September 16, 2008

Minor takes issue with zoning chief

Reporter Jackie Majerus wrote this story:

City Councilor Craig Minor is taking issue with zoning board Chairman Frank Johnson's description of the board's role in determining a new K-8 school site.
Minor, who is the city planner for the town of Cromwell, said Johnson was wrong when he said zoning commissioners would have to determine whether a school would be the "highest and best use" of the former Scalia sand pit that school officials are eyeing for the new building.
"The commission does not take into consideration whether this is the best use of the property, or even a good use of the property," said Minor. "That's not for them to say."
Referring to the "highest and best use," said Minor, is also not for Johnson to say, either. He said it's a specific term used by real estate appraisers to "refer to the activity that makes the most profit for the land owner."
The phrase is not in Bristol's zoning regulations, Minor said.
"The zoning commission's job is to make sure that an application complies with all of the zoning regulations," said Minor. "Finding the most profitable way to develop a piece of property is the job of the free market, not local government."
Johnson said he wasn't speaking as a real estate appraiser.
"I'm not considering the land value," said Johnson. "I'm strictly looking at the use of the land."
He said one of the things his board has to consider is whether or not a school is an "appropriate use" for the land and thus, deserving of a special permit.
In doing so, Johnson said, they'll take the impact on the surrounding neighborhood into account, as well as traffic, the infrastructure and public safety issues.
"We will take a very careful look at this," said Johnson.
When zoning board members wrote the regulations, Johnson said, they intended for applications for special permits to be taken on a case by case basis, since what the applicant wants is not allowed automatically by right.
"If I misspoke, I misspoke. I'm not so sure that I did," said Johnson. "I'm certainly not apologizing for anything I said."
City Planner Alan Weiner said Minor is right that "highest and best use" is a real estate appraisal term. But he said he's heard members of many land use boards in Bristol and other towns use it.
In the real estate appraisal world, it has to do with what use of the land would be most profitable, Weiner said.
"The term has a very specific meaning in that context," said Weiner. "I'm presuming they didn't mean it in the real estate appraisal sense."
Minor said he didn't believe that Johnson had any conflict of interest, and Weiner said he has faith that the zoning board will do its job.
"When the zoning commission looks at applications, they know what they need to do," said Weiner. "They know what their role is and they know what their responsibility is."
The plan to build a new school on the old sand pit is expected to come before the Bristol Planning Commission on Wednesday, Sept. 24. At that meeting, planning commissioners will be asked to make a recommendation on the proposal.
If they recommend against it, city councilors will have to have a two-thirds majority in order to move forward with the school on that property.
Minor said he doesn't know how the planning board will rule.
"There are problems with this site from the planning commission's point of view," said Minor, who said its inaccessibility to pedestrians, or children walking to school may be an issue, as well as its remote location. "The planning commission might not think it's the best place for it."
Minor said he supports the Scalia site for the school, but "grudgingly," calling it a "distant second best" after the property on Park and Divinity streets.
Though he preferred Park and Divinity, Minor said, he thinks it's better for the city to move the school project ahead than wait any longer.
"I don't think Park Street has the votes on the city council," said Minor.
If the planning board recommends against the sand pit site, it will set the project back a year, said Minor, "and it might even kill it."
Only if the project moves forward after the stop at the planning board – either by an affirmative recommendation or by a two-thirds majority on the council – would it at some point come before the zoning commission.
If that happens, the zoning board would be asked to consider whether the residentially-zoned Scalia property deserves a special permit for a school. The project couldn't go ahead without it.
If the project does make it to the zoning board, Minor said, it must be approved or denied on its merits, not on whether or not another piece of property is better suited for a school.
"The planning commission can say those things, but not the zoning commission," said Minor. "Certainly the planning commission should be involved in this decision."

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Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

34 comments:

Republican for Minor...and Frank Johnson said...

Don't make anything more of this than is necessary. It's just a example of good government...democracy (small "d").

Anonymous said...

I just hope the Planning Commission has the vision to find a different place for a school.

(hint: put it in the west end location instead)

Anonymous said...

minor is actually a republican in democratic camouflage - this week.

Anonymous said...

Minor needs to go away!

Anonymous said...

First of all, Mr. Johnson, your comments to the Press were inappropriate. You have all but said you are going to vote against this proposal. We can all read between the lines. Apparently your alliance with our esteemed mayor has made the decision easy for you. This city continues to be run by the "good ol' boy" network. What a shame!

Secondly, you claim you want to see the "best use" made of this property. You, as chair of the Zoning Board for over 20 years, have allowed Scalia's to continue to take and take and take from that property. Is that what you call "best use"? Apparently so. Obviously your judgment is messed up.

When your term on the zoning board was up last year, I was hoping the council would do the right thing and replace you. It has been obvious for many years you have no mind of your own. Unfortunately, they saw fit to leave you where you are. Now look what's happening. Not only will you vote against the project, you're announcing it to the world before it has even reached the planning commission! Unbelievable!

