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Town Board seeks procedures for committees

REPORTER FILE PHOTO

Town Board members spent most of the Tuesday work session discussing a draft of a handbook to set procedures for how committees, boards, councils and groups are expected to conduct business.

Councilman Jim Colligan called the document “long overdue,” explaining that some committees have been “operating in the dark,” unclear on what is expected of them.

Mr. Colligan has been an advocate that committee members not simply show up at monthly meetings to exchange ideas, but work between sessions to keep agendas moving forward.

He has also taken an activist role with those committees on which he serves as a Town Board liaison.

Councilwoman Amber Brach-Williams has said she’s taken a more active role with the committees on which she is liaison, which has sparked a discussion of whether Town Board liaisons should be members of the committees, and not simply reporting to their colleagues what committees are doing.

During the discussion, Mr. Colligan was misinformed on what constituted a quorum necessary for committees to vote. Mr. Colligan said if enough members weren’t in the meeting room, but called in, they could be counted toward a quorum.

The New York State Open Meetings Law requires that to be counted as part of a quorum, a member not in the room must be visible on a screen in the meeting room so that it’s clear the comments truly are those of that member. In addition, when a person is going to attend remotely via video conferencing, prior notice of where that person is must be made public.

A telephone conversation doesn’t qualify an absent member to vote on any issues.

Based on the discussion Tuesday, Town Attorney Bob DeStefano Jr. said he would tweak the current draft and make it available to the Town Board in advance so it can be submitted to a vote for adoption at the June 14 Town Board meeting.

A second subject on Tuesday was a discussion of streamlining two individual town code chapters — one dealing with the Building Department and the other with Code Enforcement.

Mr. DeStefano characterized what was being discussed as “not even a draft, but just initial scratch notes” with initial thoughts of what could come together as a single draft chapter in the code.

The Reporter has requested that such notes or drafts addressed during open meetings be made available either on the town website or distributed at the start of meetings so the public can clearly follow discussions. This is in line with the state’s Open Meetings Law.

Mr. DeStefano quickly provided both the notes on these two chapters and the draft of the committee procedures as soon as they were requested after Tuesday’s meeting.

FILMING NOT REJECTED

Stories carried in two publications that said the Town Board had rejected an HBO request to film scenes on the Island is incorrect and has members angry by the false information.

An HBO representative approached the Town Board to request a permit that would have filming for several days and included a hovering helicopter and police vehicles filming at night.

The Town Board requested some schedule changes that would limit the helicopter scene to a single night and would ensure the scene would wrap by 10:30 p.m. There was also an indication that the town might seek more than the usual fee for filming.

Major criticism of the proposal came from an audience member, not the Town Board, which was generally welcoming to the idea. But HBO never filed an application with the town. Instead the shoot occurred in nearby East Marion.

Nonetheless, some town residents insist that the Town Board had turned down an application.

PLANS FOR DEVELOPMENT

The Happy Groundhog housing development has slowed to a turtle’s pace.

The project on land off Manwaring Road owned by Susan Binder to construct housing for workers at Binder Pools and possibly some affordable housing, had once seemed headed for quick approval.

But it has been caught up in site planning review and is dragging though the bureaucracy.

The original plan presented to the Zoning Board of Review by Matt Sherman of Sherman Engineering was to build four houses and maintain an original house on the property at 18 Manwaring Road. When it was suggested that Susan and Darrin Binder consider a nitrogen-reducing I/A septic system for the development, they hesitated because it would mean a delay while they awaited approval from the Suffolk County Department of Health Services.

But with the delay that developed regarding the town’s site plan review process, Mr. Sherman said the plans would change and there would be six cottages and the house, necessitating a new approval from the Health Department. With that change, the Binders were open to considering the I/A septic system, according to Building Permits Examiner Lori Beard Raymond.

Another project that was caught up in the site plan review process was an application from Kristian Clark for a wine tasting operation at the White Oaks site on Route 114 and Manwaring Road. It’s strictly being planned to provide tastings, not full glasses of wine, although if the business proves popular, Mr. Clark could apply for an expanded use at a future date, Ms. Beard Raymond said.

The Town Board was able to extricate the application from the site plan review process and is ready to approve the operation contingent on Mr. Clark receiving clearance from the Department of Health to use a temporary bathroom facility pending a more permanent facility.

The resolution will also require access to the site from North Ferry Road with vehicles exiting from the site on Manwaring Road. Plans also call for occupancy limits to be set.

Town Attorney Bob DeStefano Jr. was to draft a resolution of approval for review by the Town Board.

Mr. DeStefano, who drafted the initial plan in line with guidance from Town Board members and the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals, agreed with Councilman Paul Shepherd that the system is working well and needs little change beyond what’s in the current law.

Board members have said they want to avoid expansive reviews unless absolutely necessary. They will depend on Ms. Beard Raymond, who said she consults with building inspectors in making decisions on whether an application can get a building permit or needs to be referred to the ZBA, Planning Board or Town Board for further action.

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