TRURO — An effort by the planning board to regroup after a barrage of criticism from the select board about its proposed zoning bylaw amendments fell apart last week, when the select board rejected the planning board’s revised versions of several articles for the upcoming annual town meeting.
Seven proposed zoning articles that had been offered to the select board on March 8 were deemed not ready for the warrant. The planning board was taken to task for leaving other town boards and officials out of the loop in preparing its articles, and planning board chair Anne Greenbaum admitted to working in a “silo” — a problem she said she would remedy.
The next day, the planning board withdrew three of its seven articles and scrambled to tweak another three to make them more acceptable. They included an article outlining the planning board’s purpose, an amendment to the definition of “street” in the zoning bylaw, and a proposed bylaw governing duplexes.
Only one proposed article, dealing with lot coverage, remained unaltered from its original version.
With the town warrant officially closed, the planning board didn’t have time to swap out its original articles with amended versions. It would have to rely on the select board to do that. But Greenbaum said on March 9 that she was confident the select board would adopt the amended versions.
She was mistaken.
At its March 22 meeting, the select board declined to accept the amended versions of the articles.
The planning board’s edits, select board members said, were still riddled with undefined terms and what Bob Weinstein, the chair, called “squishy” and subjective language.
That left the four planning board articles on the town’s draft warrant and, on March 29, none of them received the recommendation of the select board.
Chris Lucy, vice chair of the zoning board of appeals, offered his view of this year’s zoning amendment process at the select board’s March 22 meeting.
In his 20 years in town politics, Lucy said, he has “never seen a more screwed-up situation.” He described how the process should have gone: “You plan on getting your articles in early — when the warrant’s open,” he said. “You have your plan ready to go. You submit to the selectmen. They submit it back to the planning board to have the hearings.”
By comparison, this year’s process, Lucy said, “is a complete mess,” reflecting a “lack of planning by the planning board.”
A ‘Squishy’ Purpose
In its original version of one article, the planning board had included a new charge that the board “protect and maintain the scenic rural character, ambiance, and aesthetics of Truro.” But on March 8, Kristen Reed, the vice chair of the select board, expressed concerns over the “fuzzy” and “subjective” nature of this provision. The following day, the planning board addressed Reed’s objection by removing a single word: “rural.” The rest of the amended version remained the same.
Weinstein was unimpressed by this revision. “I’m sure the ‘ambiance and aesthetics of Truro,’ from the eyes of any random sampling of Truro inhabitants — voters, taxpayers, visitors — would be a whole panoply of definitions,” he said.
That was just the first of a string of objections from Weinstein. He puzzled over the planning board’s proposed charge “to promote carbon sequestration by natural means.”
“What does that mean?” Weinstein asked. “Do we have some kind of filter in the environment?
“The next one makes me smile,” he went on, referring to a line about protecting “native soils” from unnecessary removal or disturbances. “I think anyone who lives in Truro would be hard-pressed to find ‘native soils,’ ” Weinstein said. “We live in an area that has been inhabited since the 16th century. And before that, by Native Americans. There is no definition for that.”
Weinstein also took issue with the ninth of the planning board’s charges, which tasked the board with promoting “the use of green energy and green building practices.” Those matters belonged in the purview of the building commissioner, Weinstein said, not the planning board.
“I can’t state it more strongly,” Weinstein remarked. “I will not support the purpose changes as they exist.”
Still in the Silo
The planning board also amended its duplex bylaw, which Greenbaum told the select board was “designed to increase year-round housing options in Truro by making it easier and more appealing to build duplexes.”
Select board member Kristen Reed asked, “Did the Truro Housing Authority ever get a chance to comment or weigh in on this article?” she asked.
“They were invited to attend public conversations,” Greenbaum responded.
But Kevin Grunwald, the chair of the housing authority, said that, while he and Greenbaum had discussed having a public forum, that forum was never scheduled.
“There was never any discussion about this duplex bylaw,” Grunwald said. “And there was certainly never any attempt or interest in discussing this with the housing authority.”