Last things first. Your editorial on Tuesday concluded with a chastisement of the Auburn City Council for the rejection of a planned unit development ordinance by encouraging “genuine discussion” of an “ordinance that, if well-crafted, could make Auburn a richer, more vibrant community.”

This sentiment disguises Jim Day’s rejection of that idea and the council’s entertainment of the same.

The proposal was privately financed by Mr. Day, engaging a former Planning Board member to serve his purposes, and the final text that reached the councilors on Monday created an opportunity for his venture by narrowing the eligible recreational use properties until only Martindale remained. No other properties could employ the ordinance without inconceivable investment.

This proposal was essentially hidden from public view; couched in obscure language with limited exposure so no citizen could reasonably be expected to understand it.

On the Planning Board’s agenda, in October, I encouraged Day to approach his neighbors —  that is in the public record —  and I continue to extend the invitation. However, during the past seven months, concerns of residents have been ignored and repudiated. The requested suggestions included neighborhood impact studies, increased scrutiny of proposals where negative impact was anticipated, and more stringent restrictions on the size of multi-unit developments.

It is not necessary to “put aside emotions” to “look at the facts.”

The neighborhood residents who engaged in public discussion, and the 91 persons who petitioned to reject the proposal, are right to have their emotions considered: worry about the negative effects of unconstrained development; frustration being unable to improve the proposal’s fairness; and pride in the character of their neighborhood.

The facts are that advocates for the proposal speaking at the City Council meeting on Monday night numbered two —  both from Martindale. No other major recreational areas came forward. The number of residents who spoke in opposition numbered nine.

It is simplistic to imagine Martindale only as a glistening resort gem or abandoned lot, awaiting an acute plague of 200 homes.

Intelligent discussion, dialogue and compromise result in multiple options and better decisions. Combined recreational and residential use remains a promising concept, but successful development must honor those it will impact.

The council’s decision to reject the ordinance was not base emotion and instinct. Rather than stifle discussion, the decision promotes civic engagement, encourages well-crafted proposals, and discourages promotion of selfish interest.

Robert Baskett, Auburn


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