May 28, 2008 Select Board Meeting

Wednesday, May 28, 2008, 7:20 p.m. Middle School Auditorium

Present:  Select Board members Gerry Weiss, Anne Awad, Alisa Brewer, Diana Stein and Stephanie O’Keeffe; Town Manager Larry Shaffer

This was a brief meeting held in the auditorium a few minutes before Town Meeting began, to take care of some quick business. 

Article 46 - Right to Farm Bylaw

David Ziomek, Director of Conservation and Planning, said that the changes in the proposed bylaw language sought by the Select Board at the May 21st meeting – removing the Select Board from the dispute resolution process, and having the Town Manager instead be a conduit for referring and assisting aggrieved parties – were acceptable to the Chair and Vice Chair of the Agricultural Commission, and he said that those changes didn’t alter the spirit of the original proposal. 

Mr. Shaffer said that Town Counsel said there was no difference between putting the Select Board or the Town Manager in the proposed role, in terms of legality or the relative strength of one or the other in a lawsuit.  He said that the facts of a case would determine its strength, and that if the entity in the dispute resolution role were acting in a capricious or arbitrary manner, it wouldn’t matter if that entity were the Select Board or the Town Manager.

The Select Board voted 4 to 0, 1 absent, to recommend Article 46 as amended.  Ms. Brewer had not yet arrived when this vote was taken.

Parking Space Request for Church Tag Sale

The Select Board voted 4 to 0, 1 absent, to approve a request to reserve a single parking space on the west side of the north Town Common from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 31st, for a tag sale to benefit the youth group of the Leverett Congregational Church. 

Special Liquor License 

The Select Board voted 4 to 0, 1 absent, to approve a special liquor license for an event at UMass on June 6th.

Procedural Motion – Article 20, Part B

Mr. Weiss explained a procedural motion he would be making at Town Meeting regarding Article 20, Part B – the proposal to purchase two Main Street lots for historic preservation using Community Preservation Act funds.  (See page 4 of the CPAC Report to Town Meeting.) The motion would be to postpone consideration of the article until after Article 47, putting it at the end of Town Meeting, in hopes of having appraisals of the parcels completed and available by that time.  He said that he and Planning Director Jonathan Tucker had been communicating all day about this issue, and the various options for dealing with it, including postponement to June11th, when appraisals could be expected, or proceeding without the appraisals, which would be allowed.  A final decision on how best to proceed had not yet been made, but postponing the article at this point would allow for more time to work that out.

The meeting adjourned at 7:31 p.m.  The next Select Board meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. (Note: not 6:15) on Monday, June 2nd, in the Music Room at the Middle School.


neil said:

The question of Ms. Awad and Mr. Hubley’s eligibility for office in Amherst is a matter of law not opinion. And the question is one in which Amherst residents have a legitimate interest. Why not get to the bottom of the issue by reviewing the applicable law at a Select Board meeting, on the record, and at the same time reviewing the facts in evidence? This substantive approach would address the public’s concern in a constructive and education manner and the put the question to rest.

Instead, the Select Board and more specifically the Chair, Mr. Weiss, decided to weigh in on the controversy by characterizing it as “ugly” and “mean spirited” as opposed to dealing with the issue as a legitimate question. In my opinion, this was an error in judgment that makes the select Board seem less competent than it is. Rather than serving the public interest and advancing the publics understanding of the issues at hand, the Chair chose to characterize the question as illegitimate, as settled, and as motivated by unjust and dishonorable intent.

Why not instead address the question on the fundamental substantive level with a review of the law and summary of the facts? That approach would yield a thorough understanding. It would be a simple exercise for the Select Board or Town Manager or Town Counsel to provide the public a review of the law in plain English in writing that identifies the requirements to hold public office, as well as the facts in evidence in this case, and how the facts of the case meet the requirements of office.



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