Patrick Taylor Highlands Mayor
I’m aware of a recent flurry of talk about how the town has permitted subdivisions without citizens knowing what was happening. Similar talk has centered around the new fire station. For seven years I have advocated for open communication in town government, so when I hear these rumblings about secrecy I feel compelled to respond.
A small subdivision in the Mirror Lake area was recently approved by the town board. Another small subdivision is in process on 5th Street. Both projects have been required to go through a multi-layered review. There has been no hidden agenda kept from public knowledge.
The subdivision approval process begins with the developer submitting the forms, documents and fees for the proposed subdivision to the town planning department. A preliminary subdivision plat/map is required. The town engineer reviews the plans and determines if they meet the subdivision ordinance requirements such as water line specifications, drainage, roads, etc. The town engineer writes a letter of recommendation, or denial, to the town planning board which reviews the preliminary plans. The planning board recommends, or denies, the proposed subdivision to the town board. The town board completes a review of the preliminary plan based on the planning board and town engineer’s recommendations. Once preliminary approval is given by the board, the developer can then proceed to build the subdivision infrastructure following the approved plans. Upon completion, the town engineer inspects the completed work and recommends that the subdivision be granted final approval by the board. If there is any variation in the specifications of the preliminary plans, the town engineer will require the work to be redone. The town board then hears the recommendation of the town engineer and gives final approval. At this point, and not before, construction of houses can proceed. If a developer meets all requirements, there is no basis for denying the final subdivision plan. It is not an arbitrary process. This is an open, public process. Sometimes people become aware that a subdivision is underway in the middle of the process perceive it was a hidden process.
I encourage folks to sign up for the Town Sunshine List. Folks on the list receive every document town board members receive prior to monthly meetings, including subdivision plans. They also receive information concerning meetings such as the zoning board of adjustment and the planning board. Call town hall at 526-2118 and ask to speak to our town clerk, Gibby Shaheen and she will put your name and email address on the list.
Those on the list, including the press, were informed about the public meetings, and hearings concerning the development of the new fire station. All the state statutes for approving the construction of the fire station were followed, including a public vote by the Highlands Town Board and the County Commissioners.