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On June 21, the Deep River Planning & Zoning Commission held a public hearing to discuss the Valley Railroad Application #106: to add a 36-car parking lot (the total would be 49) at 152 River Street. The hearing was being held in the smaller room, which should not have happened since 90 residents showed up. Reluctantly, the P&Z moved the meeting upstairs to the auditorium. When the P&Z commission chairman noted their names for the record, not everyone could hear them.
After the applicant’s presentation of his plans and the P&Z’s questioning, the secretary logged in the letters received from the public both “for” (1) and “against” (~6) the application (none against were read). Individuals “for” the application were allowed to speak (2). Concerns noted by the public “against” the application included: the increased traffic from 49 parking spaces on a rural road, part of which does not have a sidewalk, has no posted speed limits, and almost 20 children in residence. The P&Z moved to allow only 3 minutes per speaker. Both myself and local architect Roger Williams voluntarily significantly shortened our letters in response to the P&Z’s request, yet both of us were stopped by the chair before we were finished. Mr. Williams said that his letter had 38 signatories, so surely he should be afforded more time.
I fear that the P&Z has lost sight of their mission in town. They serve the public. In a case of a Special Permit, they are more obligated to listen to the public and consider town and neighborhood issues more than usual, as per their own regulations. I felt that they did not. They showed a marked disdain, if not hostility to the public. Moreover, I feel that the public’s First Amendment rights were violated.
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