Martin makes planning changes

BRISTOL — With last week’s resignation of Chairman Tom Wells of the Bristol Planning Commission, Vice-Chair Chico Martin has stepped into the acting chairman’s role.
Although the planning commission didn’t discuss this development on Tuesday, Martin told the Independent he would be acting chair until and possibly after — if appointed — the planning commission’s organizational meeting on the third Tuesday in April.
At Tuesday’s meeting, he provided a window for public input and explained that all documents presented and discussed at planning commission meetings will be kept in a binder by administrative assistant Jen Stetson, who takes meeting minutes. The binder will sit next to Stetson at planning commission meetings for the public to view. Martin explained that he and Stetson are using the binder as a method to provide better transparency and to keep better records.
As the acting chairman, Martin won the planners’ consensus on Tuesday to develop rules and procedures to govern the body’s future behavior. Over the next few meetings, the planners hope to develop those guidelines and then adopt them at their organizational meeting after Town Meeting Day.
“Hopefully by April we will have enough familiarity with the rules and procedures and enough of a consensus about issues that we need to address … that we will actually vote on the rules that will govern our behavior … and that will include our behavior amongst ourselves, our interaction with the public and how we disseminate information,” said Martin. “To me this is really key to the success of the planning commission because right now nobody really knows what to expect.”
In the past, Martin explained that the organizational meeting was taken fairly lightly. This year, Martin wants to place a larger emphasis on the meeting, as he expects his fellow planners to be prepared to discuss commission guidelines and really consider who will act as chair and vice-chair of the commission.
In the meantime, before the planning commission has created those guidelines, Martin pointed to several laws that he thought the planners should keep in mind. The municipal planning part of the Vermont statutes — Title 24, Chapter 117, Section 4461 — states:
“For the conduct of any hearing and the taking of any action, a quorum shall be not less than a majority of the members of the panel, and any action of the panel shall be taken by the concurrence of a majority of the panel.”
Martin explained that in the past, the planning commission has approved a motion without five votes. But since the planning commission — when it’s full — has nine members, five votes are required to approve a motion because that’s the “majority of the panel.” Five would also be the number of planners necessary to form a quorum because that’s the majority number. So any time five or more planning commission members meet or even exchange e-mail, said Martin, it’s an official interaction.
“There has been e-mailing amongst members of the planning commission, and if an e-mail goes out to the planning commission, that e-mail is considered a public meeting because there are more than five recipients of that e-mail,” said Martin. “There are a couple of consequences of that. One is that the e-mail becomes a part of the official record. And two, anything that is stated in the e-mail is public record.”
The e-mails referenced by Martin were printed and filed in the planning commission’s meeting binder.

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