Athens Planning Commission seeks citizen input for Town Plan

ATHENS — The Athens Planning Commission has promised to do all it can to encourage citizen participation in the creation of a Town Plan that would be acceptable to voters.

Toward this end, the commission invites fellow residents to attend its next meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 8, to discuss what they liked and didn't like about the draft that was defeated by Australian ballot at Annual Town Meeting this past March.

The commission meets on the second Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. in the town office. All meetings are open to the public, and citizen attendance and participation is encouraged.

In addition to hosting the Sept. 8 meeting, the commission aims to develop other ways of soliciting citizen opinion about a Town Plan, including forums, articles in the local monthly newsletter The Athenian, and conversations with neighbors.

Supporters of the Town Plan have said that a major reason for its defeat in March was the mistaken belief on the part of a number of townspeople that it was a zoning document.

The commission said it aims to make explicit in the revised draft that it will not include zoning, and neither will it infringe upon nor limit a person's liberty or property rights. If at any time zoning were to be presented as a consideration it would have its own vote separate from a vote on a town plan.

The commission said it believes that a Town Plan would greatly benefit Athens for a variety of reasons, not least of which is that it would make the town eligible for grants that would help ease the town's financial burden and allow Athens to pursue projects for the betterment of the town that it otherwise could not afford short of increasing taxes.

A Town Plan would also establish the basis for Athens' participation in any Act 250 application review in town as well as provide the town with the only basis for “due consideration” of a town's position in the Public Service Board's consideration of an application.

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