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Mar 11, 2009 9:46 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Planning Board recommends slightly altered version of public participation proposal

Mar 11, 2009 9:46 AM

Southampton Town Planning Board members have told the Town Board they would support a new law proposed by Supervisor Linda Kabot that would allow additional public participation during Planning Board meetings, but only if comments address general concerns, not specific applications.

The proposed code amendment was first raised during a meeting held two weeks ago. As written, the amendment would allow certain members of the town’s Citizen Advisory committees to address the Planning Board before the first public hearing of any application. Currently, members of the public may attend board meetings but are not permitted to speak on an application until its official public hearing.

Planning Board Chairman Dennis Finnerty expressed concern during the discussions that the law could pose legal problems. Under normal circumstances, an applicant must be notified when any member of the public addresses his or her application during a public meeting. Neighbors of the project are also required to be notified so they can appear at the hearing.

Other members of the Planning Board agreed that the supervisor’s proposal law might pose problems.

“If you do that, you open up any application to any person at any time,” said board member Larry Toler.

“If you want to talk about Joe’s application, then Joe better be noticed,” said Vice Chairman John Blaney. “And every one of Joe’s neighbors,” added Mr. Finnerty.

In the week between discussions, Assistant Town Attorney Elizabeth Vail researched the public notice law and determined that Mr. Finnerty’s concern is valid. As a result, the board drafted a memo to the Town Board recommending that the law be adopted only if the public is restricted to speaking in general terms and not about specific applications.

“We’re supportive of efforts to enhance public participation, but it has to be done in the right manner,” said Mr. Finnerty.

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Pure semantics. It is time the muzzle was removed from the public during Planning Board meetings. Developers have more than enough access and
opportunity to press their case. And, then there is Jeff Murphree who is more often than not their advocate.
By Phanex (83), Southampton on Mar 10, 09 1:15 PM
The way I see it is that most of the members of the CACs are year-round locals who know the history of the area. Half the Town planners are imports and have no clue that a site mght have been a gas station, or a dump site, or filled land 50 plus years ago. This should be brought to the Town's attention ASAP....not at a public hearing which is usually held AFTER all the plans are drawn and most of the planning is done. We all know the folks who show at a hearing are just the neighbors who don't ...more
By Ms. Jane Q. Public (147), Southampton on Mar 11, 09 9:25 AM