Letter to the editor
Tue, 02/21/2023 - 9:15am
Taxpayers should be alarmed anytime the town spends $147,000 on lawyers, but more so when most of that money was spent on a case that the town lost in Supreme Court, is un-appealable, and still not taken seriously.
This case and its legal costs involved the Newcastle Realty building rebuild where the town had been trying to stop the neighbors from receiving a fair hearing to appeal the project – a right affirmed by the courts eight months ago – and yet still not addressed by the town.
The town lawyer recently advised the planning board they could perform a site visit and still back away from a hearing afterwards (leaving the remaining work to the town code officer). Yet, our planning board, while admitting a lack of facts, refuses to engage and face the possibility that they missed a requirement for site review that might have avoided conflict long before these expenses.
Our planning board is made up of volunteers who are granted extraordinary protections under the law. Those protections however, can also be used to shield bad performance and behaviors. Some board members have admitted, on the record, that they have engaged in private (ex parte) conversations with each other and applicants over issues before them – among other infractions which compromise their independence. They dismiss the rules of recusal when the former chairman of the appeals board now sits on the planning board and continues with uninformed arguments resisting hearing this case as the courts demand. This board also has resisted oversight from the appeals board and the courts by repeated and extraordinary delays.
These legal costs, then, have a common cause: In Boothbay Harbor, the only current way to get a fair hearing with this planning board is with lawyers present – and court appeals.
Fixing these problems will require a restored commitment to impartiality, consistency and order. Past behavior also demands a specific code of ethics and requirements for ongoing education and accountability for transgressions. If we want to save money and do it right, it’s time to restore due process to this board.
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