Doing the right thing

We want to take this opportunity to thank Bill Drunsic, a community spirited businessman who has also served the town with distinction as a member of the planning commission as well as in many other ways over a long period of time, for making the right call on a tricky situation and take a leave of absence from the town's planning commission.

This could not have been an easy decision to make, especially given his role as the chairman of the commission. But that was the correct course to take for now, and in due course we would expect - and hope - he will be returning to that post. His knowledge and expertise has served the town well and will again.

To recap, Mr. Drunsic has chosen to file an appeal of the permit issued by the town's Design and Development Review Boards for a Starbucks coffee house to the state's Environmental Court. His concerns about the permit are several, but appealing a decision made by an official town body with which the planning commission often works closely - or should work closely - while simultaneously having a financial interest in another coffee house/restaurant elsewhere in town, gets a little tricky. The difference between a perception of a conflict of interest and an actual conflict of interest can be a hairsplitting exercise, but in the end, it's the perception that may matter more. And in this case, it was an uncomfortably close situation. We believe Mr. Drunsic's motivations were without question driven by sincere concerns about the town and not out of fear of additional economic competition; but that just added to the complexity.

We don't share Mr. Drunsic's concern about the issues presented by a drive thru lane at the proposed Starbucks, or for that matter, whether Starbucks should have obtained a permit at all. As any one who has been paying the slightest attention to local events recently knows, there are some folks in town who can't wait for the nationally branded coffee house chain to open here, and others who see its potential arrival as the near-death knell of the community. We think the new Starbucks, when it opens, as we believe it will, hopefully sooner rather than later, will add to the community's already long list of assets.

Mr. Drunsic was perfectly within his rights to be less than overwhelmed with joy at the prospect of a Starbucks setting up shop in town and appealing the town's decision allowing that. Had he been a purely private citizen that would have been one thing. But he isn't, and it reveals once again the reality faced by people who are drawn to public service - to do that job right requires giving some things up or not doing others, while you are a public official. It's not often easy, rarely fun, sometimes not even fair, but it is what it is.

We will look forward to Mr. Drunsic's return to the planning commission when this appeal has run its course, since his input and community involvement have benefitted the town enormously over the years. And we commend him for making the right call on what had to have been a tough decision.


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