A project to install synthetic turf at received the go-ahead from the Planning and Zoning Commission, but not before concerns over the financial aspects of the project led to a split vote along party lines.
Democrats Kevin Conroy and Ryan Rogers voted against an 8-24 referral this week, citing concerns over how the project will be funded and whether it should go to referendum before the measure passed by a 5-2 vote. All five votes in favor were cast by Republicans.
“It’s not the turf project I voted against, I fully support it,” Rogers said. “My issue is that I do have some disagreements with the way the Planning and Zoning Commission received this request. This is not a necessity and it was pushed outside the budget process. That’s why I voted no.”
Rogers and Conroy each expressed concerns that at the amount approved, $960,000, the project is just $40,000 shy of needing to go to referendum. There are ongoing discussions regarding exactly how the project will be funded, but the Board of Finance last week unanimously approved a motion to make bonding an option.
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After a lengthy process, which included several public hearings, it would be in the best interest of the town to move forward with the installation of artificial turf.
Planning Commission Chairman Michael DelSanto and Vice-Chairman Paul Chaplinsky each said Thursday that they were disappointed by the vote because an 8-24 is designed only to have commission members determine whether it meets the town’s plans and regulations.
Each said financial aspects should not have been part of the discussion.
“An 8-24 is a procedural referral necessary for any change in municipal use,” Chaplinsky said. “It appeared to me that the folks who took issue seemed concerned that they did not like the process or financing aspects of it. That’s not what we are charged to vote on.”
Rogers said, however, that if the process were followed in a different manner, one which would have allowed the project to go to referendum first, then the commission would not even have been asked to vote on the issue.
DelSanto said he can’t speak for those who voted as to whether it was politically motivated, but hopes politics will not be a factor in planning commission votes, now or in the future.
“One thing I have enjoyed most on the planning and zoning commission, over the 10 years I’ve served and my three and a half years as chairman, is that there is no politics involved,” DelSanto said. “I’m disappointed in looking at this vote because I think politics reared its ugly head.”
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