The Amherst Town Council scheduled additional meetings in December this year to enable the lame duck majority, at least two of whom were clearly voted out because of their stance on downtown development and zoning, to steamroll passage of zoning amendments that the new Council might or might not pass.
The Charter Commission stated in its final report that “Councilors can be fully informed before voting on zoning.” “With the Town Council, zoning and other bylaws will not be able to be ‘rushed through’, because the Council is required to discuss bylaws at two separate meetings before voting — and any Councilor can request postponement to a third meeting for further discussion.”
This week, at the Council meeting of Monday, December 6, I requested such a postponement under Charter Section 2.10(c) on two zoning bylaw amendments (amendments pertaining to the definition of “mixed use” and the rezoning of the CVS lot for a parking garage). The response was immediate and hostile. The Council strategized openly at that meeting about how such a request could be thwarted, with clear rancor regarding the audacity of any councilor to use the Charter provision. The following day, councilors received an email listing five upcoming meetings where a vote on the two amendments would be posted to the agenda.
If those Councilors were upset about the majority on the Council ruining their holidays by adding meetings in December, every one of which goes past 11 p.m. and some past midnight, they are doubly upset now. Rather than simply scheduling a vote for the full council meeting on December 13, they have all councilors committing to attend meetings of a Council subcommittee on Thursday, December 9 (at two potential times), the Four Town Meeting on Saturday, December 11, and two potential times on Monday, December 13 — in order to ensure that the vote be taken. So 13 Councilors need to change all of their plans to be available for five extra meetings within the next few days to ensure that the majority can steamroll these two zoning amendments on behalf of downtown developers.
Darcy DuMont is an Amherst Town Councilor representing District 5.