Alternate planning board member proposal scrapped

By EJ Conzola II

A plan to ensure the Granville Planning Board has enough members to act on projects and that all those who are voting are up to speed on the proposals and board procedures was dropped after the town attorney raised concerns about the legality of the idea.

Town Supervisor Matt Hicks had suggested the Town Board create the position of alternate planning board member, who could be trained in how the board operates and could be called in if the planners needed an additional person to have a quorum. The alternate would attend Planning Board meetings but would only vote if asked to step in by the board chairman if a regular board member was absent, Hicks said.

The alternate, who would be appointed to a multi-year term, would automatically move onto the board if a vacancy occurred during that term, he added.

Board member Nate Baker, who will be leaving the Planning Board in January to succeed Hicks as supervisor, said he saw advantages to the idea but did not feel the alternate position was necessary. Having someone familiar with board operations and pending projects ready to step in would be a plus, but the board has not had a problem reaching a quorum and has no projects on the horizon that would require action by a supermajority, Baker said.

“I could see both sides of this,” he said.

Town attorney Mike Catalfimo said the Town Board could pass a local law creating the position, which he likened to a pinch hitter in baseball, but said the plan would have to be carefully crafted to overcome legal concerns.

One of those concerns would be tying future town boards into having a vacancy filled by someone not of their choosing. Planning Board members are appointed by the Town Board, but having an alternate who had been chosen by a previous Town Board would take the appointing authority away from the members of the current board, he said.

“You can’t do it in advance,” Catalfimo said.

Town Board member Matt Rathbun also raised concerns about a future Planning Board chairman using the alternate position to manipulate the outcome of a board vote. An unscrupulous chairman could discourage a regular board member who might vote in a way that differed from the chairman’s position from attending a meeting, then call in the alternate who supported his view, Rathbun posited.

After several minutes of discussion, the board agreed to abandon the idea.