The irony is, Bedford Planning Board’s neglect of public opinion undermines its argument for Article 7

To the Editor:

There was great irony at the Jan. 27 Planning Board meeting during discussion of Article 7 of the proposed zoning amendments.

Article 7 proposes to take the power to approve zoning changes recommended by the Planning Board away from our yearly town meeting where everyone in town gets to vote on our town’s future development, and place that power of approval in the hands of our seven-member Town Council.

The rationale presented by the Planning Board to the public meeting for passing Article 7 was two-fold: 1. The change will give the town government more power and flexibility to respond to challenges to Planning Board decisions, and 2. The change will give the residents of Bedford more opportunity to exercise their collective and combined influence over zoning and planning policy because the Town Council meets on a regular basis throughout the year.

Therefore, the theory goes, we residents of Bedford get to lobby our seven representatives on the Town Council throughout the year – as opposed to voting directly for the Zoning Board recommendations once a year – thereby increasing a resident’s frequency of opportunity to influence, change or oppose policy.

The irony was the Zoning Board telling the public that the Zoning Board and the Town Council would be more receptive to the “will of the people” than the democratic votes in March. Concerned resident after concerned resident rose to present cogent arguments why the reasoning behind Article 7 is flawed, yet, there was not one voice on the board that represented this strong, reasonable, perhaps minority, view broadly held in our community. The only issue the Zoning Board discussed among its members was when to best present Article 7 for a vote to garner enough yes votes for passage. Members expressed the belief that the public needed more education on Article 7 before it could pass, so the board voted not to bring it to the town vote.

The board was demonstrating the fallacy of their we-are-open-to-public-input argument as they were making it.