Stop The Conspiracy Theories And False Narratives

David Iverson •

To the editor: This is my opinion and perspective, not that of any board I have the honor to serve on.

Yes, we did violate the open meeting laws. I will not make excuses other than to say it was completely unintentional. The meeting was noticed incorrectly by not including Ms. Snell’s name in the notice. This led to us speaking outside of the scope since we discussed Ms. Snell and Mr. Vorce and their names were not included in the notice.

This was not a secret meeting. There was no malice intended. Many have suggested that the commission colluded in some way. To think that 11 members got together and plotted to incorrectly notice an executive session meeting is completely absurd.

On May 22, 2023 we discussed in open session the retirement of Mr. Vorce and the hiring of Ms. Snell. You would think at this time there would have been outrage or at least questions as to the process we used. But there were none. A full two months later Ms. Perry filed an open meeting law complaint. The ruling was handed down on the 13th of this month so we are now more than one year beyond the executive sessions. It has been 10 months since the discussion in a public session and eight months since Ms. Snell’s first day as Planning Director. That seems to me like a lot of time to engage in meaningful dialogue about the process. Clearly another path was chosen by those that have manufactured this outrage.

To me, this is clear retribution by a few for Ms. Snell’s proximity to Surfside Crossing. It is well-documented and has been going on for at least five years. I would like to clarify some of the misinformation used to create this outrage.

“The master plan is out of date”. This is an easy one to sell since you would have to read it to know the truth. This is directly from page three, second paragraph in the executive summary:

The Plan is a basic guideline for the physical development of the island. It is an active, fluid, and evolving document, resulting in specific and relevant proposals for implementation by local boards and commissions, or by Town Meeting. It is intended to be relevant for at least 10 years, but ideally 20. Elements will be periodically updated”.

The Master Plan was voted into existence at the 2009 Annual Town Meeting in a unanimous vote. We are in year 15 - the sweet spot. This is a complex document with many component parts that need to be woven together into a document that is easy to comprehend and comprehensive in its reach. The process is well underway for the new plan and we should see a draft version in the coming months.

40B is another term that has been weaponized against Ms. Snell and the PLUS Department. 40B is a state law and by its very nature, it bypasses local zoning bylaws. It does not bypass state and local building codes or fire codes. Unfortunately, we have little to no ability to impose restrictions on where they go, how dense they are, or the footprint or height of the structures. If they adhere to fire and building codes they will get built. Is it fair to hold someone responsible for something they have no control over?

Development: this is a popular one and easy to get people worked up over. In my opinion, our patterns of development are attributable to three factors. The first is the desirability of land on a beautiful island and its proximity to four major population centers. The second would be the Massachusetts subdivision control act. These are the laws that give the framework for dividing your property and must be abided by. Lastly, we have our local zoning bylaws. These instruct you on how much ground cover you can use, how tall your house is, how many dwellings you can have on your property, whether you can have a pool, your setbacks from your property lines, and much more. Some people consider these your property rights. Everyone for the most part who lives in the same zoning district has the same rights no matter who they are. These are your property rights.

When an application is submitted for development it needs to abide by all of the regulations contained in both the state statutes and our local zoning by-laws. The Planning Board does not color outside of these lines. We do suggest zoning changes but those only become law at town meeting with a two-thirds vote. Whether it’s Ms. Snell, Mr. Vorce or any other planning director that does not change that the letter of the law is applied to all applications.

Planning’s position on short-term rentals and their legality has never changed. Our zoning is very ambiguous surrounding rentals of all kinds. We have said from the beginning that it needs to be fixed. We have offered two packages and both have failed at Town Meeting. I said at the last Town Meeting that you can accept this package or you can let a judge decide and I hope you like it. Ms Snell should not be accountable for the inaction of Town Meeting.

In closing, I can’t help to think about public engagement and how important it is to local government. Unfortunately, not all engagement is positive or productive. In my opinion, engagement should come from a position that is well-informed through research, asking questions, and attending meetings. Independent thought, logical reasoning, and respect should be the underpinning of that engagement. Conspiracy theories and false narratives only disrupt the process and make finding solutions that best serve the community nearly impossible.

David Iverson

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