People are leaving this city. Do you know why? Because we have antiquated schools and no playing fields for lacrosse, soccer, softball. Progress on the mall is stagnant. There is nothing to draw people to Bristol and don't think for one minute that the poor decisions that the zoning board has made in the past have nothing to do with that stagnation!

Wake up, citizens! Don't allow the agenda of a few narrow-minded leaders stop progress from happening in this city! Show up to the zoning board meetings and voice your concerns. Mr. Johnson, you do not run this city. Stop stalling progress just to pay back the few who have continued to keep you on the zoning board. For once do the right thing.

Anonymous said...

I am so tired of Minor's arrogance. He never stops to think that maybe other professional opinions and viewpoints actually should be taken into consideration. I'm not a huge Johnson fan but I'm sure that Johnson knows what the Zoning Board's responsibilities are, as do all the other people on the Zoning Board.

Minor needs to get over himself.

Anonymous said...

What will draw people to Bristol, is not a few brand new school buildings but a school system with low dropout rates, no violence, and a student body that consistently ranks higher in academic performance when compared to the other cities and towns of CT.

A new brick does not teach a child.

Anonymous said...

Please do not loose site of the fact that Nicastro
as Mayor, and as Chair of Real Estate should have known about the referal to
Planning which could have been made months ago. Nicastro was not for Scalia\so nothing happened.
he is grand standing on the Crowley site for benefit of votes in Forestville. he really does not care about the schools. They are messing with the process,which is what these other folks want to protect.Somebody should ask Nicastro what he favors, as he is against
Park St, doesnt want Scalia
and killed Roberts in Hartford. He seems to be Bristol's long term problem

Anonymous said...

I am in agreement with Minor: this is not a zoning issue.

Johnson (both of them) have their own agenda, which unfortunately isn't always right for Bristol.

Lets move on this so that our children can benefit.

Bricks do not educate, but it is more than just bricks. It is about making an environment more conducive to learning and providing equal opportunity for all.

And yes, Nicsatro is a big part of the problem and Ward is letting him get away wit it!

Anonymous said...

Johnson and Johnson

The Republican Vaudeville team.

Anonymous said...

How are these proposed large sized schools (900 + children per location) creating an environment more condusive to learning than what we are replacing - that is smaller-sized primary schools?

It's been proven time and time again, from education researchers across the country for over 20 years....
the larger the school's size (not classroom size)- the more violence, and less academic achievement.
Seems to me that we are creating a situation in which academic achievement will be much more difficult.

Why do education activists, (example, Bill Gates Foundation and many others) advocate so strongly for smaller-sized schools if they are not so effective?
Virtually no one advocates for large sized schools. That died in the '60's.

Is it wise to decide where to build these schools, until we decide as a community what is the appropriate size for our primary schools?

Primary school conglomeration is not an "educational" bargain.

Anonymous said...

Who is running this city?those we voted for or those that got appointed?

Wake up, people!

Anonymous said...

Re: 3:07 Post

Those elected do the appointing. Therefore, in essence, the voter appoints by whom they elect. If you don't like the appointments, then you need to elect others.

Anonymous said...

September 17, 2008 9:43 AM

You're talking with no grasp of the facts. Instead of criticizing Nicastro based on your opinion and nothing more just call him and ask him like I did.

He's not against new schools, What he is against is the idea and concept that our BOE is once again using our children for lab rats to see if per chance the K - 8 system works better. Remember Tom O'Brien openly admitted that they can't guarantee this will have any meaningful impact in student performance and is in fact an experiment. Do some research with the state BOE and you will find that the smaller the school the smaller the land requirement. I doubt that Frank would argue with you that O'Connell, Green Hills and Bingham are long in the tooth. Frank's point is fixing the problem which is the schools not the system. Unfortunately no one calls the BOE out on their plans. The mayor and the city council need to be a check and balance against the BOE not a rubber stamp. While he may be a gifted educator, the fact that Phil Strifer has a doctoral degree doesn't mean that he possesses any business or economic acumen.

Do you think that building two enormous schools that required huge chunks of land and if built will turn the educational district upside down and split the city so that 2/3 is K-8 and 1/3 is K-5, Middle School (and is just an experiment) is a good idea?

That's a good idea? That's the best we can come up with? Frank's not a roadblock. He's one of a few questioning the logic of a very poor plan. Whether you like the guy or not, on this one he’s right.

Anonymous said...

2:48

You just don't get it.

It is not a 900 student school, but two schools within one building.

Suggest, strongly, that you talk to someone at the Board of Education who can and will explain it to you, with pictures.

Anonymous said...

I hope Minor runs for Mayor. He should be running the city. He does what is right for the people. The good ole boy dems can't handle him. You can say he used to just listen to Ellen, but I don't think that is the case any longer.

Minor for Mayor in 09!

Anonymous said...

Okay Mrs. Minor...enough already.

Anonymous said...

