Friday, November 4, 2005
ConsCom debates meaning of "emergency"
When is an emergency an emergency? Presented with that question the Conservation Commission came up with a split decision at their October 27 meeting.
The problem as described by Cynthia Jaquith and husband Paul Bergeron of 43 East Street was twofold. First, Jaquith explained that they cannot exit their driveway safely, because its angle and dimensions force them to obstruct both lanes of traffic as they exit onto a curve in the narrow street. Over the past year, this has resulted in two "potentially fatal collisions." Second, because the bricks in their front walkway were not laid properly in the first place, they now present a growing hazard to anyone entering or leaving the house.
Through the summer, the homeowners have attempted to hire a contractor to remedy the two safety hazards, but were unsuccessful until very recently. With winter weather on the way, they were seeking an Emergency Certification to allow the contractor to start the work immediately, without having to file a Notice of Intent or Request for Determination of Applicability (RDA).
Commissioners' arguments against declaring an emergency situation were as follows: this was not a new condition but had existed for years; knowing they had the problem for at least a year, they should have presented their plan earlier. In addition, the commissioners did not want to set a precedent for granting emergency certifications whenever contractors failed to show up, and finally, abutters and neighbors were entitled to learn what was proposed, if they so desired.
Commissioners Kelly Stringham and Peter Burn felt that granting of the certificate was "merely a matter of ConsCom discretion" and need not set a precedent. "Isn't there something we can do to help?" Stringham asked.
Chair Tom Schultz and Commissioner Tricia Smith urged the applicants to complete an RDA form, with the required notification to abutters, and ask to be put on the agenda at the next meeting.
Commissioner Roy Watson moved the question of whether or not the situation constituted an emergency. Stringham and Burn voted "aye," with Schultz, Smith, Watson and John Lee saying "nay."
The applicants asked to be put on the agenda for the November 9 meeting.
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