It is disappointing–and surprising–to have to report that last week the Planning Commission turned down a proposal to rescind its finding last year that the Lakeside project is still deemed consistent with the Talbot County Comprehensive Plan. This, in spite of a wealth of new information that has been gathered that demonstrates clearly that Lakeside should be paused until important problems are worked out.
Most dramatic and obvious is that the developer, Rocks, is going to hook up at least 120 homes (a 27% load increase) to the existing grossly inadequate wastewater plant the effluent of which courses into the headwaters of shallow and ill-flushed La Trappe Creek. You recall those photos, of course.
How can anyone reconcile this report that important, dramatic, compelling new information has been assembled that bears on public health and Talbot’s quality of life—and yet the Commission did not change its mind? Surely, you reason, Watson is exaggerating the significance of the evidence, blowing things out of proportion. Well, that could be one answer… but that’s not the story, at least in my opinion. Gathering information is not the same as communicating information—and as I thought about it intently in the last few days, I am sure that that is where the system is flawed and broken.
I intend to write a full Spy piece on this in a month or two (no hurry now), but briefly, here’s the picture: gathering information is unilateral; communication is a two-way street. Communication requires active engagement on both sides…speaking and listening, expression and comprehension. Let’s accept on its face that Commissioners, who are unelected volunteers appointed by the Council, are well intentioned people.
The problem, which I will not detail here, is a gross unbalance in the manner information comes before the Planning Commission—unlimited and unchallengeable monologue by advocates, building a story in meeting after meeting (supported or accommodated by a surprisingly passive staff), versus three-minute, hard stop, “comments” by others afterwards, at one short session. Is it any wonder things don’t always work out as they should?
And as to written materials? People like me can present detailed information and try to explain complexities carefully and methodically in a nine-page letter, and ShoreRivers can deliver lab reports, and a professional report by a recognized wastewater expert (with an appendix of exhibits proving the thesis), but that does not assure that the intended audience has digested it all—indeed, that they have even read it. But that critique is for another day. (And I know of course that more than a few surely are thinking, it’s just sour grapes.)
Since the Commission has already acted, guess what. The Council has chosen now as the time to invite yours truly to “present my case” in connection with the demand for rescission of R281 I first presented last May 7th, over five months ago. Cynical, in my opinion—and really triggered by their realization, I think, that were they to dispose of this rescission question without ever letting me have my say, litigation would surely ensue. (The lawsuit for “mandamus” I filed back in June to compel this presentation is still open, and won’t be moot or dismissed until I have completed my full say.)
So I will be there tomorrow night. And because the Council’s Rules for a petitioner are a little different than for public hearings, I’ll not be hard stopped at three minutes. If you are not attending (many are), you might want to livestream it from the County’s website, link below.
It will be an honor, actually, to speak to the Council not for myself alone, but for 349 additional citizens (and voters ) as we exercise our right “to petition the government for a redress of grievances,” which is how the idea is expressed in the First Amendment. The 349 (as of September 24th) are listed by name on the County’s roster, citizens who formally support my call for rescission. Some I am told are “mad as hell and don’t want to take it anymore.”
Seems late in the game, but if you want me to be speaking for you also tomorrow night, just email support for Petition 21-01 to firstname.lastname@example.org today. We’re all in this together.
Dan Watson is the former chair of Bipartisan Coalition For New Council Leadership and has lived in Talbot County for the last twenty-five years.