Dan Hust | Democrat
Leading the Town of Forestburgh in 2012 are, sitting from the left, Town Board members Eugene Raponi and John Galligan, and Supervisor William Sipos; and standing from the left, Highway Superintendent Dan Hogue Jr., Town Clerk Joanne Nagoda, and Town Board members Susan Parks-Landis and Michael Creegan.
Forestburgh aims to abolish, re-create planning board
By Dan Hust
FORESTBURGH Forestburgh plans on abolishing and reconstituting its planning board.
At last Thursday’s meeting the town board voted 4-1 to set a public hearing on the proposal for Monday, January 23 at 7 p.m. at the town hall in Forestburgh.
“We’re looking into a five-member board in the near future,” explained Supervisor Bill Sipos after the meeting, terming it a “rebuilding” of a seven-member planning board that’s been reduced to just two via resignations and lack of reappointments.
Should the measure pass, the town board would serve as the planning board in the interim.
Town board member Eugene Raponi was the only dissenter in that vote.
“You’re taking away an important part of the town’s foundation,” he complained after the meeting.
Alleging the town board’s motivation “is probably personal,” Raponi felt his colleagues’ minds are already set.
One of the two remaining planning board members, Ivan Orisek, agreed.
“I think it’s going to be completely immaterial what residents say at the public hearing,” Orisek predicted, saying the town board has long been trying to reduce the planning board’s power.
He worried the town board’s takeover of planning board duties will create “an authoritarian government” and impede the planning process.
“The town board is not qualified or trained to function as a planning board,” he argued.
Both sides agree that there’s long been tensions between the planning and town boards concerning small subdivision applications all the way to the massive Lost Lake development, over which the two boards battled for “lead agency” status.
But the planning board’s immediate past chair, Susan Hawvermale, said yesterday that she remains on good terms with the entire town board and supports its reorganization plans.
“This is something that has been in the wind for a while,” she confirmed.
Hawvermale said the planning board hasn’t had a full seven-member contingent for at least the past year, and two recent resignations left it without the majority needed to take action on items.
Hawvermale herself was not reappointed to the planning board when her term ended this past December, but that was in cooperation with town leaders’ goal to re-create the board, she said.
“I serve at the pleasure of the town board,” she explained, adding that when the planning board is reconstituted, she aims to reapply to serve once again.
“I’ve really enjoyed my tenure on the planning board,” Hawvermale related, “and I’m looking forward to returning.”
Sipos confirmed that he doesn’t want the town board to permanently replace the planning board.
“We will decide on how many members, the length of their terms, and whether we’ll have alternates,” he said, adding that his goal is to make the planning board “extremely accessible.”
In other business
Elsewhere during last Thursday’s town board meeting:
• John Galligan was named deputy supervisor, and Susan Parks-Landis, a Republican, was appointed to the vacant town board seat formerly occupied by new Supervisor Bill Sipos.
Town board member Gene Raponi was opposed, having nominated Democrat Lynn McDonald to the post but not gaining a second to his motion.
Parks-Landis must run for the position this November if she wants to keep it through 2013, when Sipos’ original term will expire.
Parks-Landis had earlier sent a letter of interest, said Sipos. She had to vacate her spot on the Zoning Board of Appeals as a result, and that position will be filled after she submits an official letter of resignation.
• After Sipos saw a gun slip out of a resident’s pocket at a recent town meeting, he called for a ban on firearms on town property, even when the carrier is properly licensed.
The only exceptions would be for law enforcement personnel, judges and authorized town employees (i.e., the town occasionally is permitted by the state to shoot nuisance animals).
The proposal was not universally acclaimed, however.
“You’re taking the people’s Second Amendment right away from them,” charged resident Jim Steinberg.
The town’s attorney recommended the board first review the proposed law banning firearms, so no action was taken at Thursday’s meeting.
It is likely to be on the agenda at the next town board meeting, set for Thursday, February 2 at 7 p.m. at the town hall.
• Smoking was unanimously banned on town property, save for inside personal vehicles.
• Volunteers are needed for the town’s 175th anniversary celebrations, scheduled to be held in August during the annual Forestburgh Day.
Those interested are welcome to contact Town Historian Mary Ann Toomey at 794-4688.