Brick to lead Westerlo planning board

WESTERLO — The town’s planning board now has a new leader. 

Andrew Brick, who has served on the board since it was created last year, has been appointed chairman.  He will now lead Westerlo’s planning board in creating the town’s first comprehensive land-use plan.

“I do planning and zoning for a living, and I just thought it was a great opportunity to be able to utilize my expertise to help my own community,” said Brick, who has lived in the rural Helderberg Hilltown for seven years.  “It was a great opportunity.”

Leonard Laub, who was appointed by the town board last year to chair the planning board, was removed from office last month.  He had refused to fill out a Civil Service application, which the town board said was required.

The day after voting Laub out, three members of the five-member town board met in an unannounced meeting to appoint Brick as chairman. 

Since 2006, Brick, who is married and has a young daughter, has worked full-time for the city of Schenectady as a deputy city attorney.  He has worked with many municipalities — Schenectady, Rotterdam, and Babylon — on their comprehensive plans.

“I’ve been practicing for 13 years.  I’m primarily a planning and zoning attorney,” Brick said.  “I’ve represented planning boards and zoning boards my entire career.”

He has been the town attorney for the towns of Greenville and Rotterdam and the planning and zoning attorney for the town of Coeymans and the village of Ravena.  He has taught planning and zoning courses for the New York Planning Federation, written articles on planning and zoning laws, and argued in the state’s Supreme Court on planning, zoning, and comprehensive plan issues.

“There’s actually less on my plate this year than there was last year,” Brick said.  “Last year, I represented some other municipalities at night, so I was out 20 to 25 nights a month.  This year, I gave all that stuff up at night to spend more time with my family at home,” he said. “So I do have a lot more time now.  I wouldn’t have accepted their request to make me chair and get this process rolling if I couldn’t dedicate the time commitment.”

Planning for the future

Since January, the planning board has worked to create Westerlo’s first comprehensive plan.  The plan, which contains detailed information about various aspects of the town, is essentially used as a guide to draft a zoning law, which regulates development and a property owner’s use of land. 

The town’s zoning law was adopted in the 1980s. 

While the planning board creates the master plan, the town board has the ultimate say on which laws are enacted.  In conjunction with creating a master plan, a moratorium was enacted by the Westerlo Town Board last July, halting major subdivisions in the town for 18 months.

In January, the planning board held a workshop, and, since, has met twice with Westerlo’s farmers.  Under Laub, the board also discussed meeting with business owners and residents who live at Lake Onderdonk and in the town’s various hamlets.

“We’ve developed a lot of information,” said Brick.  “In my personal opinion, we’ve got to start now to take some time to put the pencil to the paper.  We’ve heard a lot of things, and we’ll continue to hear from other interested groups, like the individual hamlets, maybe business owners,” he said.  “But my feeling of it is that we need to start drafting something.  We need to start putting the pen to the paper.”

The planning board held a meeting last Tuesday. 

Brick said the first thing he implemented was a concrete schedule for comprehensive-plan meetings, rather than finding dates that are good for everybody.  The board, he said, voted to dedicate every third Tuesday for the remainder of the year to comprehensive-plan meetings. 

“So we have that in place and…I’m hopeful that we can have a draft comprehensive plan in the hands of the town board by the end of the year,” Brick said. 

Westerlo’s zoning board members have a lot of years of experience, he said. 

“Our town zoning board said, ‘Hey, we’ve been doing this for a long time…and we see some things that constantly pop up for us that we think are problems with the existing codes,’” said Brick.  And, he said, the town’s building inspector, Ed Lawson, said the same thing.

Everybody at Lake Onderdonk, Brick said, seems to need to go to the zoning board for variances. 

The planning board is scheduled to meet next on May 20 to work on comprehensive planning. 

“We’re going to open it up to the public and have everybody come in,” said Brick, “and we’re going to focus on problems people have with the existing zoning codes — What works?  What doesn’t?  What’s broke?  What needs to be fixed with the current zoning?”

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