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With 2 vacancies, Cairo plans to reduce planning board

January 10, 2018 11:30 pm

CAIRO — The Cairo Town Board tabled a motion Monday to reduce the number of people on the planning board from seven to five.

The motion to decrease the size of the board came after two vacancies were not filled, Town Supervisor Daniel Benoit said. Planners should no longer have a problem getting a quorum, or the minimum number of members, available at the meetings, he said, adding the quorum in Cairo is four.

“Logistically, with two vacancies, this is the best time to try to make the change,” Benoit said. “If the resolution passes, those vacancies simply go away. If not, we will fill those vacancies.”

The town increased the number of planning board members about 20 years ago, Benoit said.

“If you look at how a planning board operates, we used to have five members, but we had problems getting enough to show up to conduct business,” Benoit said.

Residents would be angry at the lack of members at meetings because their business would get delayed.

Benoit served on the planning board for 10 years and was chairman for eight. In his time as chairman, he said the board never had a problem getting a quorum.

Ray Pacifico became the planning board chairman in 2016 after Benoit was elected town supervisor in 2015. Pacifico retired from the position Dec. 31 after 16 years on the planning board. Joseph Hasenkopf, the new planning board chairman, assumed the role Jan. 1.

“It’s hard enough getting five members to volunteer their time, let alone seven,” Hasenkopf said. “I’m for it. I don’t think we will have a problem achieving the quorum because the current members are so invested and dedicated.”

The revision is inspired by a zoning board of appeals law that downsized the board from seven to five in 2017, Benoit said. The downsize has been good for the zoning board and business has still been accomplished, even with a vacancy for another full-time member and an alternate member.

“When this happened with the zoning board, we essentially had to dissolve the whole board and find new members,” Benoit said, but that will not be the case with the planning board.

No board members objected to the resolution to reduce the planning board’s size. The resolution is expected to be voted on at the town board’s next meeting scheduled for Feb. 5 at 7 p.m.

While officials are expected to vote next month, some people in town have objected to the idea.

“A couple of people have objected to the downsizing on grounds of diversity,” Benoit said. “They believe the more people on the board, the more opinions there are.”

If the resolution passes, the new law would go into effect immediately because of the vacancies, Hasenkopf said. If there were seven members on the board, the law would take approximately two years to be enacted, or until two members of the board finished their terms.

Reach reporter Kaitlin Lembo at 518-828-1616 ext. 2513, by email at klembo@registerstar.com or follow her on Twitter @kaitlinlembo.