Controversial voice vote approves land sale to Zemo

On a voice vote that stirred grumbling, the $1.25 million sale of five acres to developer Steve Zemo was approved by a special town meeting Monday night.
A crowd of more than 100 filled all the seats and much of standing room in town hall’s lower level conference, with some people standing in the hall.
People entering had been asked to show identification and then handed green paper ballots. After a discussion of the proposal that was neither lengthy nor heated — but did hear from people both for and against the deal — the moderator elected by the town meeting, Ed Tyrrell, called for a voice vote. It was close. But the ‘ayes’ seemed to have it.
He called for a second voice vote.
“We don’t want to be here for an hour, counting these things,” he said.
The second time, both sides were louder, and the ‘ayes’ seemed to carry the the issue by a somewhat larger — though still not overwhelming — margin.
“The motion passes,” Mr. Tyrrell said.
No one argued publicly that the outcome would have been different, but several  people questioned the decision to settle the question on a relatively close voice vote, rather than use the ballots printed up ahead of time and provided to everyone entering.
Mr. Tyrrell didn’t entertain second guessing.
“It’s the moderator’s decision, alone, whether that passes, and the moderator has made his decision,” Mr. Tyrrell said.
After the meeting, he was approached by a few people.
“Everyone had a paper ballot, we were all ready to use them,” said Chris McQuilken of Nod Road.
“That’s outrageous,” said Jenny Cox of West Lane.
“We’re for it,” Mary Morrisroe said. “I think it’s a great idea. But I think we had the paper ballotts, we should have used them.”
Mr. Zemo’s plans for the five acres, which are part of the 45-acre Schlumberger purchase the  town made almost two years ago, include a 48-suite hotel, a self-storage facility, and a third building with office space on the ground floor and 11 apartments above. First Selectman Rudy Marconi told the meeting that in addition to the $1.25 million purchase price, the complex would pay $250,000 to $300,000 a year in taxes.
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  • CMcQuilken

    I think two things went wrong at last night’s vote.

    A) According to Roberts Rules of Order, if the first voice vote is inconclusive, then the moderator takes a second vote. BUT, the second voting method must be different from the first voting method. Meaning you can’t take another voice vote. The moderator should take a vote where people stand to show their intent, or raise hands, or fill out ballots. But the second vote should not be a voice vote because it just becomes a competition to see which side can yell the loudest. This is exactly what the democratic process is trying to avoid.

    B) After the second vote, when “yays” were declared the winner, people shouted out that they doubted the vote results. I think the moderator heard these concerns, thus his statement, “It’s the moderator’s decision, alone, whether that passes, and the moderator has made his decision.” But it doesn’t work that way. According to the rules, if anyone at all doubts the outcome of the vote then a new vote is taken where people physically show their intent by standing, or raising hands, so a more precise count can be made. This wasn’t done.

    I feel this is all very unfortunate. This decision will affect Ridgefield for the next 50 years. I think we could have taken a few minutes to make sure the outcome was accurate. And the rule book agrees with me.

  • Kirk

    Shame this decision was tainted like this. Doing it the right way would have been so simple.

  • Tom

    Have you not learned yer Ridgefield is finished stick a fork i9n it the town is destroyed so let them finish it off. The only vote i am going for is with my feet. Get out while you can at least make some kind of profit on your home.

  • john

    Too bad you weren’t familiar with the rules prior to the meeting. If so, you’d know that you could have made a motion for division of assembly.

    “When the vote is taken by voice or show of hands any member has a right to require a division of the assembly [25] by having the affirmative rise and then the negative, so that all may see how members vote. Either before or after a decision any member may call for, or demand, a count, and, if seconded, the chair must put the question on ordering a count. In organizations where it is desired to allow less than a majority vote to order a count or tellers, a special rule should be adopted specifying the necessary vote. Where no rule has been adopted a majority vote is required to order a count, or that the vote be taken by ballot or by yeas and nays (roll call).”

    Nonetheless, it’s a shame that the moderator didn’t call for division on the first close vote.

  • CMcQuilken

    According to the rules:

    “This call, or motion, is made by saying, ‘I call for a division,’ or ‘I doubt the vote.’ ”

    Multiple people stated the latter, “I doubt the vote.” The votes should have then been individually counted.

    Also, not to be forgotten, according to the rules the second voice vote should not have happened at all. It should have automatically been a count of people standing or a show of hands. Those are the rules.

  • Tom

    So the voters purchased the property and RUDY LIED AGAIN. It’s use should have been decided by the people that own the property. That would be US. So once again the people of this town got SNOOKERED. Fancy that!! That is why i am getting the hell out of here. The place is totally out of control and no one will vote these people out. What a shame this town was once a great place to live. Now it is a MONOPOLY GAME for the builders and the gimme people. Blame yourselves as you put these people in power. SO SAD!!!

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