Where is the sunshine?
Is there a difference between what is required by law and serving those who elected you? Do you want your officials to do the absolute minimum required? Most of us, citizens/residents, hope for a higher standard from our elected officials. At the last town of Sharpsburg meeting, I witnessed an unfortunate incident. A public hearing was held to decide whether or not three variances for the same piece of property would be approved or disapproved. The property is adjacent to residences. All three variances were approved.
The Town of Sharpsburg, which owns the property, has a business prospect that plans to open a business very close to adjacent houses. I think requiring three variances to make the lot suitable for business indicates the lot is not suitable in the first place — too small for a business and too close to residences.
Councilwoman Davenport asked if the residents were notified of the public hearing and the mayor replied, “We don’t have to.”
Later, during public comments, the mayor was asked again about notification and the mayor replied, “Only the people with negative comments come to public hearings.”
The implication may have been that differing opinions were not welcome.
Unlike a larger town, Sharpsburg’s town council meetings are not covered by the press. Very rarely is the town’s business published in the Times-Herald, except for the required legal notices. The town has no website, no newsletter-type publication, nothing to communicate with residents.
Admittedly, it is the responsibility of residents to get information, but under the circumstances, I think the town official should make some effort to notify residents of important public hearings or meetings that directly and dramatically affect their property. The regular town council meetings are often changed or cancelled with very little notice, making it even more difficult to keep abreast of town business. Who knows when meetings will be held?
Knowing that media coverage is practically nonexistent for Sharpsburg, is the minimum legal requirement enough if the elected officials wish to satisfy the intent of the law?
I think not.
Polly A. Garlington