timeframe, we now have until November 15th. Thanks to Mr. Ells.)
Staff wants 9-15 people to develop the plan and send it to the Council. It proposes to prioritize members from certain Town Boards and Commissions.
It’s curious. Staff would, for example, prioritize an Airport Commission member, which operates the airport. But not the Housing Committee. And not our Historic Commissions that protect our built community. The Town Code says they are supposed to interact with comprehensive planning. Without explanation, staff does not propose to give them a seat at the table.
Staff said it “know[s] the different perspectives we want represented on that Committee” … ”it’s an intimate process…” (source: Channel 18.) Public confidence in the process and plan would be served by satisfying resident preferences on perspectives - even if that means a less “intimate process” for staff.
No dedicated Village representatives
Staff says each Village would be represented on its central committee. There is a big hitch to that. Staff doesn’t let Village Civic Associations nominate a member or have a dedicated seat at the table. Instead, staff’s recommendation seems to allow a “Village representative” to be a central committee member who is there as a member of a prioritized Board or Commission who happens to live in a certain Village. That’s not a Village representative.
Staff also wants a seat dedicated for business interests.
Staff’s recommendation to prioritize members of seven Boards and Commissions on a central committee of only 9-15 members does not leave many seats for residents who simply bring a resident perspective.
EXECUTING THE TOWN COUNCIL'S PRINCIPLES
The Town Council’s 2021-2022 Strategic Plan starts with two guiding principles:
This process is a great chance for the Town Council to execute those by:
Visibility and transparency bring confidence in integrity
Everyone has a right to pursue business and financial interests and lobby local government to make decisions to benefit those interests Everyone also has a right, conferred by our Town Code, to a local government: that brings the public confidence in its integrity where public positions are not used for personal gain or to advance the interests of family or friends.
To this end, the Town Council should give meaning to those rights through transparency and do what governments do: require disclosure about members’ personal or familial financial interest in the outcome of the plan and bring visibility to any such interests. Transparency is the direct route to confidence in integrity.