Here's some unsolicited advice for developer Chris Patten — hire an expert land use attorney, preferably from outside the area without personal ties to this politically incestuous region, and construct your apartment building.
I learned as a reporter covering numerous municipal and county governments that appointed — not elected — members of their dizzying number of planning and zoning boards and economic development agencies serve at the whim of the ruling junta.
The members generally are friends or relatives of the top elected official, a favored business owner or two, recycled politicians, members of the ruling political party and people who use the positions as stepping stones to elected office, better known as popularity contests.
I've witnessed developers, business owners and homeowners forced to spend time and money on stroking board members' personal preferences that have no legal connection to existing zoning and planning codes. Stalling is common, applicants are harassed in thinly veiled attempts to discourage projects by personal/political opponents, and necessary municipal assistance disappears because paid staff suddenly can't find time to help.
When that fails, the bullies trot out the “eminent domain” intimidation threat. Shameful.
Public and private criticism of these rigged practices usually translates into rejected projects, along with the familiar lament from the appointees that they're just “volunteers who want to make our community better.” Ugh!
Patten in this case is forced to play Double Jeopardy, because politicians and their minions traditionally kowtow to religious institutions and their faithful flocks. They'd rather seek salvation and votes from a tax-exempt organization than tax revenue from a wholly legal project and successful developer who is savvy enough to research a property ignored by city government for 50 years.
Finally, please explain how a cash and personnel-strapped city would purchase, outfit and maintain another park at the expense of common sense.
Dominic Tom, Moreau