The Zoning Commission, at its Tuesday, Jan. 10, meeting, voted to deny the .
The revision process will now begin again. The commission intends to discuss the zoning regulation revisions at its next meeting, taking place at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 14, in the .
The now defeated draft zoning regulations are attached to this article in the PDF section.
Commissioner Alan Green said starting at the beginning is the way to go.
"I think we need to vote this down and start over fresh," he said. "I'm in favor of open and honest government and I don't think we got a fair shake at modifying the regulations before it went to Planning."
This decision by the commission occurred after Chairman Martin Overton and Commissioner Bob Clarke both recused themselves from the vote.
Overton said half of the people who attended the beginning of the meeting, when a public hearing took place on the draft zoning regulations, left because they thought the commission would not act on the draft regulations.
He referred to voting on the matter as subterfuge, recused himself and left the room. Then-Acting Chairman Clarke also recused himself, but not before appointing Chuck Cosgriff, Jr., as the acting chairman.
Clarke said he shared Overton's sentiments.
At the heart of the zoning regulation revisions are political signs, of great concern to residents including Art McNally, who is concerned that free speech in town is being stifled.
The political sign portion of the draft regulations that were defeated read as follows (the now defeated changes are in italics).
- "Political Signs: One or more signs, the total aggregate amount of signage per property not to exceed the greater of (i) 12 square feet, or (ii) the maximum aggregate amount of signage which would be allowed on the property under the regulations applicable to the district in which the property is located."
Letter from Town Counsel
The public was able to read a letter from town counsel regarding the legality of the proposed zoning regulations revisions as they pertained to political signs.
A June 14, 2011, letter from town counsel Richard P. Roberts to former town planner Catherine Adsitt was made public after commissioners met in executive session at the Tuesday, Jan. 10, meeting, to discuss the correspondence that was listed on the agenda as "privileged documents not subject to disclosure."
In the letter, Roberts shared a legal opinion on the proposed amendments to the town's zoning regulations, that are now defeated.
He stated in the letter that the only section of the amendments he had concerns on was Section 7.5.10.I, pertaining to political signs.
"While I believe that the proposed revision seems to satisfy the principles contained in the case law on the subject, there can be no guarantee that it will withstand judicial scrutiny in a given context," said Roberts. "In addition, the proposed revision may require substantial staff effort in determining what the 'maximum aggregate amount of signage which would be allowed on the property under the regulations applicable to the district in which the property is located' would be for a particular property."
Two Lines of Thinking
There were two avenues of thinking at the meeting, detailed by the residents who spoke.
- Those who felt political signs should not be regulated, so as not to violate free speech
- Those who felt the town should regulate signs to protect the town's character
McNally said he supported the defeat of the proposed regulations. He advocated for commissioners to begin the process anew and all participate in the revision process.
He said it bothers him that Overton did not release the letter from town counsel until he was forced to release it. He called for Overton's resignation.
William Monti said he feels the town regulations with regard to sign regulations are fine the way they are and do not need to be changed. He said the regulations help preserve the character of the neighborhood.
Monti said that just like auditory noise is limited, the same should occur with visual noise. He said that removing limitations on signs could leave to any amount of gigantic billboards in town.
McNally said he is not advocating billboards or neon signs.
"We're asking for the right of speech, to express our opinions," he said.