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Hilltowns Archives —The Altamont Enterprise, February 12, 2009

Westerlo is now without a planning board chair

By Zach Simeone

WESTERLO — Now that Andrew Brick has been chosen to fill the recently vacated town justice post, Westerlo’s planning board is without a chairman.

Prior to being named judge, after Joseph Dean left the bench, Brick had submitted to the planning board a first draft of the town’s first comprehensive land-use plan, which the remaining board members will have to complete without him.

Brick has practiced law for 13 years, and told The Enterprise last month that he could better serve the town as judge than as chairman of the planning board. He had been appointed after Leonard Laub was removed from his post last year.

Before the town board appointed Brick at its Feb. 4 meeting, Councilman Jack Milner pushed for a dialogue between the town board and the residents in attendance on whether Brick or Kenneth Mackey should be appointed judge, but the rest of the board disagreed.

“It’s an employee-employer relationship thing,” said Councilman Ed Rash of the appointment process. Residents will have a chance to speak with the candidates in the fall, Rash said, when they vote on both town justice seats.

Supervisor Richard Rapp opened up the floor for audience comment on the matter, but silence filled the room. The board then appointed Brick by a 4-to-1 vote, with Milner casting the dissenting vote. The town board then asked that the planning board seek candidates for the now-vacant chairmanship.

Brick resigned from the planning board the next day.

Planning board member Gerard Boone told The Enterprise this week that he is not interested in the position of chairman. Fellow board member Richard Kurylo said of the chairmanship, “I was thinking about it.” Members Kristen Slaver and Tony Sherman have stepped in and chaired meetings when Brick was absent; they could not be reached for comment.

The plan

On Jan. 20, at his last comprehensive-plan meeting as chairman, Brick submitted to his fellow planning board members his first rough draft of the plan.

“We had a meeting in December and went over everything we wanted to see in the first draft,” said Brick. “However many more drafts there are will be up to the remaining planning board members.”

Brick called drafting the comprehensive plan “a challenge,” as it’s the first that the town has had.

“The emphasis throughout the work we were doing was on how to preserve the rural character we now have, and how to protect and preserve sustainable agriculture,” said Brick of the plan. “Because it’s a plan, it’s not designed to have specifics in mind. What it does is state that, in redrafting the zoning code, these are the priorities that have to be considered. Some examples that are in there to protect our open space are conservation easements, transfer of development rights, and incentive zoning,” he said.

On who might succeed him as chairman of the planning board, Brick concluded, “In my opinion, any of the other four current members would be able to serve as chair and do a great job.”

Other business

In other business at its Feb. 4 meeting, the town board:

— As recommended by Councilman Gregory Zeh, agreed to submit all billing records for the water district to an accounting firm, in order to ensure that the water rates properly reflect usage. Residents in attendance at recent town board meetings have complained of being overcharged. Zeh declined to name any specific accounting firms being considered. A motion from Zeh passed by a 4-to-1 vote, with Supervisor Rapp in opposition.

— Formally abandoned the section of Swartout Road that runs between the properties of Mary Browne and John and Elaine Nevins.

“A certain portion of Swartout Road came inches from Mary’s barn, and the barn would be hit continuously by plows during the winter,” Westerlo’s attorney Aline Galgay told The Enterprise. “It became an expensive endeavor for the town, and it became a problem for her barn to be constantly hit, so, we wanted to move the road so we didn’t have to constantly pay to repair the barn. We did it all in-house,” she said.

The new section of road is the only piece owned by the town; the rest belongs to the property owners along the road. “The portion that was replaced is no longer a user road,” or a road open to the public, Galgay said, “but the rest is still a user road.”

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