It's Wednesday June 19, 2013
May 17, 2012
The recent “debate” (a term I use loosely since the Town Board expressly forbids debate by the electorate in its public meetings, even a special information meeting such as was called last week) about the Fulcher land swap raises some questions about what democracy means. More than one on the Town Board seems to believe that, because they were elected and are vested with the authority to conduct the Town’s business, they need not listen to the will of the electorate. This is a misunderstanding of our representative form of government.
We elect people to hold public office because it is impractical for the electorate as a whole to make all the decisions that a Town Board or General Assembly or Congress must make. Those who are elected are sworn to represent their respective constituencies, the people who elected them. While the elected may have won an election, they are not released from the obligation to act in the best interests of their constituency as a whole. (With the ferry tax, many of us were angered that Norm Sanderson ignored his constituents and voted to support his political party instead. And rightly so.)
This is one part of being an elected officer that presents very real challenges. For many issues, if not most, there are a myriad of public opinions about the best course of action or outcome. Reasonable minds can legitimately differ in their opinions. From these various opinions, the elected officer must choose a position that best reflects the overall best interests of the electorate. The elected officer’s choice should reflect the “will of the people”.
With the Fulcher land swap, there is a broad consistency among the electorate. People are opposed to this transaction as it has been proposed. The reasons do not really matter; what matters is the general opposition. Neither I nor other speakers last week have heard ANY public support for this swap. Yet, in absolute defiance of the public will, despite twelve speakers at the open meeting last week who ALL spoke against the swap and none spoke for it, the Board voted to approve the contract with Mr. Fulcher.
This not how representative government was designed or intended to work. Elected officers can and should have their own ideas and opinions, but these remain subordinate to the will of the people.
(A list of questions sent to the Town Board and cc-ed to the Mayor and TownDock)
I understand you are concerned that several community members have come “late to the game”. Please understand that we, the community, have been engaging as time would permit, speaking to some of the board, walking the property, etc., and this has all transpired fairly quickly (4 months). To date, there have only been 2-3 opportunities for the public (vs. committees) to engage.–
Do we have a plan and (raw) estimate for the projected improvements we would make to the properties? (e.g. building removal cost, addition of restrooms, meeting space, dock repairs/additions?) If not, when will this be done, by whom, and how and when will the information be communicated to the community members.
Can someone confirm that upon abandoning the right of ways, we will be legally assured of a right of way to the property we would assume? (And is that right “automatic” and legally binding when we abandon the town right of ways?) Please confirm that the Fulcher corporation cannot opt out of giving us the right of way we would require.
Has anything transpired LEGALLY yet with regards to the rights of way that the town owns? Have there been any changes to the RW status/legal documents filed? (Note: These questions specifically refer to the time of the meeting, not subsequent legal activity that may have happened since the meeting.)
If we sign the “Agreement” (posted on the Town of Oriental website), is it a hard contract, stipulating that neither party can exit the agreement? If it is not a hard contract, what purpose does the agreement serve? Can one party meet their obligations (e.g. we abandon the rights of way), while another doesn’t (e.g. Fulchers Corp opts not to transfer the property to the town)?
Are there any legal or financial exposures specific to the agreement? For example, can the town or the Fulchers be sued in the event they do not meet the terms of this agreement?
What has legally transpired since Thursday May 17th, 11a.?–
I have copied this to “Letters to the Editor” at TownDock, as it will help us determine if there is a “vote of confidence.”
By offering community members one place to gather the pro and con statements and open questions, we can provide our commissioners with input to determine if this is something their voters support. TownDock, thank you for providing this service at no cost.
To All Citizens of Oriental,
I made a published offer, in a Letter to the Editor, on 11 February 2012 to walk the land of the proposed deal with anyone who wished to do so. I have done so with over 30 people. Most have agreed that it is a good deal for the town. I will again make the offer. Please call me at 675-0467 and I will walk the land with you and explain why I am in favor of this contract.
In spite of the town receiving a nice long dock that should be able to accommodate at least 4, maybe 6 boats, it can physically only accommodate two.
As with any dock that is first come, first served, the first two boats to arrive will naturally choose the end slips. An average beam for these cruising boats is in the 10-12’ range, so if an 11’ boat is already docked, another 10-11’ beam boat cannot pass thru the 22’ space to utilize the rest of the dock.
Then of course add another 1’ for fenders. Even on the 26’ side, a very risky maneuver with a wind on the beam, in spite of what Larry Summers says. And who can judge that precise space from the water?
If we insist that the first boats move in to the bulkhead, we then have the opposite problem, as they are all trapped there until all the other boats leave, obviously not a workable solution. The town commissioners need to brush up on their math.
It will be a two boat dock. Is that what Oriental has in mind?
Capt. George Sechrist
I was unable to attend today’s meeting. I am astounded that our voted Commissioners would so go against the opinions of their constituents.
With 11 residents speaking, none in favor, with the recurring theme of us giving more than we were receiving, plus the maneuvering room, plus the pilings, plus the concerns voiced earlier about ability to build bathrooms and perhaps the need to redo the pilings for the dock … what is going on?
Who is in Chris Fulcher’s pocket?
Those of us who have visited and used the free docking at Washington and Elisabeth City know that not all visiting sailors have perfect boating skills. I thought we were trying to attract visitors, not frustrate them.
But I am only one voice of some, and somehow it appears that only one commissioner is of the same opinion as I and the 11 who spoke, none in favor. But as a minority I am pleased to have my word heard in this venue.
(This letter was given to the Town Board at its meeting on May 17 and sent to Letters To The Editor after the meeting.)
TO: Mayor Bill Sage and Commissioners of the Town of Oriental
As a Real Estate Attorney would you advise a client to swap a piece of land for another without an appraisal? I think not – so why would you stand by and let the Town swap out a piece of land (and couldn’t you have maybe asked for more, like the adjoining piece to make the deal sweeter for the town?) but at the very least make this so called good deal land swap a more equitable deal?
Why would there not be a say, 60 day feasibility study? That would allow the town to prudently explore the use and true cost of this property to the town. To make sure the property is suitable for its intended use and all the costs, hard and soft and the proper CAMA permits are thoroughly addressed. Such studies are normal procedure in this type of real estate transaction. After completion of the study then proceed to a contract.
Who is this a good and fair deal for?
I expect better thought out decisions, better transparency in your dealings, and upholding the best interests of our Town which is your elected responsibility and that which you are pledged with. Slow down and do this job properly.
Respectfully submitted and for the record,
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