Chairman Will Not Recuse Himself From Deliberation

WASHINGTON — Inland Wet­lands Commission Chairman Mark Picton has been asked to recuse himself from delibera­tions on the 27-acre Wykeham Rise project by developer Matthew Klauer’s attorney, Robert Fisher of Cramer and Anderson LLP.

The proposed plan for an inn and resort at 101 Wykeham Road has been hotly debated over the past few months since the application was filed with the town’s land use offices this spring. Mr. Klauer who, with his fami­ly, purchased the site of a former private school in April for $2.7 million, plans to construct two main buildings housing a restaurant, bar, lobby, spa, and swimming pool, as well as 54 rooms in cottages around the site.

Public hearings on the project began last month before Inland Wetlands as well as the Zoning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals. The project, as it stands now, must secure a vari­ance for additional lot coverage from ZBA in order to proceed. Mr. Fisher’s letter, addressed to Mr. Picton, cites concern over a letter written by Mr. Picton as a private citizen to the Zoning Commission in which he dis­agreed with the commission’s interpretation of the regulation governing the location of inns on town roads.

Last November, Mr. Fisher approached the Zoning Commis­sion on behalf of an unnamed client requesting clarification of the regulation, which appeared to limit inns to state roads. The zoners, who had previously interpreted the regulation to mean that inns could only be located on state roads, agreed the regulation as it read was confusing but not incorrect.

Zoning Commission Chairman David Owen, supported by an opinion from Town Attorney Michael Zizka, was the only member of the commission who maintained that the regulation’s language allowed inns on all town roads, rather than just state roads. The commission voted last month to clarify the regulation limiting inns to state roads; how­ever, the Wykeham application is believed to be grandfathered under the old interpretation since it was received before the revision was adopted.

Many people, including former Zoning Commission Chairman Hank Martin, have strongly dis­agreed with the new interpreta­tion of the old language, as Mr. Picton did. Mr. Fisher’s letter to Mr. Picton contends that he is prejudiced against Mr. Klauer’s application. “The position that you articu­lated in your letter clearly expresses your position that you are opposed to the Zoning Com­mission’s approval of this proj­ect,” states Mr. Fisher.

“I ask you to evaluate your position as Chairman of the Inland Wetlands Commission and consider whether you can be totally neutral and unbiased, now that you have stated your unequivocal opposition, in writ­ing, to the Zoning Commission.” Mr. Picton’s letter to the Zoning Commission did not criticize the project or even reference it, but rather the interpretation of the zoning regulation. His two-page letter, available in the land use office as public record along with others, addresses the context of the reg­ulation as it pertains to the body of zoning regulations.

Mr. Fisher’s letter also notes that Mr. Picton has been critical of the report on the project issued by Land Tech Consul­tants, hired at the commission’s request by Mr. Klauer to review the plans. Mr. Picton has criticized the Land Tech report for failing to address the environmental issues in enough depth, which is the purview of Inland Wetlands. He recommended hiring an independent environmental expert to perform another review, and spoke with Dr. Michael Klemens about such a study. Subsequently, the commission did hire Dr. Klemens to conduct a limited study which it has received.

Mr. Fisher states that Mr. Pic­ton’s interest in a further in-depth study and contact with Dr. Klemens is inappropriate and further grounds for his recusal on the basis of “a personal inter­est in the outcome of the proj­ect.” “I hardly have to remind you that an Inland Wetlands Com­mission is not a mini-Depart­ment of Environmental Protec­tion,” says the Fisher letter. “A full ecological review is unneces­sary and your commission has no authority to require it.” The cost of an additional study would typically be borne by the applicant, should the commission request it.

Mr. Picton said he read Mr. Fisher’s letter several times, con­sidered it and disagrees with it. “I don’t plan to recuse myself,” he said. The Inland Wetlands public hearing on the Wykeham Rise application will continue at 5 p.m. Wednesday, September 10, at Bryan Memorial Town Hall.

By Ann Compton – Voices News

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