Parkins responds to residents’ criticism

Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Ruth Parkins has responded to criticism from some residents that she appeared to be in favor of the 121-acre Shelter Ridge proposal even before the hearing on the application officially opened.

Multiple residents referenced public minutes from a January P&Z  meeting claiming Parkins offered insight to the applicants’ attorney, Dominick Thomas, as to what issues he would need to address in order to gain support from residents.

Parkins opened the Shelter Ridge public hearing at Shelton Intermediate School on April 27 by explaining that no member of the P&Z staff is permitted to discuss any application once a hearing is opened.

She did offer a response to residents who referenced remarks she made during the January meeting.

“Everyone is afforded the opportunity to speak before the commission. Developers of large projects will sometimes come before the Commission at the end of regularly scheduled meetings to informally present their plans, especially if they plan to sponsor a public information session prior to submitting an application to P&Z.  While the plans are usually very preliminary, conceptual in nature and typically do not include architectural renderings, it gives the applicant an opportunity to get a sense of what issues the Commission will want them to address and determine what information the Commission will require for their application. The difference between an informal discussion at a regular P&Z meeting and an applicant sponsored public information session is that our meetings are posted, open to the public, and recorded.

Comments made during these informal presentations should not be taken out of context, or used to imply whether any Commission member will be in favor of the application as submitted. It is also recommended that no one ‘read between the lines’ of such discussions. All applicants are allowed due process under the law,” Parkins said in a prepared statement.

She went on to explain that once the Commission receives an application a public hearing is scheduled and includes, “receiving into the record referrals/comments from other City commissions and departments, traffic reports, marketing studies, economic impacts, community impacts and public comment — it is a period of fact finding. All of this information is taken into consideration to assist us in rendering a decision. Public input is a major component in our decisions, and we encourage such at all of our meetings.”

At the January meeting referenced by residents, Parkins gave her opinion on what she believes would be residents’ biggest issues with the Shelter Ridge proposal to Thomas, all before the application formally appeared before the Commission.

“Chair Parkins responded that from a concept perspective she thinks it [Shelter Ridge] would be welcomed, most people would welcome it.  She thinks the biggest community outcry is going to be about the traffic on Bridgeport Avenue and the cut through on Buddington – those will be the two major hurdles,” said Parkins at the January meeting.

The excerpt from the January P&Z minutes continues.

“Chair Parkins commented that they look forward to keeping up on the progress for this project.”

Residents have been in complete opposition of the presented application and the developer’s request for a zone change from a Light Industrial Park to a Planned Development District.

In addition, residents were skeptical as to why Thomas said during the January meeting that he wanted to avoid creating the impression that there was any exchange between he and the commission before a public meeting was held.

“Atty. Thomas stated that this has been helpful and he’ll let them know that they intend on going to the Conservation Commission. They intend on contacting Alderman Anglace and Alderman Farrell to request the coordination of a neighborhood meeting for residents of the Buddington Road area.  He will contact them right away for a neighborhood meeting but he really doesn’t want to welcome P&Z members there because it creates an impression of an exchange before a public hearing, and with his luck, four of them will show up.”

The public portion for this application is scheduled for May 31 at 7 p.m. A location hasn’t been confirmed yet, but follow the story on sheltonherald.com for updates.

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