To the Editor:
The badly needed revised Ethics Ordinance, the long overdue Land Use Ordinance, the essential Tax-Exempt Handicap Vehicle Ordinance, and funds for the Partial Roof Replacement at 660 Morehouse Road are all badly needed items for our town. But I had to laugh when I read the Easton first selectman’s recent endorsement of the 9/21 referendum agenda item for the Sport Hill Sidewalk where he said that it has P&Z’s unanimous support.
Of course it does. It contains potentially profitable conflicts of interest for the two members of P&Z who are commercial developers (chair Ray Martin and commissioner Ross Ogden), along with large landowner Rob Maquat whose family has interests in land directly across from the proposed sidewalk and abutting the zoning-breaking Village District that P&Z has also proposed and lobbied heavily for.
I have followed P&Z very closely for several years and they have always voted in complete lockstep – they’ve never once had a single dissenting vote on anything that I can recall, even when they bypassed our Conservation Commission and voted to approve the Saddle Ridge Affordable Housing application in a watershed area flowing into two major reservoirs and received chastisement by the judge in the lawsuit against them for doing this. This would also have broken Easton’s three-acre zoning, very helpful for those with development interests.
The first selectman also touted the “advisory question” on the March 30 referendum which passed despite its misleading and improper wording, but he failed to mention that 44% voted against it. And, of course, a destination of this sidewalk is the extraordinarily unpopular Village District. Of those who spoke regarding the Plan of Conservation and Development, which included the Village District, the vast majority spoke against it at P&Z’s 2019 public hearing, but P&Z then turned deaf ears and immediately passed it anyway. You may recall that former first selectman Bill Kupinse pointed out that this commercial district could break zoning in Easton and quite possibly open our doors to commercial development for the first time in more than 50 years.
Many arguments have already been made against the proposed 10-foot wide Sport Hill Road sidewalk – extravagant size, uncertain and possibly unwieldy expense, potential liability and undetermined responsibility and cost for its maintenance, and a plethora of misleading information (see https://eastoncourier.news/2021/06/10/letter-eastons-emerging-village-districts-and-commercialization/).
This sidewalk will lead to a heap of trouble and possibly untold expense for our town. It might very well be in our town’s best interest if funding for its initial design were rejected on the Sept. 21 referendum item #2, stopping this thing in its tracks.