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Jan 28, 2014 4:50 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Board Ousts Pair Of Veteran ZBA Members

Jan 29, 2014 10:47 AM

The Southampton Town Board unseated two veteran members of the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals on Tuesday night, replacing them with newcomers as part of a move designed to bring more political balance to the regulatory board—and possibly hinting at a new era of political compromise on the board.

Last week, Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, speaking for the board, proposed appointing new members to the ZBA rather than reappointing Ann Nowak and David Reilly—both Republican Party members—to four-year terms. She did propose reappointing Brian Desesa, a Conservative, to another term, however.

On Tuesday night, the board voted unanimously to appoint Laura Stephenson, an aide to State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., to the ZBA and, by a 4-0 vote, to appoint Helen Burgess. Ms. Throne-Holst abstained from the vote on Ms. Burgess, whom she described as “family and a very dear friend.”

Ms. Burgess is a registered Democrat, while Ms. Stephenson is a member of the Independence Party, like Mr. Thiele and Ms. Throne-Holst.

Ms. Throne-Holst said the replacement of Ms. Nowak and Mr. Reilly with two new members would bring better “balance” to the ZBA. Prior to this week, five of the seven members of the ZBA had been members of the Republican Party; the remaining seats had been filled by just one Democrat and one Conservative.

Ms. Stephenson’s appointment came as a nearly last-minute substitution. Last week, Ms. Throne-Holst had proposed appointing another woman, Melissa Sidor, to the board, but she removed herself from consideration early this week.

Joining Mr. Desesa, Ms. Burgess and Ms. Stephenson on the board are Democrat Adam Grossman and Republicans Herb Phillips, Keith Tuthill and Denise O’Brien. Mr. Phillips was reappointed as chairman. Three Republicans, two Democrats, one Conservative and one Independence Party member now sit on the ZBA.

“We wanted to give some others a chance to serve, and one of these members has been on the board for many, many years, and the other serves on another board also,” Ms. Throne-Holst said, referring to Ms. Nowak, who had served on the ZBA for 20 years, and Mr. Reilly, who still sits on the town’s Assessment Review Board. “And to the extent that the public welcomes some political balance on these boards as well, that seemed fair as well.”

In years past, the appointments to the town’s regulatory boards had been subject to battles along party lines. Ms. Lofaro’s and Mr. Grossman’s appointments are the lingering signs of the last time the Democrats held the majority, in 2003. But on Tuesday, with the removal of Ms. Nowak and Mr. Reilly—but only them—the board appeared to have settled on a cooperative approach to the appointments, with both sides of aisle making concessions to the other.

The two appointments were the only unseatings of current board members proposed by the board since the caucus of Democratic Councilwoman Bridget Fleming and Independence Party members Ms. Throne-Holst and newly elected Councilman Brad Bender secured the majority on the Town Board.

Neither Stan Glinka nor Christine Scalera, the two Republican board members, offered resolutions to reappoint Ms. Nowak or Mr. Reilly for consideration, nor did they challenge any of the other appointments offered by Ms. Throne-Holst. Ms. Scalera had hinted earlier this week that Ms. Throne-Holst’s proposed appointments were supported by a “general consensus.”

On the other hand, the majority did not unseat other Republicans who some of those in Democratic circles likely would have preferred to see removed as well.

The consensus was not unanimous, however, and the new majority saw its first split Tuesday night.

Ms. Fleming voted against the reappointment of Mr. Desesa to the ZBA. His appointment was approved, 3-1, with Ms. Scalera abstaining.

Ms. Fleming also split from her caucus and the rest of the board on the reappointment of John Zuccarelli to the Town Planning Board. Mr. Zuccarelli was reappointed by a 4-1 vote and will serve another four-year term.

The board unanimously approve the appointment of Cathie Gandel to fill the seat of Lawrence Toler, who is stepping down from the Planning Board, as well as the reappointments of Planning Board members Jacqui Lofaro and Phil Keith. Mr. Keith is a columnist for The Press.

The board filled the vacated Conservation Board seat left by Scott Horowitz, who won election to the Town Trustees in the fall, by appointing John Bouvier, who also ran, albeit unsuccessfully, for a Trustees seat last fall. His appointment was supported unanimously, and he will serve a two-year term. Current members Harry Ludlow and Tom Rickenbach also were unanimously reappointed.

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Thank God its time to get rid of the dead weight. Now we need to get rid of Herb and his Hawaian shirt, and the genius Adam Grossman.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Jan 28, 14 5:55 PM
So, it IS a political move by Anna Game-of-Throne-Holst! I thought she was smarter than that.
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Jan 28, 14 7:37 PM
2 members liked this comment
As you well know Frank all moves are political moves. To the victor go the spoils, despite any campaign slogans to the contrary. And now, like the county and so many other towns within the county, come the inter party deals. Always fun to watch. We have enjoyed watching the Democratic Party become everything it criticized the Republican Party of being. Ban cross endorsements, eliminate Wilson Pakula's. Let each individual candidate run on one line from the party of which they are an enrollee. ...more
By NTiger (543), Southampton on Jan 29, 14 1:44 PM
How so Frank?
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on Jan 28, 14 10:42 PM
Of all the Boards, the ZBA is a quasi-judicial entity, and needs to be independent of political considerations. Should this current move transpire, Anna will have openly made the ZBA about politics.

The measure of any ZBA, is how many of their decisions are overturned at the appellate level, and that should be the determining factor in whether members or the entire board needs to be replaced.

I look forward to reading the follow-up on this and how Anna rationalizes any such move.
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Jan 29, 14 2:25 AM
The truth of the matter is that Anna wanted to get rid of Ann Nowack because she ran Linda Kabot's campaign against her last fall. Simple as that. Old fashioned political payback.
By moonpie (43), Southampton on Jan 29, 14 1:15 PM
And if Ms. Kabot had been elected, would things be any different in your opinion?

The Golden Rule -- she who has the gold makes the rule.

Sad -- and people wonder why Washington is gridlocked.

Greed will bring us all down . . .
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jan 29, 14 2:40 PM
This is a joke right? Political balance on the ZBA? Really? Town hall should just close for a month or two. No one would notice. Sorry, you are a Republican, no shed building for you! Democrat, can't build a second story. Amazing
By The Real World (368), southampton on Jan 29, 14 2:49 PM
As a member of a group that objected to a variance, in my experience the ZBA is a disgrace to the community and all the taxpayers. The town tacitly is to blame. During the course of the hearings the chairman had numerous side bar discussions with the applicant’s representative while we were speaking. By doing that he was unethical and rude. It is on the video tape. By the Chairman himself I was threatened with ZBA retaliation for voicing my objections (paying taxes from 1951 means nothing). ...more
By TheTurtle (143), Southampton on Jan 29, 14 6:16 PM