Bonnie Dubson is a founder of the Coleytown Conservation Coalition. She’s concerned about 2 things: the way legal notices are posted, and the development of the former Daybreak Nursery property at the Main Street/Weston Road intersection.
Both issues are related. Bonnie explains:
The legal notice that piqued my interest was there – on page C13 – buried in the back of the real estate section, on a text-heavy black and white page.
I got lucky and found it, but only because all the stars aligned.
I do not subscribe to the local newspaper, and public notices such as the one I spotted announcing a public hearing on a proposed development in my neighborhood are not placed in online news outlets.
Connecticut law requires public hearing notices be published in “a newspaper having a general circulation” in the municipality where the land that is the subject of the hearing is located. It specifies notification must be posted at least twice, and between 10-15 days prior to the hearing.
My notice, concerning the proposed “small home development” at the site of the former Daybreak Nursery appeared in the Westport News on November 3. The hearing is slated for tomorrow (November 16, 7 p.m. in Town Hall).
I considered myself notified. At least I thought I did. Then I tried to spread the word to friends and neighbors I thought might want to attend. “I don’t think so,” they said, pointing out that the notice was not posted online at the Town of Westport website.
So I went to the Town of Westport calendar to see for myself. The notice was conspicuously absent. I assured friends that yes, the matter of 500 Main Street was on the agenda for November 16, and that I had seen it in the Westport News. I even emailed them a digital clip of the legal notice.
But the seeds of doubt had been sowed by the absence of online information.
After phone calls and prodding on social media, the legal notice appeared on the Town of Westport website – yesterday afternoon. That was a full 11 days after it was published in the paper.
This is 2017. We live in a digital age. Failure to post legal notices online puts Westport residents at a disadvantage. How can we have an open public forum, and make sure residents’ concerns are heard, if the general public is not informed about upcoming hearings?
Furthermore, publishing a public notice in the newspaper but not following up online creates confusion. Like me, residents will ask themselves, “will there or won’t there be a hearing?”
Due process requires that government give proper notice to individuals before making any decision that would impede upon those individuals’ rights or property interests. The purpose of these notices is to alert those who may be affected by the proposed action and inform them of its nature so as to allow them the time and opportunity to prepare for and attend the public hearing.
The majority of Westporters get their news online and through social media. I believe the Town of Westport should recognize that, and ensure these vital notices are published simultaneously, both online and in print. Only that will ensure that the underlying purpose of public notice has been fulfilled.