OPINION: To Mayor John Hollar and the City Council Member

by Joe Castellano, Montpelier

I’m writing this letter to both you and the city councilors to express my dismay after attending last Wednesday night’s (July 12) lengthy city council meeting.

Over the past several city council meetings, it seems like the clearest and strongest arguments have been advanced by a number of Montpelier residents, including (Paul) Gillies, that a new master plan should be adopted. There are a variety of different reasons (legal concerns, the spending of time and resources on re-adopting a master plan only to have to re-do the master plan within the next 12 months, and the fact that zoning is supposed to follow the master plan and not the other way around) for the city council not to consider re-adoption. And I feel that by pursuing re-adoption, the city council is going to leave the city vulnerable to legal challenges on a number of different fronts.

And the time frame given by both (Planning Director) Mike Miller and City Manager Bill Fraser is not realistic. Any readoption would have to be approved by the regional planning commission. Given the significant legal requirements to correctly and legally re-adopt the master plan, the city council should just start a new master plan.

And although I may not have made my point as well as I would have liked, readopting the 2015 master plan is similar to being told by your mechanic that he can fix your 15 year old car with 350,000 miles on it  to keep it running, but that the repairs would only keep it running  for a year or so and that it will cost you $4,000 to fix it. I think that most prudent people would at that point decide to purchase a new car instead, rather than wasting the $4,000 to keep it going.

I was dismayed, then, that during the “straw vote” that only two of the council members voted in favor of putting zoning on hold and to start the new master plan. And as a taxpayer, I’m incensed that re-adopting the flawed 2015 Master Plan is even an option. One of the concerns is that “we have momentum with zoning” and that “we can’t hold up zoning.” To both of those concerns, I say that we have zoning in place that is working and that new zoning can and should wait. As far as the three to four projects that Mr. Miller alluded to that are waiting for new zoning, I feel that if the developers don’t want to wait, they should apply to build now under current zoning regulations. I don’t think that the city should be held hostage by some developers who might stand to make more profit with different zoning in place.

Regarding the new master plan, I was also stunned to find out that the person trusted with hiring and vetting the consultant for the job failed to correctly define the scope of work to the consultant. My understanding of this dilemma is that the consultant, although being paid most of the funds, is not going to provide us with the plan we were hoping for unless the city pays them more money (at least $10,000 to $30,000 more). This is a failure of Mr. Miller’s fiduciary responsibility to the citizens of Montpelier. At this point, having seen how he has handled zoning, thus far, I have little confidence that he will perform adequately enough to provide the city with a new master plan. I also feel that he is misleading the City Council, Mayor Hollar and Bill Fraser.

As many of us have implored you over the past few months, please work on a new master plan first and then work on new zoning regulations.

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