Saturday, February 20, 2016

Eldred Township Planning Commission Solicitor Makes One Last Blunder, and is Shown the Door

In January, the Eldred Township Planning Commission's regularly scheduled meeting was crashed by Nestle, which was not on the agenda for that evening.  Nestle appeared with no less than four paid consultants and a solicitor in tow, to present its case that it should be granted its Special Exception approval and permit.   Eldred's planners only learned in the half hour prior to the meeting start time that they would hear Nestle's presentation.

According to sources, Nestle contacted (now former) Planning Commission Solicitor Dan Lyons the day prior, and notified him at the last minute that they planned to attend.  For reasons only Mr.Lyons could explain, he evidently did not inform Nestle that one day notice is insufficient to be placed on a Planning Commission agenda.  Stunningly, it also appears that he did not inform the Planning Commission Secretary of the important fact that Nestle was planning to appear.  It should be noted that in this case, the supporting materials for the application are 3 full binders and approximately 1000 pages.  Furthermore, the public had no notice whatsoever Nestle would appear.  The Planning Commission Secretary and the incoming Chairman were contacted the day of the meeting, and reported an agenda that did not include Nestle's presentation.

Clearly this meeting was not held with proper notice, to either the community or the Planning Commission.  It has been stated by some that Mr. Lyons "ran" the Planning Commission, as reflected in Township minutes.  More like ran it into the ground, in this reporter's opinion.  If not for Mr. Lyons, the water extraction amendment would likely not have been railroaded through and passed in 2014.  Mr. Lyons did not verify false information presented by the landowner's attorney of what was contained in the existing ordinance and then offered opinions on land use considerations outside his area of expertise.  At a minimum, after speaking off the cuff, Mr. Lyons should have checked the zoning ordinance following this meeting, and determined that statements he had agreed with at the meeting were not in fact true.

It took Mr. Lyons until October 30, 2015 to determine what was actually in the zoning ordinance when he misspoke about water extraction in March of 2014.

Access by township officials and board members to competent and knowledgeable municipal law guidance is imperative.  Whether or not the supervisory board or planning bodies follow the advice of their legal advisers, these people are in place to make sure that procedures, ordinances and laws are made known, and to encourage those whom they serve to follow them.  It is highly questionable in some cases, and evident in others, that solicitors paid for with Eldred Township taxpayer dollars have let down the residents of Eldred Township in at least the past two years.

Eldred Township Supervisors unceremoniously rid Eldred Township of this menace at their February 2016 meeting, appointing a new Planning Commission Solicitor just in time for the February Planning Commission meeting.  According to Planning Commission members, the new Solicitor hit the ground running and has already made a positive impression.

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