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AG determines Town violated Open Meeting Law
during joint executive session of Select Board and ZBA
Attorney General Andrea Campbell has determined that the Board of Selectmen and the Zoning Board of Appeals violated the state’s Open Meeting Law on November 15, 2022 when the two boards met in joint executive session to consider a residential development proposal at Colony Place behind the Chrysler Dodge Jeep RAM dealership on Colony Place near Sawyer’s Reach.
The determination was made after Attorney Margaret Sheehan on behalf of Community Land & Water Coalition and Save the Pine Barrens filed five separate complaints with the Attorney General.
The AG’s Open Government Division wrote on August 4th: “we find that the Board and the ZBA violated the Open Meeting Law as alleged except with respect to the allegation that the Board should have posted notice as the board of water commissioners. We order the Board’s and the ZBA’s immediate and future compliance with the Open Meeting Law and warn that a finding of similar violations in the future may be considered evidence of an intent to the violate the Law.”
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Claremont, the developer, was seeking ZBA approval for 348 apartments at the site.
The AG’s office declined however to nullify the Select Board’s waiver of “any water, sewer, and building fees for the proposed development project” because that vote was subject to a separate ZBA vote not subject to the complaints.
Sheehan released this statement: “We are pulling back the veil of secrecy in the way the Selectboard and ZBA operate. Making secret deals with private developers is an egregious abuse of the Open Meeting Law. The Selectboard, ZBA, Conservation Commission and Planning Board are showing a clear bias in favor of developers. Making backroom deals like this harms the public interest in clean water and a sustainable environment. Secret meetings, rubber stamp permits and secret deals will not be tolerated.”
The Town has been ordered to revise and release the minutes of the meeting with 30 days and have all members of the Select Board and the ZBA to attend an Open Meeting Law webinar training within 90 days.