Planning Board Member Looks to Manage Misinformation

The Planning Board discussed a number of proposed changes to its rules and procedures during the Jan. 3 meeting.
There were a number of proposals put fourth by board member, Jake Butler, with one of them being to designate someone to combat what he called misinformation on social media and another was to limit public comment.
“There is consistent misinformation going around about what is happening in the town of Londonderry and what the Planning Board is doing,” Butler stated. He added that someone they choose could address issues as they comes up on social media, “instead of letting it go unanswered.”
Alternate member, Tony DeFrancesco, said he thinks it makes sense to have consistent messaging, but whoever is designated to do it would have to monitor between 20 to 30 social media sites on a weekly basis.
“It’s a lot of work and it has to be someone who has the time to do it,” he said.
Assistant Town Manager, Kellie Caron, said it would also have to be accurate.
Butler said he constantly sees misinformation posted.
“Every single week there’s something that is just factually wrong that’s getting posted,” he said.
During the proposed change discussion, member, Ann Chiampa, said, “I have no idea what you’re talking about, myself”
Butler responded, “I don’t know what rock you’re living under, but you should get out of it”
Caron explained that the Planning Department staff wouldn’t have the resources to take it on.
“I just want to be clear that staff would not be involved in the social media aspect of this,” she said. She also stated that she doesn’t think they need to respond to every comment.
Chair, Art Rugg, said he thinks it would be a more of a town-wide issue, and the town may have to hire another individual.
Caron also noted that they are considering creating a separate Facebook page for planning and economic development, to post more information.
Not all agreed with the idea of a social media monitor, and it was ultimately dropped.
Butler also originally made recommendations for a public comment section, but Caron said that based on the recent advice given to them by their legal counsel to only have public comment during public hearings she recommended not moving forward with it, which the board agreed with.
Butler said he wanted to make it clear that they would still have public comment for any public hearings on the agenda.
“I can not stress enough that we have public comment at our public hearings on what is being presented,” Butler said.
Another recommendation was to add a consent agenda for various routine items that they could vote on all at once.
Caron suggested that they have language in the policy to allow a board member to ask for an item to be removed from the consent agenda and voted on as a stand alone item.
The board also discussed the possibility of having a time limit for meetings.
Caron said the ZBA has an end time, but if they are nearing the end time and they got through the previous application, they are then able to vote on whether or not they want to continue past the time limit.
Town Council Liaison, Ted Combes, who raised the question of having a time limit, said that it’s costing applicants more money for engineers and other professionals by having meetings dragged on.
Others stated that they rarely have meetings that go too late, except for a recent meeting that went into the early morning.
Planning Board member, Jeff Penta, said there have been times when they have gotten off track which adds time to their meetings, which they can work on.

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