"Who is running this city?those we voted for or those that got appointed?

Wake up, people!"

Amd if Ken Johnson, Cockayne, Minor & Co. get their way with the City Manager you'll have the same problem -- A person running the City who was NOT elected by the people. If you don't like what the volunteer board appointees are doing now then how will you feel with a person who is locked in with an employment contract?

Anonymous said...

Frank did not question the plan in the beginning, he was miffed because closing Greene Hills left his political district with no elelmentary school.

It was all political.

Remmember, under his mayoral administration, the previous effort was quietly embalmed with no decision.

Frank does not lead, he does what will get him elected, which is the problem with most of our politicians.

Anonymous said...

8:16

Good Point!!!

Anonymous said...

Minor knows it all, just ask him, he'll tell you - give it a rest minor, stay in forestville.

Anonymous said...

how would you like to be the COO with minor on the council, acting like he is the COO, dictating to you like he does to everyone else - MR. KNOW-IT-ALL.
wish that cromwell had a residency requirement....

Anonymous said...

Are you kidding Minor for mayor?
He is the most self centered person I have meet. He already thinks he is the Mayor. Ward just sits back and does nothing about these people. Heard way back befor the election Ward hated Minor.

Minor,Block,McCauley are all talk, just what have anyone of them has done for our so called ugly city, they sure not on Arties go forward projects. They all need to grow up and get a JOB.

Anonymous said...

Ward hates all of those that do not agree with him.

Except if he can use them.

Anonymous said...

Disinvesting in neighborhoods and placing schools in remote locations, is not a good idea.


Nevertheless, 900+ kids on one site, one location, no matter how one distributes them on the site, is still ONE school and a mega-facility.
What's the expression: "Lipstick on a pig is still a pig!"

This "schools within a school" model as of (2005-6) has no educational research to support its effectiveness.
There has yet to be a study (peer reviewed, statistically analyzed,) regarding this SWAS model, that contradicts the longstanding (over 20 years) research concerning the relationship of school size and violence, school size and academic achievement.

If there is recent research information, then the BOE has a duty to make it known, rather than proceeding on a "guess".
The BOE is just guessing, and are hoping things work out.

Don't let yourself be fooled. The actions of the BOE are a very expensive "guess".

Soon we will be screening the kids in these meaga facilities with metal detectors.

Bristol is soon to become an educational researcher's petri dish.

Anonymous said...

September 18, 2008 10:34 AM

Amen, finally someone who understands the issue, the risks and the down stream problems which lie ahead.

September 17, 2008 8:39 PM

Wrong again! Steve please provide this person with the Press coverage of the meeting where Frank questioned Tom O'Brien at length about how this is not the first time the BOE came up with expensive changes to the district system that would solve all of the educational issues. That was the K-5 conversion. As to the plan that was "embalmed" it was nothing more than the plan we have today just packaged differently.

If you don't like Frank that's your business but you are letting your personal dislike blind you to a very bad plan. Unless of course you think this plan is great. Then you're just foolish.

Anonymous said...

Mark Twain said " without a difference of opinion we would not have horse races".

While there may be problems with thsi plan, I said may be, I see it as a much bigger problem if the city continues to sit on their hands and do nothing as Nicastro would have us do.

Anonymous said...

11:44 - guess that he didn't take into consideration of the fact that if some of those opinions are from horse's butts, we lose the race anyhow.

Anonymous said...

I love how you people make this a Minor issue. You can't see the forest through the trees. Frank Johnson is so much as saying he is voting against this thing with the vote a ways away. Doesn't that bother anyone? Don't you see that he is obviously in cahoots with someone high up? Come on, people! It's right in front of you.

It scares me to think that this man, once again, is spouting his mouth off to the Press like he did with Robert's Property and guess what? That didn't go through either and obviously there was some wheeling and dealing going on there, because, once again, Mr. Johnson was placed back on the Zoning Board. What are we on now? At least 20 years? Don't you think he's so far into the system he's owing favors for being left there?

Let's look at this for what it really is. Someone who is paying back a debt that is hurting this city. We can't move for-Ward, Mr. Mayor, if Mr. Johnson keeps on stopping projects and even worse, bragging about it to the Press!

Anonymous said...

4:22p.m. at least we know that Frank Johnson will stand by his decision and not have to waffle when asked for the reason that he changed his mind, or had his mind changed, like Minor does/has done.

Minor questions said...

"Finding the most profitable way to develop a piece of property is the job of the free market, not local government."

-Brilliantly stated, but why did you support the purchase of the mall property by local government?

a Minor election said...

Apparently there is no plan for Republican opposition in the 3rd district this year.

If there is, it'll surely be from someone more liberal than Minor.

Anonymous said...

8:14p.m. - I just hope that the candidate is sharp enough to beat out minor, we need someone who has a clue about the needs of Forestville who does more than just show up for the FVA meetings....

Anonymous said...

7:23

Bob Merrick