Monday, March 13, 2006

Is Upham up to no good?

I had a delightful talk with town councilors Denise Duda and John Welch over the weekend. In all honesty, despite my philosphical differences, I think all our counselors have some interesting things to say.
What we talked about is Order 77 as promoted by Town Council Vice Chair Andy Upham. The amendments at Tuesday's meeting essentially prohibit the Planning Board from requiring sprinklers and cisterns in new subdivisions.
Duda said she believes those requirements fly in the face of state law, since they are not specified in Town of Gray ordinances.
Except that cisterns ARE SPECIFIED IN ORDINANCE under paragraph 401.34(c), as a fire safety water source.
And health and safety requirements are allowable under paragraphs 401.28(c) and 401.10(f).
It appears obvious that the original writers of the ordinance purposely left gray areas in order to allow the Planning Board to be flexible.
Welch believes there is too much of a gray area, and the Planning Board spends too much time inventing solutions. I buy into his thought process. And I agree with Welch that it would be helpful to future builders to have a little more specificity in our ordinance.
But being too specific forces builders into ridiculous situations, such as being required to provide cisterns when a major water source like as a river or lake is nearby. This can be addressed, however, and I encourage our earnest and capable members of the Planning Board to listen to their peers on other town committees as they work through this.
So why is Upham hamstringing the Planning Board? And why is he putting future citizens of Gray in danger of losing life or property?
I hope this is merely an attempt by Upham, however strong-handed, to improve Gray. I sincerely hope this is not an example of Upham changing ordinance to benefit his friends in the building business.
Nathan Tsukroff