SHIRLEY — There was some discussion at the Conservation Commission meeting Tuesday night about whether the selectmen’s decision last week to exclude Commissioner Marie Elwyn from the list of annual appointments it would formally vote on at the next session was a selective move or part of a policy that applies in all cases.
In Elwyn’s case, the reason for her pending ouster is similar to the one the selectmen gave when they previously refused to appoint Betsy Colburn Mirkovic to the commission. Both women are parties in a civil suit against the town that is now in Land Court. The suit alleges that proper procedures were not followed when the Planning Board approved a proposed solar project slated for two parcels of land off Patterson Road, one of which is town-owned. The other belongs to the Water District.
The suit, which followed earlier appeals the petitioners filed with the state DEP and the local Zoning Board of Appeals, further argues that the town’s deal with Solar City, the California-based solar developer hired by National Grid to build and operate the facility, was flawed for several cited reasons and that the building permit that allowed it to move forward was illegal. Conservation Commission Chairman Dave Bortell said that Town Administrator Patrice Garvin had informed him Elwyn would not be reappointed due to “the conflict” of being involved in litigation against the town.
Elwyn, who was present and whose current term does not expire until June 30, confirmed that she’s part of the suit.
“They can’t take you off but there’s a policy, I’m told, that the selectmen can’t reappoint you,” Bortell said. He was also under the impression that the selectmen were acting on the advice of Town Counsel, he said.
At the meeting in question, when the annual appointment roster came up on the agenda, the selectmen voted on a motion to reappoint all of those who wanted to stay on. Selectman Kendra Dumont added a caveat, stating that the board would reappoint only those board and committee members on the list who were not litigants against the town.
Elwyn said the selectmen already had someone lined up to take her place and would appoint that person the next night.
Commissioner Bob Berkhardt found that disconcerting. Typically the other board would defer to the commission’s recommendation to fill a vacancy and he was surprised that the proposed new appointment hadn’t been presented to them “as a courtesy,” he said.
“We could send a letter of support for Marie” to the selectmen, he suggested. “We could say we disagree,” stating that Elwyn is a valued member and they want her to stay.