Planning Board – 1/25/10
Certainly, the star of the night was the firehouse. January was slim pickins at the PB – frankly it’s hard to understand why anyone is planning to build now, but there was one other application discussed before the firehouse.
The planning board continues to hold backroom meetings, flaunting open meetings and showing their contempt for the public. It should be noticed then when they do something right, even though they only got it semi-right.
The fire department public hearing was not mandated. They didn’t have to hold it. Bill Zutt said it was an informal, non-statutory public hearing. That was a meaningless comment to most people, but it was important. Some hearings are required by law. This one was not. It was an attempt to get public feedback earlier in the project.
It was a good idea. Too bad that some very poor behavior on the part of the planning board, unnecessarily, marred the evening. All of the current Putnam Valley Boards have made efforts to control what the public says, failing completely to understand the public’s right to speak, and failing to let go of their own arrogance and contempt.
At the meeting, long after the public hearing had been announced and published, the Chair stated that only “the site plan” was up for discussion, whatever that means. Poor communication is characteristic of our boards. They only want the public to say what they want the public to say. And probably, they don’t want to hear from some people at all.
So the Planning Board looked ridiculous and they looked rude.
“Turn off those cameras!” “Strike those comments from the record.”
You might think that something terrible was being said. The issue that they would not allow was financial. We apparently are not allowed to talk about the money for the firehouse, how much, where it will come from, if lies have been told in order to obtain it, or any other manner of discussion about money. Economic impact is a major issue with the firehouse, though not the only one. Economic impact is part of SEQR*(State Environmental Quality Review) – the mandated responsibility of our boards. Therefore, to me, it is part of a site plan discussion.
Certainly, trying to restrict public comment to an unkown parameter that is never communicated to the public, and exists only in an unnamed, unexplained perception is obstructionist and counterproductive. They probably talked about it in their backroom meeting.
To be productive and lawful, if comments are civil and concise, allow them. Clarify the process. I have been trying to define the SEQR process as part of my “jargon” page, but it is not my job. It is the job of the Boards, and the Town Attorney. The only one I have ever seen attempt to make these kinds of changes was Peter Belefant when he was Chair of the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Clarify every project and its issues. Have a checklist of project information that must be presented at every public presentation, and written on the agenda and online. Comments from the Town experts (planner, engineer, board attorneys, and wetlands inspector) should be available at meetings and online. “My comments and been satisfied,” and “the comments were procedural” are inadequate.
Digitize. The map on the tape was incomprehensible for public viewing. We should at least be capable of 20th century technology.
Blame yourselves first, not the public, for your incompetent communication.
And get out of the backroom. If you want to be taken seriously, you need to show some integrity, and embrace open government.
You can view the unutterable on DVD from the Putnam Valley Library, thanks to MaryAnn Arrien.