Congratulations you see something on an upcoming agenda that you have an opinion about. This is great, it shows that you are a concerned citizen and want to play an active role in local government. Then you learn in order to have your voice heard you don’t just attend one meeting and public hearing, but you have to attend the zoning board meeting, planning board meeting, town council meeting, go to meetings where the attorney requests an extension and the item will not be heard that night, go to the sub-committee meetings. Congratulations on your new unpaid position as an active community member involved in local government.
This is an all too familiar situation.
We recently heard to someone who attended most of the meetings for the new town home development, Mariner Village, she missed the final planning board meeting and did not get to voice her thoughts on the development. Unfortunately, all of the other times she spoke up in the meeting did not count, they were reset for each new meeting and each new board.
This puts residents in a frustrating position. In order to show they care they have to attend every meeting, but you rarely see members from the other boards and councils required to attend every meeting. During the Mariner Village vote, one council member was at the meeting but took a phone call and left before the item was heard.
There needs to be a better system in place so the burden is not placed on residents. Keep unlike attorneys residents are not getting paid to attend key meetings. Compound that with the cost of child care or requesting time off work, just to be afforded the opportunity to say your peace.
Residents should be rewarded for showing up and not burdened with having to show up at a dozen meetings. The town should keep a log of who attends public hearings and add that to the package for other boards/councils to review. In addition, public comments should be captured and put in each package so all of the boards and councils can see what is on the mind of the public. Lastly, developers need to be required to specifically address public concern, such as addressing sound pollution, light pollution, minimizing traffic to abutters.
This isn’t about giving into residents, this is about leveling the playing field, making it fair. This is also about including members of the community in the process, so they feel like contributors, who have valuable input about the character and composition of the town.