Letter – So much for transparency

Published 4:53 pm Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Editor, The Smithfield Times:

Town residents perhaps should have known that, if things appear to be too good to be true, then they probably are not.  

As events proved at Town Council’s public hearing last week about the proposed Joseph Luther IV development at Pierceville, early promises of transparency and “glasnost” by council were illusory. Little of substance appears to have changed.  

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The numerous and detailed 5-minute presentations by well-informed residents who had done their homework were met with mute silence from council members (with the lone exception of an acerbic comment about the statistical reliability of polling). The developer’s team was allowed 15 minutes for rebuttal; we citizens were allowed not one minute to challenge several inaccurate claims made by the developer. (Hint: The PMUD density calculations are based upon “developable acreage of a project.”)

Admittedly, the evening was long for all involved, especially for those of us seated in the plastic seats. And, yes, a couple of presenters toward the end got carried away with themselves,.as did a couple of council members who delivered lengthy and meandering monologues at midnight about personal-life experiences without addressing anything substantive about Luter’s proposal. 

Thankfully, calmer heads on council prevailed to remand the proposal to late-August workshop for further scrutiny and dialogue with the developer. Members of the public can attend but may not speak — although there is nothing in the town’s municipal code/ordinances and state law that mandates that restriction. The unspoken communication was clearly that there is no further need for the council to hear from the public.

The key takeaways for me were: 

  • Most council members apparently have not studied the proposal (or the subdivision and zoning ordinances) in depth, but are relying instead upon the threadbare analysis and recommendation from the Planning Commission.
  • The town manager’s failure to stand up a Subdivision Review Committee (as recommended by ordinance) has left many stones unturned on matters pertaining to infrastructure.
  • The council seems intent upon voting without benefit of financial analysis and the projected costs involved.  

Whether we residents have come here, or been here, our belief is that we deserve better from our elected officials.


Mark Gay