TMAPC tries sleight of hand


Homeowners for Fair Zoning is continuing to keep an eye on the situation with the planned F&M Bank branch at 71st & Harvard. The lawsuit over the improper handling of the neighborhood's protest petition is still pending, but in the meantime F&M Bank is making preparations to build -- and they apparently want to build something different than what the TMAPC and the City Council approved at the end of 2003. Here's what the HFFZ website says about it:

On January 5, 2005, at TMAPC's 1:30 p.m. public hearing, John S. Denney presented the following objections to approval of the bank's plat and related restrictive covenants. The essence of the objection is that the TMAPC approved and recommended approval to the City Council in this P.U.D. of "permitted uses" for the property which did not include the two office buildings. The Council then approved the TMAPC's written recommendation which did not include the offices. If the City Council finds that this is indeed a change from the original P.U.D. approved by the Council, it will be free to deny the plat and P.U.D. amendment and block the building of the two office buildings. Without the office buildings, the project will likely have to be scrapped.

Rather than correct this problem through the proper channels (which should include TMAPC and Council approval for a major amendment), the TMAPC attempted to pretend that something different was actually approved:

Without notice to HFFZ or anyone other than the bank, TMAPC had added a proposal to the agenda, styled as a "correction," to retroactively amend the minutes of the August 27, 2003, TMAPC meeting where the "permitted uses" for P.U.D. 687 had been adopted. It was these minutes which were submitted for approval by the City Council and which formed the basis for the City Council's approval of this P.U.D. With the current language for the "permitted uses," the bank's ability to build is strongly in doubt. Hence, the effort by TMAPC to change the minutes.

When challenged on this attempted sleight of hand, did the TMAPC chairman blush and sheepishly apologize?

Despite not being given notice of the agenda addition to change the minutes, Mr. Denney caught the item, filed a written objection and waited approximately 2 1/2 hours until this item (placed as the last item on the agenda) was reached. When he got up to speak, TMAPC's anti-neighborhood leader, Joe Westervelt, tried to prevent him from speaking and informing the public of what TMAPC and the bank were trying to do. HFFZ will try to get a sound clip from the verbal exchanges between Mr. Westervelt and Mr. Denney. The public needs to become aware of the heavy-handed tactics used by Mr. Westervelt and TMAPC.

Westervelt was reappointed in 2002 by Mayor Bill LaFortune, over the strong objections of neighborhood leaders. Westervelt is himself a developer -- not a bad thing in itself, but he verbally abuses many of those who come before the TMAPC with objections to proposed zoning changes. His arrogance was on display during a February 2004 TMAPC hearing, a story you can read here.

Westervelt is up for reappointment -- his term expired on Tuesday. When Westervelt was reappointed in 2002, Mayor LaFortune assured me that Westervelt was contrite about his rude behavior and promised to do better in future. The Mayor assured me that if Westervelt got out of line again, he would personally go down to the TMAPC meeting and register his objection. Westervelt has gotten out of line, but the Mayor hasn't done a thing about it. Now he has the chance to appoint someone fair and open-minded to the TMAPC to replace Westervelt. The word around town is that the Mayor is trying to figure out how to recapture grass-roots support. If he reappoints Westervelt, or appoints someone else just like him, the Mayor can kiss grass-roots support adios, goodbye, auf wiedersehen.

Setting aside Westervelt's behavior, the fact that the TMAPC would consider rewriting history is appalling. A TMAPC that insisted on the utmost precision in the neighborhood's protest petition should not be allowed to call "do-overs" on their recommendation to the City Council.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on January 20, 2005 10:32 PM.

The convention biz -- increasing space chasing shrinking conventions was the previous entry in this blog.

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