December 31, 2013
A few words of advice to anyone who finds themselves standing before the Board of Zoning Appeals:
Spend a few dollars on your own digital recording equipment and put it to use in your hearing. I suggest audio/video over audio. Trust me, the last thing that you want is to be reliant on records provided by the BZA.
To begin with, there is an issue in this county with providing public records in a timely manner.
On May 30, 2012, I submitted a public records request with the county zoning department for the minutes and audio recordings that were made at the BZA hearing held the previous evening. My request through zoning was immediately forwarded by the zoning department by digital memo, as well as a through a follow up email to a member of the BZA. June went by, July went by and August went by. Although follow up calls were made, and repeats of the same request were submitted, I could not get my hands on those records. The BZA was kind enough to grant my request and hand me the audio tapes during my turn to speak against the junkyard operation at the September 11 hearing.
Given that the futures of me, my family and my neighbors were in the hands of this group; this did not sit too well with me. I’m given two minutes to state my case, but denied any opportunity to review the information and testimony from the previous hearing beforehand? I could not help but wonder if this were a purposeful act, it was insulting. My two minutes were spent inquiring as to why these public records were not made available to me.
Secondly; the minutes and the audio recordings do not always match. It’s at the discretion of the person transferring the audio recordings to omit items from the official written record. Over the course of three hearings I made note of several discrepancies between what was said and what was written.
Last but not least; I was given a false excuse as to why the records were not provided to me. Audio recordings are to be made available immediately and do not require board approval prior to becoming public record. Minutes, however, do require board approval. In order for the five member board to conduct business, a majority (quorum) of the board must be present at a public hearing. I was told on record in the September hearing that a quorum had not been available in their previous hearing and that is why the minutes were not released to me. If there wasn’t a quorum available, then why do the public records of the August 14, 2012 hearing indicate otherwise? A variance was in fact granted by the board. You can’t grant a variance without a quorum, so why lie about it?
Is this acceptable efficiency and behavior from a quasi-judicial entity of our county government?
Take heed, your future is in their hands.
Darin Seiber, Canaan township, Edison