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Taxpayers Voices Go Unheard by Majority of Council

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Despite numerous emails, phone calls and personal pleas for no more apartments from Addison taxpaying residents, Walden, Angell, Duffy and Arfsten voted 4-2 to amend the Housing Policy, clearing the way for easier acceptance of more apartments.   Meier and Wilcox voted against the amendment. Hughes was not in attendance.

The sometimes extremely heated and contentious discussion about the pros and cons of amending the current Housing Policy was most aggressively debated between the Mayor and Council member Arfsten.   Mayor Meier pointed out that despite the fact that Council members had unanimously agreed previously that staff should bring the amended language to the Council for consideration, that with time to fully grasp the implications of the change, along with considerable resident feedback, he personally was not in favor of amending the policy. Wilcox agreed.

Previously the Council had first requested that “Where feasible and appropriate” be added to the first section of the policy, so it would read:

Where feasible and appropriate, new housing should increase the proportion

            of fee-simple ownership in Addison’s housing mix. Apartment-only rezoning

            is unlikely to be approved, as currently the ratio of rental to ownership

            properties is higher than desired.

 Second, Council previously requested that a fifth section be added that would allow for exceptions to the policy. This section would read:

The City Council acknowledges that there may be exceptional projects that do

            not comply with elements of this policy.   The Council encourages developers

and staff to pursue projects that represent the highest and best use of each property and that advance portion of this policy or other Town goals.

First Meier put forth a motion that would table the vote until the next Council meeting so that Hughes would be able to vote. Duffy argued that he didn’t see any value in waiting and eventually the vote was called and failed 2-4 with only Meier and Wilcox voting in favor.

Next Meier made a motion to retain the current housing policy. Arfsten argued that he preferred the proposed amendment. Meier pointed out that there was likely no coincidence that the AMLI project, which the previous Council turned down, to build an apartment on the Quorum property, was back on the P&Z agenda for January 17th. Arfsten continued to argue in favor of the changes and when the vote was called, it too failed 2-4.

Meier then made a motion to amend the housing policy so that additional apartments would not be approved unless they were to be built on properties currently zoned apartment, suggesting that if a developer wanted to replace a currently rundown apartment complex with a new apartment complex that could be considered. Again the motion failed with the same 2-4 vote.

Then Walden made a motion to approve the proposed amendments and Duffy seconded the motion. When Meier asked Walden if approving the amendments would create an opportunity for more apartments, Walden refused to respond. “What do you think the consequences are?” Meier then asked Walden? “What are ‘exceptional projects’?”

“I’m open to anything.” Walden responded.

Meier pointed out that these amendments open up an opportunity for more apartments and with AMLI already scheduled for P&Z he could see the train already coming down the track.

Ignoring any of the obvious consequences and obviously determined to open the door for more apartments, supporters of the amendments called for the vote and the motion passed 4-2 with only Meier and Wilcox voting against it and once again, Walden, Duffy, Angell and Arfsten voting in favor.

With Arfsten being the most vocal about amending the policy, even argumentative at times, it is only reasonable to remind residents that it was Arfsten and Hughes who several months ago admitted taking a call from AMLI. It is also interesting to note that Arfsten not only voted against the Addison Grove project, he was adamant about insisting how important it was to “listen to the people.” Which begs the question, what changed his thinking since the conversation with AMLI? What convinced Arfsten that it is no longer important to listen to the people?

Lack of Respect

Since the Council meeting several people informed FM that they consider the way Duffy, Walden, Angell and Arfsten ignored resident input as very disrespectful.

When taxpaying residents take their personal time and show enough interest to express in numbers how they feel, through emails, public forums and personal expressions, it is disrespectful for those who supposedly represent them to simply ignore that feedback by not even having the courtesy to acknowledge that feedback, let alone explain WHY they have chosen to ignore it.

Several people who attended the meeting also pointed out after the meeting that the “snarky” attitude with which three of these Councilmen interacted with the Mayor also showed a lack of common courtesy. Arfsten raised his voice to Meier several times, using an accusatory tone and language. Duffy interrupted Meier and spoke to him in a very condescending tone while Walden couldn’t seem to bring himself to refer to the Mayor by his title. Instead he continually referred to him as “Todd,” like when he angrily said, “I don’t need to be cross-examined by you, Todd,” and refused to answer a reasonable question that the Mayor asked him. This is an intentional tactic that most educated adults consider very disrespectful given the professional setting in which these two were communicating.

But, set aside these nasty verbal attacks, the bottom line is, by voting to provide a nice big loophole for more apartments being built in Addison, these four Councilmen demonstrated that what you, the taxpayer wants, simply doesn’t count with them.

When the former Council members voted in favor of Addison Grove they were professional and courteous enough to explain WHY. These four Council members failed to give Addison residents that courtesy.

Something Good Amidst the Negative

For any of you who have been wondering if Skinny Pizza will ever really open in Addison Circle, fret no more. Two ordinances were approved for the restaurant and during the public hearing segment a restaurant representative here from New York to expedite the opening advised that the long awaited oven is here and installed and that they plan to pen on January 23.

Don’t Give Up—Let Your Voice Be Heard

The first test of whether or not Addison is going to favor more apartments will be next Tuesday, January 17 when AMLI presents to P&Z. There will be a public hearing so if you have an opinion on whether or not to rezone this commercial site for apartments, take stand, show up and speak up. It’s YOUR town!

Photo Courtesy Flickr/Henry Burrows

The Facts Matter Website is made possible through the generous donations from Angels of Addison.

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