Letter: Article on Grace Farms Misrepresents, Misleads

Dear Editor:

As the attorney for Grace Farms Foundation, Inc. in its “Renewed Application for Second Amended Special Permit” before the Planning and Zoning Commission, I write to correct serious inaccuracies in the above-referenced article you wrote yesterday [“Bested in Legal Arguments, Attorneys for Grace Farms ….” published April 23]. These inaccuracies misrepresent the procedural posture of the Foundation’s Renewed Application and misleadingly suggest that the Commission has already acted on a part of it.

You mention late in the article the “prepared statement” of the Foundation on its decision, and focus instead on the speculation of persons who did not participate in the decision. However, the Foundation’s statement of its decision to withdraw and then refile its Renewed Application relates precisely what transpired between Commission Counsel Ira Bloom, Town Planner Steve Palmer, and the undersigned on Friday, April 21, 2017. Indeed, the reason the Foundation published its statement was to avoid the very uncorroborated speculation in which you have engaged.

Especially egregious is the reckless implication that there was a decision on the issue by the Commission after a “successful argu[ment]…” by opponents, and that a hired consultant’s report was an instrumental factor in the decision. In fact, the Commission did not—and cannot, by law— hear, much less deliberate and decide, any issue in advance of a public hearing. Further, the views of any consultant in the Record simply did not enter the discussion or events you purport to describe.

To be clear: No counsel “successfully argued,” nor did the Foundation concede, the legal issue of multiple principal uses, as you suggest. The Foundation agreed, as its statement says, and as Mr. Bloom or Mr. Palmer will confirm, to address this legal issue by applying for a change to the text of the Zoning Regulations, rather than by argument from counsel at the public hearing. The reason was so that the Commission can focus, without the distraction of extended legal argument, on the Foundation’s requests under the Special Permit Criteria and Plan of Conservation and Development.

In this last regard, you chose to recite at length views opposed to the Foundation, and not any part of the Foundation’s legal position, set forth in two legal memoranda of public record in the Commission’s file. Suffice to say we remain confident that the Foundation’s position is grounded in a fair reading of the Zoning Regulations and the Commission’s practices spanning nearly half a century.

Finally, for some reason you did not consult the undersigned, nor Mr. Bloom, nor Mr. Palmer, in advance of this article. I would suggest that such hasty “scooping” of a story or issue deprives it of balance and perspective, in addition to accuracy.

Thank you for this opportunity to set the record straight.

Very truly yours

Edward V. O’Hanlan

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