Wednesday, July 05, 2006

TEXT: Letter from Sarah Gardner to editor of The Berkshire Eagle

Williamstown resident Sarah Gardner supplied below, at the request of Bill Densmore, a text of letter she has sent to The Berkshire Eagle responding to an Eagle editorial published Monday, July 3.

Here is the text of The Eagle's editorial, followed by Gardner's reply:

Right choice in Williamstown
Published: Monday, July 03

The majority of the Williamstown Selectmen made the right decision in replacing Sarah Gardner with Chris Winters on the Planning Board. Any member of a town board should make some pretense of objectivity, but Ms. Gardner was consistently anti-development, and the board's violation of the Open Meeting law in mustering opposition to a proposed water main extension put Ms. Gardner, who was board chairman at the time, on shaky ground. This was a board in dire need of a change, and those unhappy with the decision should consider making a change in the Select Board by running for office. Williamstown has more than its share of critics and Monday-morning quarterbacks, but town offices go uncontested year after year. Rather than just complain endlessly about how the town has been run, why not do something about it?

----- Original Message -----
From: Sarah Gardner
Cc: Sarah Gardner
Sent: Monday, July 03, 2006 10:26 PM
Subject: To the Editor: Re: Williamstown Planning Board Conflict

To the Editors:

Whoever drafted Monday's editorial maligning me ["Right Choice in Williamstown"] should have investigated the facts. No one who read the minutes of the Planning Board meetings can call me anti-development. I have consistently voted in favor of projects that conform with state regulations and local bylaws. I have only voted against development proposals that have requested waivers from these laws that would endanger public safety. The Foxwood Lane subdivision proposed by Charles Fox and Joan Burns on Bee Hill Road falls into this category. An independent consultant engaged by the Planning Board issued a report, in agreement with the abutters' consultant, which stated that the access road to the subdivision was inadequate to serve a 9-lot housing development. Planning Board Chair Robin Malloy and I voted against the proposal because we felt it was our duty to follow the recommendations of the Board's independent consultant. Developers Fox and Burns have made the denial!
of their subdivision application into a political issue.

As for the allegation of an Open Meeting Law violation around the water main issue of two years ago, several points of clarification are warranted. First, I was not singled out: following the delivery of a conflicting build-out analysis by a town employee to the Board of Selectmen, four members of the five member board issued a press release to clarify the build-out analysis that was approved by the Board at an earlier meeting. The Planning Board did not appreciate that the release would be controversial because it was a restatement of information that had been discussed at a public meeting. An anonymous person contacted the District Attorney alleging that the Planning Board had violated the Open Meeting Law. While the allegation was made, there was no official investigation by the DA, and the board was never formally charged with violating the law. The District Attorney sent a letter of reprimand to the board members and asked that they attend a seminar on Open Meeting!
Law. I attended such a seminar on March 17, 2005 at the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission.

It is disappointing that the Eagle's Editorial Board takes allegations made by angry town officials as gospel truth. In the future I hope that the paper will take the time to investigate the facts before endorsing injurious statements about the good clitizens of Berkshire Country.

Sarah Gardner


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