The Dennis Planning Board will be asking Town Meeting in May to modify the Zoning By-law and General By-law of the town to authorize the Planning Board to have two associate members. The request will make the functions of the Planning Board more efficient and will better serve the community.
In the past year, the Planning Board has had one vacant position which made quorums for Special Permit applications troublesome. Special Permits by the Planning Board require five members voting in favor as it requires a super majority of a seven member Board. With one vacancy, applicants have to have nearly unanimous support. As other members have had to step down due to conflicts of interest on various applications, or have been absent for work or health reasons, some applications have actually needed unanimous support in order to be acted upon. While it is clearly not the intent of the Zoning Act to require unanimous support, the restrictions on participation have that affect.
By adding two associate members, these associates will act as alternates and be authorized to sit, in the absence of a full Planning Board member, on all applications that come before the Board that involve a request under the Zoning Act. Specifically, this would be hearings on Special Permits, Site Plan Review and proposed zoning amendments. Much like the associate members on the Board of Appeals, Planning Board Associate Members will also become exposed to all the issues that normally come before the Planning Board and will be better prepared to step in as a full Planning Board member as positions on the Planning Board change over time.
The proposal will mean fewer hearings continued due to lack of a quorum and a hearing process that is consistent with the original intent of the drafters of the Zoning Act, a process where a super-majority makes decisions, but unanimity is not mandated.