Mara Brooks, Editor
ZBA member accuses chair of “character assassination”
After serving less than three months as a member of the ZBA, Ronda Moore has resigned.
“Tonight, I am resigning from the zoning board,” Moore read from a prepared statement at the July 28 ZBA meeting. “I do so not easily, but because I believe [ZBA Chair] Lane [Morrison] and I have differences which cannot be reconciled.”
The resignation was effective immediately, Moore said.
For the past month, Moore was at the center of the latest in a series of conflict of interest scandals to rock the ZBA. This time, the alleged conflict involved an application submitted by Emerald Green Properties for its proposed Charlotte Health Center in the West Village Commercial District.
Moore, who is an adjoining property owner to the proposed health center, expressed concerns at a June 3 joint ZBA/Planning Commission meeting that the proposed site at 251 Ferry Road is a wetlands area and that oil, gas, and antifreeze from cars parked in the lot could pollute the wetland. She recused herself from voting on whether the project required a conditional use permit.
In a surprise move, ZBA Chair Lane Morrison showed up at the June 28 Selectboard meeting and requested Moore be removed from the zoning board. Morrison claimed Moore’s alleged failure to disclose a perceived conflict of interest with the health center had compromised her integrity as a town official.
“I think she’s violated the trust that the Selectboard has put in her to represent the community on the ZBA,” Morrison said at the time.
Moore was not present at the meeting to answer Morrison’s accusations because the spur-of-the-moment change to the agenda had not been noticed.
Selectboard Chair Matt Krasnow criticized Moore at the June 28 meeting and in statements to The News, describing her conduct as “unsettling” and “disappointing.” But he told Morrison that in accordance with the ZBA rules of procedure, the zoning board, not the Selectboard, would have to vote on whether to remove Moore.
The ZBA met in a closed session on July 14 and decided no action would be taken to remove Moore. Moore said she requested an open meeting, but Morrison denied her request.
In her resignation letter, Moore said Morrison’s failure to recuse himself from the July 14 session was in violation of the board’s conflict of interest policy. She offered a searing critique of Morrison’s and Krasnow’s leadership on the matter.
“There is a disturbing double standard in the town,” she said. “Lane’s June 28 public character assassination during a Selectboard meeting wasn’t even on the Selectboard agenda. Nevertheless, Lane was given all the respect and time he needed… to make his public mischaracterization of me and what he felt the outcome should be.”
Moore stated although she was “not given notice or an opportunity to be heard” at the June 28 meeting, that when she later requested time from the Selectboard to respond to the accusations, Krasnow refused to accommodate her.
“How is it that a request from the chair of one board is granted by another board while a similar request by a voter who is not a chair… is turned down?” Moore asked. “What the heck has happened to the transparency, fair play, and the truth so passionately discussed in Charlotte this spring?”
In recent weeks, former ZBA Vice Chair Stuart Bennett has been a vocal critic of the town’s handling of the Moore controversy. During public comments at two recent Selectboard meetings, Bennett encouraged Krasnow to apologize to Moore. Krasnow declined, citing the advice of general counsel.
Selectboard Chair Frank Tenney, who attended the July 28 ZBA meeting, was less hesitant to offer Moore an apology.
“Ronda… I don’t know about the rest of the ZBA or the rest of the Selectboard, but me personally, I would like to apologize for what you had to go through,” Tenney said. “I feel it was unfair.”
As she ended her resignation statement, Moore urged Charlotte voters to elect and appoint new leadership in order to “realign” their understanding of “fair play, truth and due process.” She also said her resignation should not be mistaken for a desire to remain silent on issues affecting the town.
“Do not count me out in making my voice heard as private citizen Ronda Moore,” she said.
Moore was appointed to the ZBA on May 10.
Ronda Moore did not respond to requests for comment.