Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, November 9, 2017
Stonington Selectmen approve comprehensive plan
by Rich Hewitt
After 13 years without one, the town is one step closer to having a state-approved comprehensive plan.
The selectmen on Monday approved the proposed plan after Bob Gerber, the planner who had guided the town through the planning process, made a few minor changes to the plan following last week’s public hearing. The vote is the final piece of the process before the proposed comprehensive plan can be sent to the state.
Town Manager Kathleen Billings will sign a certificate indicating the selectmen’s approval and that certificate will be attached to the plan and forwarded to the state. According to Gerber, who provided information to the selectmen via email, the state will have 35 working days to determine whether the plan is complete. Once that determination is made, the state will have an additional 10 working days to issue a certificate of consistency indicating that the town plan is consistent with state requirements for a comprehensive plan. Figuring in weekends and holidays, that would mean the town should have a response from the state within about nine or ten weeks, said Selectman John Steed.
The plan requires state approval, but it also must be adopted by town voters. The question for selectmen on Monday was whether to schedule a special town meeting to vote on the plan or wait until the regular town meeting in March. Selectman Evelyn Duncan had already indicated she favored an early vote at a special town meeting while the details of the plan were still “fresh in everyone’s brains.” She added that an early special meeting would schedule the vote before the town’s “snowbirds” head south.
Duncan pointed out that if the state did not approve the plan and required some changes, the selectmen could bring those items to voters at another special town meeting or at the meeting in March.
Selectman John Robbins, however, balked at having a town vote before receiving state approval and did not like the idea of having to amend the plan if the state rejected it.
“I’d like to see the state approve it before we put people through a vote on it,” he said.
Selectman Chris Betts said he didn’t want to wait too long to hold the vote, but he was willing to wait until the state responds. The required response time for the state is shorter than selectmen anticipated; initially they anticipated having to wait as long as 90 days for the state to act.
“I’d say send it in. That starts the clock on it. They’ve got a time limit. They have to respond,” he said.
Betts added that, with that time limit, there would still be time for selectmen to schedule a special town meeting before the March meeting, if they wanted.
Although they took no formal vote, the selectmen decided to wait until they hear from the state.