Letter to the editor: Zoning appeals board in New Pal rushes to judgment

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On June 17, I attended the Board of Zoning Appeals meeting in New Palestine to support a friend that had been turned down on a zoning change in October of last year.

I was amazed at the lack of respect and the vote that was obviously decided before the meeting even began.

When the meeting began, my friend’s attorney spoke on his behalf, asking that the board approve the various changes so they could bring jobs and visitors to the town of New Palestine.

He even presented letters from the fire department and police department that stated the building had been brought to code and changes made to meet the board’s approval.

He also told them the owners were willing to work with the board on any restrictions they would want (such as not allowing events to go past 10 p.m.; adding trash receptacles; and building a privacy fence, to name a few).

The board was asking questions of the attorney and the current owner of Around the Corner Grill when a town ordnance was brought up. The board referred that question to, I believe, a town council member who was there.

The council member began to address the ordinance and then asked the owner a question. When he began to answer her, she became verbally abusive and told him, “Shut up and don’t interrupt me again while I am talking.” I could not believe that an elected official could be so disrespectful.

This is probably what got my goat more than anything else. At the meeting in October, they presented a list of signatures to the board that was in support of the zoning change.

One of the board members brought that up and stated there were signatures of people who didn’t even live in New Palestine. So, their “signature doesn’t count, and they don’t matter.”

My takeaway from that was the town did not need or want people from outside to visit their town.

I may be a little naive, but I don’t think any municipality could survive without outsiders visiting and spending money in their community.

There were five or six neighbors that spoke against the change. Most of them were concerned about the noise and trash and the conduct of people leaving the grill that is across the parking lot from the building. Most of them mentioned that they would find trash in their yards and people urinating in the parking lot. So naturally the focus then was turned entirely to another business. Even though I think their concerns are valid, I did not hear one of them say they had talked to the owners about any of their complaints or concerns.

At the end of the meeting, the board members were given a piece of paper that had five questions on it.

The questions were already written, I believe, and were not based on any information from the meeting.

They were instructed that voting "no" to any question would be a no vote on the zoning request.

Then each member was polled on the answers. However, no one other than the board members knew what the questions were. So, the public has no idea what the questions were they were voting on.

I have visited New Palestine many times in my lifetime and could not even begin to tell you how much money I have spent there.

But I can tell you after this I will have to think long and hard before I visit any business there other than the grill.

Joe Fortner

Greenfield