Saturday, March 3, 2012

Such a Sham(e)

One of the things that came out of last week's Planning & Zoning hearing (besides the fact that out of 350 attendees, only 7 residents spoke in favor of the coal plant....more on that another day), was that finally there would be an official recommendation that the Town of Dendron commission a 3rd party study.

Citizens have been asking for a 3rd party study for years.

What's a 3rd party study?

Simply put, it's an investigation into a proposal, made by an independent 3rd party. Very common with proposals much, much, much smaller than this. If your community has a Walmart, it's likely your elected officials commissioned a 3rd party study to evaluate the proposal--impacts, drawbacks, benefits, and any loopholes that might have been missed.

Seems reasonable enough, right?


Not here.

Not with the biggest coal plant in the entire state.

ODEC has said for years it's not needed. It would delay the process. The Army Corps of Engineers will do one. Blah, blah, blah...

Kind of scary if people actually look at your project I suppose.

But, yes, last week the Planning & Zoning Commission (a body charged with looking at the zoning details and other minutia of any application, and then making recommendations to the Town Council) discussed that a 3rd party study ought to part of their official recommendation to the Dendron Town Council.

One commissioner, in particular, brought it up multiple times--trying to find the appropriate place in the official recommendation to insert it.

Each time she brought it up, she was instructed by the Commission's legal counsel that this was not quite the appropriate time or place to insert it.

Sure. That's fair. Gotta do things by the book.

Finally, nearing the end of the proceedings, this Commissioner brought it up again, asking if she needed to make an official motion on the matter. A motion is essentially a call for a vote on an issue.

Legal counsel assured her that she did not need to make a motion.

Legal counsel went on to say that the 3rd party study recommendation would be part of the official recommendation.

Perfect! Done and done.


Nope. Not even close.

The official recommendation does not contain one word about a 3rd party study.

How can that be?

In an attempt to understand, yesterday I obtained the entire packet of information that will be given to the Dendron Town Council on Monday when they hold their public hearing on the coal plant and consider the Planning & Zoning Commission's official recommendations.

Part of the packet includes a letter from the Chairman of the Commission to Dendron's mayor.

The Chairman does mention the 3rd party study:

"In addition to the conditions recommended to support Conditional Use Permit Application No. 2011-03, the Commission made recommendations to the Dendron Town Council related to an independent third party study of environmental impacts of the project and delineation of the proposed right-of-way for the rail line.

These recommendations were discussed but were not voted upon and are outlined in the attached verbatim copy of minutes for the February 27th Commission meeting and begin on page three."

Discussed but not voted upon.

Flipping through the "attached verbatim copy" of the minutes (which won't be approved by the Commission until weeks after Dendron's hearing), I find the spot where I recall the Commissioner asking if she needed to make a motion about the 3rd party study.

It reads:

"Inaudible comment."

Immediately after there are the assurances of the legal counsel (referring back to, of course, nothing):

"You do not need to make a motion to that.
Ms. Mack [planning staff] can indicate to the Town Council that
that was a concern of the Planning Commission
once she makes a report to Town Council."

So there you go...

The third party study recommendation is not worth the paper it isn't written on.

The Commissioner should have made a motion to vote.

She was told by legal counsel that she didn't need to because it would be added by staff.

It wasn't added by staff because they never voted on it.

Why didn't they vote on it...?

Right. Round and round we go.

Like I said before, it must be some kind of scary if people actually look at this project. No one's asking that we hand over our first born children. We're simply asking for a neutral party to check it out.

Ignore the citizens. Hold illegal hearings. And, for God's sake, DO NOT LOOK AT WHAT YOU ARE APPROVING.

Such a sham(e).

P.S. If you are going on Monday, please join me in asking why Commissioner Clark's recommendation was not included in the official recommendation. And urge the Dendron Town Council to get a 3rd party matter what!

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