Letter: P&Z chairman responds to critique of his public hearing clarification

To the Editor:

In response to Mr. Hillman’s critique of my May 20 letter related to the upcoming Highland Farm public hearing, I would like to have the opportunity to reiterate a very important point, but this time using a synonym for the word “entertain.”
The Commission will not *consider* comments that are outside the bounds of its limited zoning authority.
When reflecting on public hearings during his tenure as EPC chair, Mr. Hillman wrote,  “If someone was off the mark, we let him/her make their point anyway and sometimes commented why the input may not be salient.”
Like EPC, the Planning & Zoning Commission has limited statutory authority afforded by our state government, which restricts a commission’s ability to entertain non-relevant information.
Similar to Mr. Hillman’s past comments as EPC Chair, I have provided written guidance before the June 19 hearing in order to assist the public so its comments can be salient to the special permit process.  My unprecedented letter to the editor was a consequence of the vast majority written comments that have already been received by the P&Z Commission which are not relevant to its zoning authority.
Let me be clear, there is not a plan to limit the public’s right to address the P&Z Commission or that speakers would not be treated “with respect, courtesy and attention” as we always have during the P&Z public hearings during my five years serving. In fact, an April 26 Darien Times headline reads: “Ox Ridge Field usage application filed by town; input welcomed.”  I am still deeply confused how Mr. Hillman would surmise otherwise.
Another critique of Mr. Hillman’s was that I did not provide the public guidance related to the matter but instead directed inquiries to the P&Z Director.  However, in the same May 20 letter I referenced Section 1000 of Darien’s Zoning Regulations in order to provide the public with specific guidance related to the specific standards that must be met for an approval of a special permit.  These regulations can be found on the Planning & Zoning Commission’s website:  http://www.darienct.gov/pzc.
My hope is this response will defuse Mr. Hillman’s concerns and provide further clarity to the June 19 public hearing process, when I will provide more detailed comments. Those needing further information can contact the Jeremy Ginsberg, Director of the Planning & Zoning Department.

John Sini, Jr.

Planning & Zoning Commission Chairman