For the past two years, we have attended Red Hook Planning Board meetings.
The meetings take place at town hall, but the planning board always meets in front of the dais, even though the dais has microphones at most of the seats. Instead, the meetings are conducted at a table. The board members sit in a circle and the applicant sits with his back to the public. The members and the applicant speak to one another in soft tones, and at times it is almost impossible to hear their discussion.
My husband and I have attended many meetings because the development proposed on Feller-Newmark Road is very important to us, and we are perhaps the people who will be most adversely affected by this project. For example, our well is about five yards from the projected two-lane road that will be paved and sanded and salted in inclement weather.
I have often asked the board to speak louder, or use the microphones, but I never get any response. I admit, I am very hard of hearing, but I do wear hearing aids and do sit in the first row and lean over, trying to understand what they are saying but I never get any help.
This has been an ongoing problem. If I were in a wheelchair, would not the board be required to provide a ramp to the room, so that I might be in attendance at the proceedings? In this case, they have the option to sit at the dais and turn on the microphones so that all can hear the proceedings.
When the developer and the board sit in so close and cozy a place and speak as though they were friends sharing tea and crumpets, it tends to affect the outcome of the decision. The meetings have caused the applicant to change his plans and return to the table, and in so doing, he adheres to the board’s dictates. Thus, the board becomes more and more invested in the project. It is hard to imagine that the outcome will be fairly adjudicated.