I came away from the Zoning Board of Review meeting on Jan. 4, 2023, disappointed and disillusioned. My understanding was that the members were charged with providing an unbiased, fact-based review …
I came away from the Zoning Board of Review meeting on Jan. 4, 2023, disappointed and disillusioned. My understanding was that the members were charged with providing an unbiased, fact-based review of the findings of the Tiverton Planning Board in its decision to deny the Colbea Enterprises, LLC’s application to construct a gas station and convenience store at the intersection of Main Road, Sousa Road, and Schooner Drive. I expected a serious and objective review.
As I understand it, those sitting in review were to adhere to a standard during an appeal that does not allow them to substitute their opinions and judgements for those presented in the Planning Board’s decision. On multiple occasions, one Zoning Board member totally discounted the testimony of the many witnesses who had given prepared testimony at hearings based on their knowledge and expertise. He repeatedly voiced his opinions in place of their testimony on major issues: crime, public safety, traffic, light pollution, litter, historic districts and more. He claimed those who had testified were not experts. He may not know it, but those residents who gave testimony do have standing in such hearings. Their testimony must be considered.
Also, it was apparent the town solicitor’s office gave different advice to the Planning Board and the Zoning Board of Review regarding negative economic impacts of proposed projects on small businesses. The solicitor in attendance said inclusion of this finding would cause the decision to be “thrown out in court,” if it went to court. However, the solicitor advising the Planning Board did not indicate that in his review of their report. Such inconsistent legal advice is problematic.
In the interest of the integrity of proceedings and compliance with requirements, members with clear biases should recuse themselves. To have such strong biases and opinions on full display throughout this meeting is cause enough to invalidate this entire review.
I remain disappointed by the general lack of professionalism and disillusioned by the outsized, dominate role of one member in driving the outcome of what was to be an impartial, fact-based review.