This is how a public hearing should be conducted

To the Editor:
We are writing to express our opinion regarding the recent Industrial Development Agency public hearing held on Dec. 27, 2021. The meeting was specifically for the Airgas project that is being considered in the industrial park in Guilderland Center.

Our letter focuses on the protocol of the meeting rather than the actual content. The company is asking for $240,000 in sales-tax relief for the renovation of a property the company will be leasing as well as for the purchase of equipment for the business to operate.

As part of the reading of the hearing notice, Mr. [Donald] Csaposs [the IDA’s chief executive officer] not only gave the call-in information, but he also gave a number to call if there were technical issues that would need to be addressed during the meeting. The hearing was opened and calls were accepted.

Once the calls were completed, the hearing was closed, although the IDA stated it would accept written comments until a specified time (Jan. 11, 2022). The committee members will be voting on the project during their next meeting on Jan. 25, 2022.

This is how a public hearing should be conducted. To have various boards and committees, such as the planning board and zoning board of appeals present projects, open the hearing, listen to comments, close the hearing and vote during the same meeting gives the public the impression that there has been prior discussion about the project that the public has not been privy to.

It also gives the impression that public comments are not considered in the decision. We understand that this impression will raise a lot of eyebrows with these committees, but this is the impression they are giving when conducting a public hearing in this fashion.

This is something that we hear from folks, that there is no point to calling in as these boards have already made their decision and they are just “going through the motions.” The other issue is that generally when a public hearing has been closed, comments are no longer accepted. Of course, there are exceptions as noted above by the IDA.

We urge these boards to continue in the vein of transparency by running proper public hearings and continuing to have members of the public to either participate via in-person/virtual meetings and accept written comments until a specific amount of time after the meeting, and then a vote would be taken at the next scheduled meeting.

This gives the boards ample time to review projects, all comments, and ensure that the process is truly transparent rather than just pushing something through quickly. It also gives the public ample time to review the documents and comment if they feel they need to do so. (Please note that Mr. [Thomas] Remmert [chairman of the Guilderland Zoning Board of Appeals] prefers that the public submit comments in writing so the board has time to process those comments.)

This is what transparency is about: involving the public and giving them their due to participate in a governmental process. If a law states that there is specific procedure, it doesn’t mean that a town can’t go above and beyond what is needed.

Guilderland does go above and beyond in some instances — why not this one, which is so important to the development in this town?

Robyn Gray


Gordon McClelland

Vice Chairperson

Steering Committee

Guilderland Coalition

for Responsible Growth

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