Editorial: Stop stacking the deck on appointed boards

Seven Republicans, two Conservatives, and a Blank walk into Riverhead Town Hall …

That might sound like the beginning of a bad joke to some, but after the most recent Planning Board appointment, it’s the actual political makeup of Riverhead Town’s planning and zoning boards.

And that’s no joke.

The latest appointment once again shed some light on the patronage that overshadows the process of filling these positions — which, given their involvement in reviewing applications for everything from a large development to an oversized backyard deck, inherently come with a lot of pull.

While it would be nice to think that the (currently all-Republican) Town Board simply appoints the person best suited for a position on either board, political allegiances aside. But it seems just a little too coincidental that no one with a “D” next to their name holds any seat on either the Planning Board or ZBA. In fact, the most recent appointee has been a Republican committeeman.

That appointee, Stan Carey, seems to be doing his due diligence at meetings thus far. He’s asked pointed questions and even sat near one potential development site on a Saturday morning, watching the traffic flow. As Supervisor Sean Walter pointed out, Mr. Carey’s 28 years’ experience in the water management— including 12 with the Riverhead Water District and his current job as superintendent of the Massapequa Water District — are admirable, as Long Island’s water aquifer becomes more and more of a treasure and water quality issues come to the fore.

But one has to wonder how frequently that expertise is needed on the Planning Board. The town’s Conservation Advisory Council seems like a better place for Mr. Carey in Town Hall and someone with past planning experience would reasonably seem a better choice for the Planning Board.

A former town planner and a former member of the Suffolk County Planning Commission — among other non-Republicans — also put their hats in the ring for this appointment. And it seems a shame that such more-than-viable candidates were passed up in favor of another member of the ruling party.

Southampton Town recently passed legislation specifying how many members of each party can serve on certain boards in an effort to limit stacking of their planning and zoning bodies. That might be a long shot to pass in Riverhead, but one way or another, some balancing is way past due.

To see résumés for all the candidates, see below:

Planning Board resumés by Timesreview