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PUT AWAY YOUR TOYS: Sunday brought perfect weather for hot-air ballooning over the Old Mendon Highway -- but when it's over, you still have to pack up. / Photo by Nancy Williams

Today's word on journalism

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

"Paranoia means having all the facts."

--William S. Burroughs, Beat Generation writer (1914-1997)

Providence P&Z deals with anonymous hate mail, closed design meetings

By Dave Mehr

September 20, 2006 | PROVIDENCE -- Several important items were on the agenda for Tuesday's Planning Commission meeting in Providence, but aside from these, Chairman Blaine Sorenson expressed concern about an anonymous letter he received recently.

"I did receive mail from a person who chose not to include their name," Sorenson said. "That's the first one of these letters I've ever received."

Sorenson read the following excerpt from the letter at the meeting, wondering whether the writer was present at the meeting: "Mr. Sorenson, why in the hell don't you go back to California . . . they have everything you seem to want there."

While on the subject of letters, Sorenson requested that all letters be sent to the city office.

Commission members also discussed a 60-day approval process concerning plat procedures and requirements, which led several members to question when the 60-day approval actually begins.

"We're clear that it starts when we first see it," Sorenson said.

Commissioner Jim Beazer also commented on the approval process, saying, "Sixty days is ample time for most things."

Representatives from America First Credit Union were also present at the meeting, awaiting site approval of a new branch in Providence at 544 West 100 North, by the new Macey's supermarket. Conditions for the approval were the removal of a light pole as well as the placing of "exit-only" signs where necessary. There are also plans for a teller and loan station inside of Macey's. The motion to approve America First's request was passed.

"It's going to be a good looking building," Beazer said.

Attorney D. Rand Henderson, from Henderson Law Offices in Logan, made several comments during Tuesday's meeting. Henderson stated his opinion regarding public records and the availability of information prior to city meetings. Many of the items discussed at planning commission meetings are first presented at a meeting with the design review commission. Mayor Randy Simmons, who was also at the meeting, confirmed that these meetings are closed to the public.

"Just to let you know, I have a problem with that," said Beazer. "I don't think that sends the right message."

"I disagree with the mayor," said Henderson. "The minutes are public records."

Although no motion was made to open design review commission meetings to the public, planning commission members agreed that information such as agendas and city bylaws should be released sooner.

Commissioner Jon Mock said, "The main thing is to allow everyone to have enough time to consider the items."

Also, a motion was made to allow speaker-phone communication at commission meetings. According to the city code, everything communicated among commission members must be heard or seen by those present at meetings. "Sometimes it's just not feasable to be here," Sorenson said.

Mayor Simmons told commission members that he's become aware of a few questions citizens have been having lately, one relating to the landscaping of parking strips. "There's a lot of people that would like that issue revisited," Simmons said.

The city of Providence uses its staff to identify problems such as weeds or areas where gravel and rocks come onto the streets. The city is also using the fire department, as well as the health and sheriff's offices to help resolve such concerns.

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