GERMANTOWN — The board has postponed closing a public hearing on a local law that outlines the role of alternate members waiting in the wings to serve on the zoning board of appeals and planning board.
The zoning board of appeals has struggled to achieve a quorum at its meetings and appointing alternates would address the issue, Town Supervisor Robert Beaury said Tuesday at a public hearing about the proposed legislation.
“The alternate would sit and they would continue to sit until they weren’t needed any longer and then if the missing person comes back then they take over again,” town attorney Tal Rappleyea said. “Then the alternate essentially becomes a back-benched member.”
To make a quorum, the planning board has to seat four members; the zoning board of appeals would need three.
Germantown lists five zoning board members on its website: Steven Bathrick, Joe Guida, Randy Phelan, Theresa Repko and chairman Ed Colwell. Five members are listed for the town planning board: chairman Stephen Reynolds, Kerrie Abela, Tim Otty, Peter Dedrick, Rao Gaddipati, Margaret Della Cioppa and George Sharpe Sr.
“As a member of the zoning board, I can tell you that I can’t remember the last time we didn't have a quorum,” Guida said at the hearing Tuesday. “If you feel getting a quorum together is a problem and people aren’t showing up, maybe you should ask them if they want to be on the board.”
Guida suggested limiting members to two absences a year and asking members to step aside if they cannot attend meetings.
“A member that had sat in on the matter from early on and all the way to the end is certainly more knowledgeable about the topic than the substitute coming in towards the end,” Guida said. “A substitute might not have all the information that the original board member has.”
Several residents called out from the audience that language in the law addressing the alternates’ role on the boards is unclear, including how long they would have to serve on the board before they could act as a voting member.
“I have to say that I agree that there is a disconnect between what the intention is and the way that it is written,” Beaury said.
Several residents heckled the town board during the hearing, hostile because councilmen were gun shy about the way the proposed law was presented, Germantown resident Billy Kimmel said.
“We just want transparency,” Kimmel said. “On the optics of this, it just doesn’t look good. We don’t mean to be mean. It just looks a little nefarious. That’s all.”
The hearing on the proposed law was announced at the last town board meeting and a public notice was issued, Beaury said. The law has been vetted by the Columbia County Planning Board, he added.
“There is enough information here in my mind that we should look at this thing more carefully going forward,” Beaury said.
The board agreed to table closing the public hearing on the proposed law for a month. Beaury asked residents submit their comments in writing.
The next meeting of the Germantown Town Board is July 10 at Town Hall, 50 Palatine Park Road.
*Editor's note: Zoning board member Joe Guida said he could not remember the last time the board didn't have a quorum. An earlier version of this story stated Guida said he couldn't remember the last time the board held one.
To reach reporter Amanda Purcell, call 51-828-1616 ext. 2500, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or tweet to @amandajpurcell.