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New Scotland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, June 10, 2010
By Saranac Hale Spencer
NEW SCOTLAND The planning board will shed two members and the five remaining will serve two years fewer since the town board changed its structure in a unanimous vote.
Councilman Douglas LaGrange, who drafted the law, tried to initiate the change a year ago, he said, but “could see it wouldn’t go anywhere with the board majority.”
The fall election, though, tipped the balance on the town board, with LaGrange and his two running mates, who ran on a platform of controlled retail development, winning seats.
At its first meeting in January, the new town board appointed a different chairman to the planning board. The long-time chairman, Robert Stapf, had supported the losing slate of candidates in the fall election; they had favored a laissez fair approach to development. The board appointed Charles Voss as chairman: he works as a professional planner and has been on the planning board since 2005.
“I actually think it’ll work pretty well,” Voss said of the changes to the planning board. He has been concerned about lackluster attendance on the board and some members’ falling behind on required training, he said. Local Law 3 addresses both of those issues, stating that “The town board may, after a public hearing, remove any member who fails to attend two regularly scheduled consecutive meetings or three regularly scheduled meetings in the twelve month period of January through December.”
The next paragraph reinforces the state’s requirement that planning and zoning board members get at least four hours of training per year. “Members (including alternates) shall have the duty to complete all training required by Town Law Section 271. Any member may be removed by the Town Board, after a public hearing, for failure to complete such training.”
One of LaGrange’s primary reasons for pushing the law was because of attendance, he said. He also mentioned a lack of continuing education.
Reducing the members to five will help to focus the board, Voss hopes. “If you’re willing to serve on a volunteer board… you should really commit to it,” he said.
Appointments on the board are staggered so that one member is up for reappointment each year for the next two years, no one will be appointed to the seats that will be vacated by Kevin Kroencke or Robert Smith. Current members will finish their seven-year terms and the first new appointment, to be made in 2013, will begin the five-year terms.
Also imposed by the new law is a two-term limit, although it allows that “a former member may be considered for reappointment after a minimum two year hiatus.”
When LaGrange introduced the bill several months ago, he kept seven members on the board but suggested four-year terms. Other boards in New Scotland, including the town board and zoning board, have five members, LaGrange said this week, explaining that some municipalities choose to have seven member-board so that diverse parts of large areas can be represented. New Scotland is a relatively small town and the village of Voorheesville, which contains a third of the town’s population, has its own zoning and planning boards, he said.
Before voting on the bill, Councilman Richard Reilly said that he preferred a seven-member planning board, but recognized that moving to five members was “the consensus that seems to be reached.”
The law passed in a unanimous vote.