In the past couple of months, and in the past, residents have rumbled about how mean the members of the Plan & Zoning Commission are to potential new business owners.
If you were present, or watched the Oct. 2 TP&Z meeting on OGAT, you may have been shocked by the harsh tone Chairman Beau Clark used with two different people.
Anyone who feels that Clark was out of line simply wasn’t paying attention to the matters at hand since April.
One applicant accused the commission of being racist because it wouldn’t approve his application until he put a handicapped cutout in the sidewalk in front of his storefront.
WHAT HAPPENED was that, for several months the commission bent over backwards for this business owner, whose contractor did not communicate with the building official. Site plans did not include the necessary information, such as, where the kitchen would go, how many tables were proposed for the dining area, etc.
When told to re-submit the proper plans the contractor seemed to drag his heels and month after month the commission would have to ask for these simple little things that — other serious applicants would submit the following day — still weren’t resolved by the next meeting.
The business owner never asked the building official what the hold up was, nor did he do anything to resolve the issues. There apparently was a total lack of communication between business owner and contractor and the result was the business owner harbored feelings of resentment against the commission because he didn’t understand that his contractor was screwing things up for him.
When the proper, complete plans were finally submitted, the commission approved the application, but not before the chairman expressed his opinion of the business owner’s accusations that the commission had targeted him because it was racist.
The other instance was that of EJC, LLC at 0 Edison Road, which had been running an illegal mulching operation since the early months of 2012.
The young man who was running the business and the items he has on the property have been the subject of conversation at commission meetings at least since March.
No plans were ever submitted, therefore any activity that was taking place on the property was illegal and the commission began imposing fines against the owner until he resolved the issues.
As of Oct. 2, $14,700 in fines had accrued and at that meeting, the owner finally came forward with his site plan, which led to a sometimes heated 90 minute discussion over what is right and what is wrong. What the commission would allow, what it wouldn’t allow and why.
Clark was very clear about what was expected of the business owner and why the man’s requests were not within the regulations. The presence of construction trailers, temporary or not weren’t allowed without the proper approval.
When the dust settled the young business owner agreed to provide the commission with the site plan by the following week…I guess that worked out, because he is on the agenda again tonight, and I hope it won’t take 90 minutes to get through the item.
So why is the Plan & Zoning Commission so Badass?
THE ANSWER: because the members care.
The commissioners are all volunteers, elected by you, the townspeople, to uphold the rules and regulations and protect the town from becoming like my hometown of Milford.
I grew up in Milford. I’ve lived here for more than 50 years and watched as my beautiful community went from rural to commercial.
When I got married, my husband and I bought a house in a quiet neighborhood zoned for single family housing with an elementary school right around the corner.
Within a year, the school was closed, condominium complexes began to surround us, little Cape Cod homes were replaced with office buildings with second-floor apartments, and so much more.
So before you judge the Zoning Commission for what you THINK you know, consider everything they do to work with people behind the scenes, and all they have to deal with in meetings while trying to protect the town of Orange, enforcing the rules and making sure your hometown doesn’t turn out like mine.
Advice to future business owners. Learn the process and follow it, submit complete site plan applications and make adjustments as necessary. If your business belongs in Orange, the Plan and Zoning Commission could be your best friend. Appreciate their professionalism and how hard they work in this volunteer position.