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Zoning Commission Calls For a Mulligan

After a three-and-a-half hour long meeting, the Zoning Commission decided to start the zoning regulation revision process over again.

 

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. 

Political Signs

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.

  1. Those who felt political signs should not be regulated, so as not to violate free speech
  2. 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.

Todd Fox January 11, 2012 at 02:40 PM
I believe Martin Overton is one of the more intelligent people who serves the town of Woodbury. I've seen him, at meetings, explain the regulations with the utmost care and precision, and then have to sit back and listen as participant after participant says the same thing, over and over, as if it their opinion is sufficient to change what has been written in to law. I was sorry to see him smeared and maligned in the letters column of the local newspaper.
Sean M January 11, 2012 at 08:54 PM
Martin is an intelligent person and has a lot of experience. He has run the commission for years in a top-down style. He has repeatedly misled the commission on matters. 1. He incorrectly told the commission it could go into executive session to discuss the legal opinion. Read 1-200(6). I read into the record the statutes. Overton decided to ignore that anyways. Overton intentionally withheld the legal opinion from the entire commission for 5 months. The town defended Overton at a Freedom of Information hearing Dec 15th. Overton could not be bothered to show up. Overton left the room last night when the discussion came up on voting the proposed regulations. He gave no reason for the recusal. Clarke left also. No explanation of the recusal. When other commissioners recuse themselves they have to fill out a form and state why. Overton and Clarke did not. First Selectman Stomski stated later in the meeting that section 306 of the Woodbury Charter mandated picking officers at this meeting. Overton shrugged this off. Overton is arrogant and out of control. He has repeatedly made up rules and ignored the law. I have researched this and documented just some of it. He has not been smeared and maligned. He has done this to himself. The rest of the commission has figured this out. Sean Murphy Zoning Commission Alternate
tom arras January 12, 2012 at 03:09 AM
This meeting might easily have changed one's opinion of our zoning chairman & vice chairman. Form your own opinion if you wish by watching the entire set of video sequences from the meeting. They can be easily found by doing a google search for: :woodbury zoning january 10, 2012 youtube " . Martin Overton is running the commission as if it were a monarchy.

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