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Comprehensive Plan in limbo after manager resigns: Tense meeting reveals fissures on methods, ideas

Work on the Comprehensive Plan came to an abrupt halt Tuesday when Edward Hindin quit his role as project manager.

His decision came after a Monday night meeting with members of the Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee (CPAC) who pushed through resolutions, including one that called on the Town Board to not make any changes in zoning or land use until the Comprehensive Plan report is completed. That included blocking the Zoning Board of Appeals from granting any requests from applicants that differ with the zoning code.

Mr. Hindin told those advocating the move they were going beyond their scope in making such a request.

But the tension had escalated before the vote, which resulted in referring the request to the Town Board — a request that Supervisor Gerry Siller rejected at Tuesday’s Town Board work session.

CPAC member Kathleen De Rose had several issues with Mr. Hindin. She was identified on the meeting agenda as the person seeking to have the post of the “Vision Statement of Values and Principles to Guide Planning and Implementation” removed from the town website. The draft largely reflected a statement crafted by consultant Larissa Brown, who had shared it with the group at its May meeting. Mr. Hindin had asked CPAC members in May to review the statement and submit their comments to him. He subsequently tweaked the statement to reflect CPAC members’ input and said once he had incorporated their input it was acceptable to post the draft and seek public comment.

But on Monday night Ms. De Rose said she and her fellow CPAC members had not seen the revised draft before it was posted. She wanted it removed and also wanted to be assured CPAC would be subject to the same provisions in the Town Code as other committees. Not everyone agreed that was appropriate.

Some CPAC members were troubled by statements Ms. De Rose made during the meeting including charges that:

• There are members with ulterior motives for working on the Comprehensive Plan to benefit their personal interests and financial gains

• The Comprehensive Plan group could open the door to potential changes in zoning and land use provisions in the Town Code

Others weren’t entirely on board with those statements, but voted with her to ask that the draft be removed from the website until a policy is adopted about the role CPAC would play in determining what is allowed to go public. The group also voted that the Town Board take no actions on either zoning or land use until the final report on a new Comprehensive Plan had been drafted.

Mr. Hindin said that was impossible, since it could be months or even a year before the Town Board would be able to act on many items that typically come to it and/or the Zoning Board of Appeals.

During the Monday night meeting, there were ongoing skirmishes between Ms. De Rose and Mr. Hindin. Several times he reminded her that he was running the meeting and she should stop interrupting other CPAC members or comment after each one spoke, while he wanted to move on to others who wanted to speak.

Some members, while voting with Ms. De Rose, disagreed with some of her statements. Member Ben Dyett said he saw nothing in the vision statement referring to zoning and land use changes. Member Meg Larsen, who is a Republican candidate for Town Board in November, told her colleagues she understood their role as providing another source of outreach to the wider community, but not to write the Comprehensive Plan.

She had no problem with reviewing the methods of releasing information for public input, but described herself as “confused” by the tone and tenure of the conversation.

“We are not running the show,” member Lily Hoffman said, while voting with Ms. De Rose.

Sean Clark said he doesn’t see it as the role of the Advisory Committee to decide how to structure a new comprehensive plan. That’s the role of the Town Board and Town Attorney after they review final recommendations.

“It’s great to see democracy in action,” consultant Peter Flinker told the group when that part of the agenda concluded.