To the editor
This letter is in response to “Reader wants Transparency for Hatton Meadow” in last week’s Observer written by E. Stephen Leggett.
I wish to set the record straight with regard to the misinformation campaign and the recent mis-statement of facts put forth by Mr. Leggett in his piece involving the approval of the ground-based solar panel array at the Hatton Elementary School site. I write for the most part in regard to only actions of the Planning and Zoning Commission (PZC), to which Mr. Leggett is also a member.
It is also important to understand that Mr. Leggett was in attendance at the meeting for which the 8-24 vote was taken (May 5, 2015) and although he was not seated to vote, he in no way objected to any of its elements. Further, the vote for the 8-24 was a unanimous, bipartisan 7-0 vote for approval.
The application procedure was as open and transparent as could be and involved actions above and beyond those required for a formal Site Plan Review and statutory referral from the Town Council. Specifically, courtesy letters were sent to the abutting land owners informing them of the upcoming application before PZC. This was not a local or statutory requirement. Those who were in attendance at the meeting before PZC were allowed to speak on the matter, and their concerns were incorporated by the applicant, Greenskies LLC, a number of times throughout the process.
This was not a local or statutory requirement. Ultimately, the proposal was granted an approval through a Site Plan Review procedure not unlike any other development proposal presented to the town. To say the town “circumvent(ed) the codified board and approval process in town” by using a statute called the “8-24” is simply inaccurate and irresponsible of a member of the PZC. Connecticut General Statute 8-24 is purely an advisory mechanism for PZC to weigh in on various municipal improvements that are subject to Town Council approval.
It is not a way to obtain PZC approval of a project that is already subject to site plan review and it most certainly was not “misused” as Mr. Leggett contends. This was done also in accordance with that state statute. Mr. Leggett seems to be taking the opportunity to insert partisan politics to benefit his upcoming campaign for Town Council in November. There is no mechanism or process in the PZC regulations that require the 8-24 application to be heard before us in a Special Permit Use (SPU) as Mr. Leggett and other Democratic hopefuls running for election this year are trying to fool the community into believing.
The statute in its entirety is provided below, however put simply, if there is a municipal improvement proposal before the Town Council, it must be referred to the PZC for a report.
One more comment on the Freedom of Information request and the claim that the town sought to “charge (the requesters) for this public information.” Statutes allow municipalities to charge for town employee’s time and town resources in accommodating such requests. In this case, the Town Council was gracious enough to waive the fees. After all, it is all of the Southington taxpayers that footed the bill for the hours of time spent by town staff and the paper reams to produce the documents requested by a handful of residents attempting to control what they do not own just outside of their backyard.
Sec. 8-24. Municipal improvements. No municipal agency or legislative body shall (1) locate, accept, abandon, widen, narrow or extend any street, bridge, parkway or other public way, (2) locate, relocate, substantially improve, acquire land for, abandon, sell or lease any airport, park, playground, school or other municipally owned property or public building, (3) locate or extend any public housing, development, redevelopment or urban renewal project, or (4) locate or extend public utilities and terminals for water, sewerage, light, power, transit and other purposes, until the proposal to take such action has been referred to the commission for a report. Notwithstanding the provisions of this section, a municipality may take final action approving an appropriation for any proposal prior to the approval of the proposal by the commission pursuant to this section. The failure of the commission to report within thirty-five days after the date of official submission of the proposal to it for a report shall be taken as approval of the proposal. In the case of the disapproval of the proposal by the commission the reasons therefor shall be recorded and transmitted to the legislative body of the municipality. A proposal disapproved by the commission shall be adopted by the municipality or, in the case of disapproval of a proposal by the commission subsequent to final action by a municipality approving an appropriation for the proposal and the method of financing of such appropriation, such final action shall be effective, only after the subsequent approval of the proposal by (A) a two-thirds vote of the town council where one exists, or a majority vote of those present and voting in an annual or special town meeting, or (B) a two-thirds vote of the representative town meeting or city council or the warden and burgesses, as the case may be. The provisions of this section shall not apply to maintenance or repair of existing property, buildings or public ways, including, but not limited to, resurfacing of roads. Web link -http://www.cga.ct.gov/current/pub/chap_126.htm#sec_8-24
Mike DelSanto, Planning and Zoning Chair