Democrats fighting Costco are looking for new rules for appointing key commissioners and to fight a Zoning ordinance that would allow extensions to approvals.
Peter Hentschel, and RTM member and anti-Costco advocate, and the Branford Citizens for Responsible Development (BCRD). An anti-Costco group, are taking steps to impact the RTM and Planning and Zoning Commission in an effort to exert greater control over appointees and decisions made by P&Z.
Wednesday night, Hentschel proposed a new law that would require appointees go through a period of “public scrutiny,” and that Board of Selectmen members would not be allowed to speak with nominees prior to appointment. The proposal would also drastically decrease the authority of the majority members of the Board of Selectmen, and would drastically increase the power of the minority party, now calling for a unanimous vote for appointees.
The move is a direct action to fight the process that first selectman Jamie Cosgrove has put in place, allowing members of the public to come directly to him to put their name forward, rather that need to make use of a political party. Hentschel has been a leader of the anti-Costco Democrats in Stony Creek.
Such an ordinance would drastically decrease the number of residents who would come forward for open seats on Planning and Zoning and the Inland Wetlands Commission. In the past, the left has controlled the various Commissions, especially so when Daniel Shapiro served as chairman. However, after a series of actions by Shapiro led to lawsuits and emails showed his actions in altering a key report in the Costco hearings, he was not reappointed, angering the anti-Costco group.
While Cosgrove has appointed many Democrats to key town boards, they have not been the Democrats desired by the anti-Costco Democrats, and they have, in turn, accused Cosgrove of removing experienced members from the Commission. However, to date, Cosgrove has not removed any members from any commissions, as some terms have expired, new members have been added.
The BCRD, last week, sent out an email asking its followers to fight a proposed rule that would allow Planning and Zoning to extend approval of Planned Development Districts beyond two years on a case-by-case basis. Last year, the Commission expended the deadline for the site where Costco previously applied by one year. The voted was split, 3-2, with some against agreeing that it should be extended but questioning what the current law allowed. All agreed the law should be changed.
The actions by Hentschel are not entirely uncommon by a member of the minority party looking to increase control despite not winning elections. His proposal would drastically reduce the power of the first selectman and the majority members of the Board of Selectman; part of the proposal is a unanimous vote of the Board of Selectman, which would give almost limitless power to the minority member of the Board.
In this case, that member is Jack Ahern, who has publicly stated he is for Costco but fought for keeping Shapiro on the Inland wetlands Commission, despite his actions against Costco.
The BCRD, whose name states the support “responsible development,” has yet to support any development, and exists to fight Costco. The members are strong supporters of former first selectman Unk DaRos, who maintained a long feud with Wayne Cooke, the owner of the potential Costco site. The group stated many times they supported the development of “bio-tech” on the Cooke site, but in the three years since, developers state the group has not come forward with a single proposal.