By Nathan Mayberg
WURTSBORO February 24, 2006 Overriding complaints from some town residents that the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals were being stacked, the Town of Mamakating Board appointed four Bloomingburg residents to posts on the two boards.
After tabling the nominations two weeks earlier, the board appointed Ken Baker to the ZBA by a vote of 4-1, with only Supervisor Charles Penna in opposition.
Baker, of Bloomingburg, owns a plumbing company. Baker will replace Fern Laks. Laks was a two-term member of the board, a past chairwoman and the only member of both the ZBA and planning board to vote against the maitake mushroom plant.
According to several residents, Laks was also the only two-term member of either board to be required to interview for a third term. They saw her replacement as punishment for her vote not to approve the variances the company sought.
Penna said he did not support the nominations because they were out of his hands. He said the board had agreed on the nominations on its own. He did not partake in the interview process.
He stated no opinion on the replacement of Laks.
Todd Berentsen, who owns a campground and an oil delivery company according to Penna, will replace Jim Stout, who resigned, on the planning board. He was approved unanimously.
A chairman of the planning board was not named. John Piazzas chairmanship has been called into question for over a year now because he maintains a home in Middletown.
Town officials, including Penna, have supported him. Penna said that Piazza was born in Bloomingburg, as were his parents. His drivers license still lists his address as Bloomingburg.
In 2004, the Sullivan County Board of Elections determined that Piazza was ineligible to vote when they discovered he didnt live in the county. However, he was allowed to reregister and vote in the 2005 elections.
Morris cited the New York State Public Officers Law which requires an office to become vacant once the occupant no longer lives in the area they represent.
Summitville resident Richard Morris contacted Robert Freeman, the Executive Director of the New York State Committee on Open Government, who told him the license Piazza had was worthless in establishing his primary residence. Freeman told him the STAR exemption address was much more important.
Piazza has a School Tax Relief (STAR) exemption on his property in the Town of Wallkill, which he has reported as his primary residence.
Morris forwarded his concerns to Sullivan County District Attorney Stephen Lungen and the New York State Attorney Generals office in New Paltz.
Since the board chose not to reappoint Piazza, the planning board will be able to choose its own chairman, said town attorney Richard Stoloff. Barring the unforeseen, Piazza will likely be renominated by his own board.
Town councilmen Sean Moriarty and Nicholas Salomone Jr. wanted to do the same for the appointments to the ZBA, but Penna rejected the idea.
Christopher Westbrook of Bloomingburg, the Director of Human Resources at Rockland Paramedic Services, was approved as an alternate to the ZBA by a vote of 4-1, with only Penna against.
Joseph Dermetko, who has refurbished homes and the old train station in Bloomingburg, was unanimously named as an alternate to the planning board.
The board voted 4-1 to appoint the firm of Bonacic, LoBiondo & Krahulik to represent the town in the lawsuit brought by the Basha Kill Area Association (BKAA) and Patricia and Kevin Moore against the planning board for their decision to approve the maitake mushroom factorys environmental impact statement.
Langdon Chapman, who works for the firm and is an assistant to New York State Senator John Bonacic, will be representing the town, as he was named the attorney to both the planning board and ZBA.
Moriarty voted against the resolution because he said the town wasnt supporting the ZBA equally. The board voted two weeks earlier to give itself limited representation in the case against the ZBA. The resolution said the town would only respond by providing a record of the proceedings.
The BKAA and the Moores filed an Order to Show Cause in Sullivan County Supreme Court to stop the planning board from voting on the site plan or special use permits the company is seeking. The court was scheduled to hear the case yesterday, with Judge Robert Sackett presiding.
During public comment, Eileen Weil of Summitville once again complained about the lack of representation on the planning board and ZBA from Election District 3, which includes Summitville, Phillipsport and part of Wurtsboro.
She also said that the new appointments to the board lacked knowledge of the projects before the board because they dont attend their meetings. On the other hand, several people who regularly attend those meetings, including she and her husband Andrew, were not considered for those positions. Those residents are known to oppose the maitake mushroom plant.
Weil pressed the board to explain their removal of Laks, who she said served the board in good standing.
The board chose not to respond. Councilwoman Judith Young said the board doesnt have to answer questions.
That prompted Patricia Moore to walk out of the meeting.
Later, Weil also criticized the town for buying supplies from Bloomingburg Hardware, which is owned by Councilwoman Regina Saunders. The town also does business with William Fedun Printing, owned by ZBA Chairman William Fedun and his wife Edna Fedun, who sits on the planning board.
Weil said that was a conflict of interest which did not adhere to the towns code of ethics.