For the third time, Milton Town Council has decided to table an ordinance regulating appeals of decisions from the Milton Planning and Zoning Commission.
Mayor Ted Kanakos said the ordinance would be brought back for further discussion and a possible vote at either council’s February or March meeting.
The ordinance was tabled by a 6-1 vote at council’s Jan. 10 meeting because members could not agree on a fee structure for appeals. Councilman John Collier was the only yes vote for the ordinance as structured, saying it has been under debate for months now and the council should move forward.
The fee structure for appeals has been the measure’s most controversial aspect. As currently written, appeals from planning and zoning and the board of adjustment would be subject to a $400 application charge and at least $1,000 to be held in escrow to cover administrative costs of the appeal. Such a structure is already in place for board of adjustment appeals, but under the ordinance, appeals from planning and zoning would be added.
The ordinance also spells out the process for appeals, although that has not been nearly as contentious. Town officials decided to pursue the ordinance after two appeals hearings of planning and zoning decisions were held this summer.
Citizens spoke out in opposition to the fee structure, saying it would discourage residents of limited means from exercising their right to an appeal. To help with that, two amendments were added to the ordinance. First, if an appeal is successful, the applicant would be reimbursed the application fee. Second, an applicant could apply for an economic hardship exception with proof that they could not pay the fees.
Still, the issue of a fee remained a source of contention for council members, who under the ordinance would have the power to adjust the fees every year through the town’s annual fee schedule.
At the Jan. 10 meeting, Councilman Sam Garde proposed a change to the ordinance of crossing out the proposed $400/$1,000 fee and inserting “To Be Determined,” allowing council to pass the bulk of the ordinance but leaving room for more debate on what the fee should be. Garde’s measure failed by a 4-3 vote, with council members Collier, Randi Meredith, Larry Savage and Mayor Ted Kanakos voting against.
Garde then moved to table the entire ordinance until the fee issue could be settled, which passed 6-1.
The ordinance was previously tabled in November and December. In November, council tabled the ordinance following a public hearing in order to clean up the language and to absorb citizen comment, which at that time was mostly in opposition. After additional discussion and further changes in December, council elected to table the ordinance again to allow the public more time to view the revised ordinance.