2010-11-11 / News

Commissioner skeptical about validity of island survey

By Sam Bari

In order to spark discussion, Town Planner Lisa Bryer presented the commissioners with the full Jamestown Community Survey from the town’s Comprehensive Community Plan, but Commissioner Richard Lynn questioned the validity of the survey, and said that he didn’t see how they could use the survey results.

Bryer explained the process at the Nov. 3 meeting of the Planning Commission, and included how the commissioners arrived at the questions at previous meetings before Lynn posed the question.

“We used some questions from the last survey as a baseline,” she said. She also said there were several hot-button issues at the time of the last survey, which may have encouraged a bigger response.

The Commission decided on the topics of questions by reviewing and making changes with a keen eye on bias, Bryer said. She went on to say that it was important to look at the profile information to see who responded.

Lynn said that he remembered the process and thought it was a staff survey because he was told that it was a staff survey. He did not, however, make clear who gave him that information.

“It is not a staff survey,” Bryer said. “You – the Planning Commission – came up with the question topics and edited the survey. It was clearly a Planning Commission survey.”

Planning Commission Chairman Michael Swistak said, “There are many major decisions that are made in town by boards and commissions, and those decisions are made with less input than we received from the survey.”

He went on to say that he would challenge to show where some of the other town decisions have been made with 500 opinions.

Bryer said that the current survey returned a 19 percent response rate compared to 30 percent from the last survey. Lynn was afraid to include the results in the update because he thought they became fact.

Commissioner Rosemary Enright said that the survey does not have to be one for one. According to her analysis, the survey was right on target with the exception of the 61- to 80-year-old group that she thought was overrepresented in the survey. She said that had to be noted in the plan but it did not invalidate the survey.

Lynn then said that he was not sure if he was saying to “throw [the survey] out or analyze the results of it.”

“This is a participatory democracy,” Commissioner Duncan Pendlebury said. “If you don’t fill it out we cannot force you to. The people that care filled out the survey. We cannot go door to door to make sure they fill it out.”

He said that he felt it was a very valid survey. “We do not worry about who did not vote in the election [on Nov. 2], or why. They chose not to participate and the results are just that.”

Bryer asked Lynn if he would have preferred another form of public participation. “We should have mailed out the survey,” he said.

She then asked if his concern regarding the survey was about the survey itself or the distribution. She said that it went to every household by mail in the newspaper. Lynn said that it should have been mailed separately.

After further discussion, Swistak motioned to accept the Jamestown Community Survey as an integral planning tool for development of the five-year update of the Comprehensive Community Plan.

During the discussion of the motion, Lynn said that he wanted to make three points that included the Planning Commission taking into account the age skew of the respondents and to consider, if economically feasible, to have a statistical analysis, and that items included as part of the update be voted on by the commission.

Swistak suggested that his points be addressed in a separate motion. He then called for a vote on the motion on the floor. The panel voted unanimously for the motion to carry.

The vote for Lynn’s threepoint motion to consider a statistical analysis was denied with a vote of 4-1, Lynn casting the only supporting vote.

In other business, Commissioner Susan Little said that the Harbor Commission is hoping the ordinance and management plan will be approved at the December meeting so they can get it to the Town Council for its approval.

Little asked that if there was anything that the Planning Commission would like to see, to please let her know. Swistak said he would like to know if the Harbor Commission has looked at the Comprehensive Plan goals with regards to the plan. Little said that she would suggest they do that.

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