On Dec. 1 and 2 the agenda before the Winslow Town Council were first and second readings on rezoning. The sole purpose for the change was to allow installation of 17,000 solar panels off the Roderick Road in an urban residential subdivision surrounded by homes. The council approved the change by a vote of 7-0 with not a single word of discussion. A solitary general public member appeared before the council.

Previously the solar developer was allowed unlimited time to purvey its project. In sharp contrast, the solitary commentator was limited to two minutes. Only after a public shaming of the council on the patent unfairness of this disparate treatment did it vote to allow a mere two additional minutes. Briefs enumerating pertinent issues (e.g., changing the character of the neighborhood, spot zoning, inadequacy of screening, negative visual impact on neighbors) had been submitted prior to the meeting.

Based on the law of averages the merits of one or more of these substantive issues should have prompted some discussion. Instead, seven councilors, marching in drumbeat lockstep, elected to remain silent.

It’s difficult to imagine how it is in the best interest of a community when seven councilors come to an open public meeting with an apparent predetermined outcome. No need to go on the record for the basis of one’s vote or listen to pesky public comments when the due process right of public commentators to be heard is so easily suspended by unreasonable time limits.

Not having to discuss important local legislation and be held accountable on the record is a time-saver enhancing the efficiency of our local government. But it does not promote much confidence in the ability of the Winslow Town Council to do the public’s business properly and fairly.

 

Warren M. Poulin

Winslow

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