Town Board looking to clarify language in code about roles of advisory boards

Four public hearings that pertain to the Landmarks Preservation Commission and Architectural Review Board were adjourned during Wednesday’s Town Board meeting to allow for input from members of those boards.

The Town Board is considering several revisions to the code that would clarify the role of each respective board.

The proposed amendments would strike existing language from the code that allows the Landmarks Preservation Commission to act “on behalf of the Town Board” on applications for alterations or demolitions of landmarks or structures located within historic districts.

The amended code instead refers to their duties as to “review and make recommendations” to the Town Board.

Existing town code already describes both the LPC and ARB as advisory bodies.

The new code would also set a timeframe for the LPC to make recommendations and the Town Board to act upon those recommendations, according to Town Attorney Bob Kozakiewicz.

Relief from denials issued by the LPC or ARB will now also be sought through the Zoning Board of Appeals rather than the Town Board.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said she’s worked with the LPC for a decade and doesn’t see the need to revise the code. “If it’s not broken, then why fix it?” she said during Wednesday’s meeting.

Ms. Giglio cited two recent instances where the owners of the recently opened Michelangelo’s on Main Street, as well as the Preston House Hotel & Restaurant, sought an appeal from the Town Board following input from the LPC.

She had additional concerns over including the ZBA. “I just feel that it’s going to delay progress and i think that the LPC is doing a good job,” Ms. Giglio said.

The proposed code would also strike a section of the existing ARB code that explicitly allows for secret meetings.

The current code states “nothing herein shall preclude any member or members of the [ARB] or staff from conferring privately with the applicant or his agent, as long as any understanding reached by such private deliberations be disseminated to the remaining Board members before recommendations made on any proposal, and except insofar as such private meetings are in contravention of state law.”

“I don’t know how that got in there,” Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith said.

She said that the information provided by the advisory boards is “invaluable,” and the revisions will bring clarity to a confusing town code.

Ms. Giglio said she thinks the measure places more authority on the Town Board.

She argued the regulatory authority should remain with the LPC, who Ms. Giglio said consists of more qualified members.

“We have architects and engineers and historic designers on the LPC, whereas the Town Board as far as I know doesn’t have anybody with that knowledge or that prestige.”

Councilman Jim Wooten disagreed. “Sink or swim, good or bad, it should rest with this Town Board,” he said.
Richard Wines, who chairs the LPC, wrote to the Town Board to request they delay action on the measures and discuss with the commission at a work session meeting.

The public hearings will continue at the next Town Board meeting Sept. 17.

[email protected]