Planning Board to add a sixth member?

Having just waved goodbye to a farmer from the Riverhead Town Planning Board, the Town Board is now discussing ways to put a farmer back on it, possibly by expanding the board to six members.

If they did that, they’d also how to figure out how to break tie votes, since most boards have an odd number of members.

On Tuesday, the board unanimously voted to appoint Prest-O-Peconic owner George Nunnaro to the Planning Board. He replaced Lyle Wells, a farmer, who was appointed to the board in 2002 when the Town Board specifically sought to get a farmer on the Planing Board.

“The farming community is not happy with us,” Supervisor Sean Walter said at Thursday’s work session.

Councilman George Gabrielsen, himself a farmer, said he got similar feedback.

“I’ve heard from the farming community and they really felt strongly that they need a representative on the there,” he said.

Mr. Walter said he believes there is a provision in the Town Code that allows the Town Board to appoint a sixth member to the current five-member Planning Board, and that sixth member would have to a farmer.

“I completely support the farm community and the idea of having a farmer on there,” Mr. Walter said. “We could do it right away; the only issue that we see is if there’s a tie vote.”

Mr. Walter asked the town legal department to research the possibility of having tie votes on the Planning Board broke by a vote of the Town Board.

Councilman Jim Wooten said he thought the town code called for a seven member board.

Deputy Town Attorney Anne Marie Prudenti also questioned the legality of allowing the Town Board to vote on Planning Board resolutions, as well as having six members.

“There’s very few laws that set the number of a board at an even number,” she said.

The proposal may not have the votes to begin with.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said the Planning Board already has a farmer, chairman Richard O’Dea, who has a horse farm, and she said the $9,000 salary for a new Planning Board member is not in the budget.

Councilmen George Gabrielsen and John Dunleavy have both opposed appointing a sixth Planning Board member.

The Town Board plans to discuss the issue further at next Thursday’s work session.