Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Nestle civil engineer pressed into whitewash service - hearing called "early"

I have to apologize to my readers.  Last night's zoning hearing board hearing turned out to not include cross examination, as was expected.  When you have 6 lawyers in a room, nothing is predictable.  Other than some interesting whitewashing of the recent township engineers' reports, it was almost unbearable for even seasoned enthusiasts of the subject.  This observer was wishing he had a wet paintbrush, so he could paint "kick me" on the wall and wait for it to dry - or to be kicked.

Long story short, Nestle Civil Engineer Ed Davis completed his testimony, and the next hearing will begin with his cross examination.  The township's attorney and citizens' attorney first, followed by citizens.

Mr. Davis covered a lot of subject matter in his testimony - hint hint - when he is cross examined there is a lot to choose from.  But alas, it didn't happen last night.  Testimony ceased at 9pm, and class was dismissed until next time.  The attorneys for the township and citizens desired more time to prepare for cross examination.

 A brief recap of what happened

Let's be honest - zoning is like Latin, but the difference is there are people who understand Latin.  Sooo, as Mr. Davis droned on under questioning from Counsel Timothy Weston about tree buffers, someone in the audience exclaimed "by all means, let's hear more about buffers".  Clearly this resident had her fill of buffers the second time one was mentioned, and we were on buffer 50 - or it seemed like it.  At one point, witness Davis misspoke and used the word "collusion," when he intended collision or nuclear fusion or some such, and he laughed it off nervously as everyone in the audience groaned at the thought that this entire episode reeks of collusion.  It was funny like when you cut your finger off while teaching your son safe knife handling.

Mr. Weston had explained that Nestle just received Hanover's reports over the weekend, and they would have to prepare a response, yet he proceeded to ask Mr. Davis numerous questions that were in fact responses to some of the content of these critical reviews.  For example, Mr. Davis explained how it isn't necessary to provide individual setbacks for each use when there is more than one on a lot - in fact, a house and a business can be in the same building.  Two businesses can be in the same building.  This is not the same interpretation as Hanover Engineering.  Mr. Davis spoke as if his interpretation is what the ordinance means, but Attorney Freed for Eldred Township successfully objected to this.  It is the Zoning Hearing Board that interprets the Ordinance, and after testimony is complete (Hanover can and will likely be called as a defense witness), we will find out what its finding is.  Hanover can not cross examine Mr. Davis, since they do not have standing.

There was other low hanging fruit in the recent reviews that Mr. Weston addressed.  After cherry picking several items and explaining them away, Mr. Weston questioned if Mr. Davis had prepared the entire Environmental Impact Statement, and he replied he had not.  So this was the "we won't be explaining away any more of Hanover's findings" warning.  Then the coup de grace:  Mr. Weston got Mr. Davis to say the EIS is "optional" and was only submitted as thoughtful gesture - as if to say, hey if there are issues with it, what does it matter because we didn't even have to supply it.  Look at the Zoning Ordinace - if an EIS is requested (which in this case it would have been), all the contents of Nestle's EIS are mandatory.  You can't polish a turd - it's not possible.  There are however other treatments:

Several deficiencies not addressed
This observer noted that several items in the recent Hanover report were addressed in Attorney Weston's questions.  However, several others were not at the time Attorney Weston announced (to great relief of the audience) that Mr. Davis' testimony was complete.

The water "silos" are now "vessels"
On questioning about cleaning the water "silos" (again, in response to Hanover's April 15 review) Attorney Weston used a new term for the water silos - "water vessels".  He had the gall to say "what some in the room are referring to as tanks".  No shit Sherlock.  This confused Mr. Davis temporarily - he alternately referred to them as vessels and silos until he got back on track with the party line of silo.  This reporter is informed that Attorney Preston asked Mr. Davis during the first hearing "These are tanks, right?" and Mr. Davis replied "yes".  Oh what a tangled web we weave.

Spirited group of fundraisers and picketers at hearing site
On arrival, it appeared that a union may have called a walkout.  It turned out to be some fashionable ladies sporting shades in the evening sun holding the equivalent of "GTFOOH Nestle" signs, selling pizza, and distributing literature.  Personally, this whole topic turns my stomach so I wasn't in the mood to nosh.  Marissa announced she was sporting a "Bye Bethany" necklace or something like that, but the reference escaped this attendee.  If the necklace said "Bye Jillian" that would have made sense.  All it reminded me of was "Surrender Dorothy" from the Wizard of Oz which obviously isn't even close.  I'm dense that way, and I was busy speaking with the woman who had a road put over her property at the hands of an Eldred Supervisor.

Well attended meeting
Get it - well attended?  Yuck yuck - that's a little water extraction humor.  There were about 80 people in attendance - many familiar faces.  It's a shame that they didn't hear some of "the other side" tonight - they deserve to.  It's a process, friends.  To answer one question that is asked, "is there a time limit?" the answer is "no" - not as long as a witness (or cross examiner for that matter) is covering new ground.  The 50th tree buffer on the property may not seem important, but every one has to be addressed.

Next hearings
Are on the right margin above.  Hang in there folks - no pain, no gain.  This can be mind numbing, for sure.  Think of panning for gold - you don't get nuggets in every pan, do you?  I love seeing you at these meetings, so you'd better come again next time - and kick me if I am not paying attention or have fallen over from exhaustion.  I'll do the same for you.

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