Council decision a disappointment
Several weeks ago we elected a new Town Council. It is my hope that this Town Council will provide leadership over the next two years and, in my mind, this means the ability to develop a durable and compelling vision of our island and to take the steps necessary to make the vision a reality. From this perspective, the Town Council decision to support the Clancys in their effort to sell retail in the Windmill Hill Historic District is a disappointment of the first order.
First, they have turned their backs on a shared community vision of creating a protective shield around 1200 acres of coastal marsh, upland pasture, hardwood forest, and freshwater wetlands unique in the state. In the face of this shared vision, the Town Council adopted a resolution urging the court to allow commercial use of a small property in the Windmill Hill Historic District. By any fair analysis, this resolution can only be called a hasty and full-blown retreat from that vision of a "protective shield."
Part and parcel of leadership and vision is also the ability to resist the fashion of the day. The Clancys had many supporters at the so-called "hearing" conducted by the Town Council, but leadership requires seeing through what may be politically expedient to the larger issues involved. From this perspective, the action of the Town Council was another disappointment. Never before in the history of Jamestown has a Town Council conducted a hearing on a routine, unremarkable zoning petition. The Town Council should not be involved in a zoning matter and should have the strength to resist disgruntled zoning applicants and their supporters urging council involvement.
One final comment. Leadership also involves thinking clearly when others are not. In this matter, the Zoning Board has twice denied the Clancys' petition. It has always been the policy of the town to defend the decisions of the Zoning Board, and in this case that policy had been observed until last week. The Town Council instructed the same lawyer defending the Zoning Board to take their resolution supporting the Clancys to the Superior Court with the expectation that this would persuade the judge to overrule the Zoning Board. For obvious reasons, this is not clear thinking and is another disappointment.