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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, December 18, 2008

New Scotland super vows appointment process for planning board will be open

By Jo E. Prout

NEW SCOTLAND — Two seats on the planning board here are up for grabs next month, and the supervisor vowed this week that the appointment process would be open. He also called for attendance requirements for board members, echoing comments from local residents.

The terms for planning board Chairman Robert Stapf and planning board alternate Jo Ann Davies expire on Dec. 31. Planning board members will be appointed to fill the seats at the town reorganizational meeting Jan. 1.

“I’m receiving résumés and I’m forwarding them on to the [town] board members,” said Supervisor Thomas Dolin. He said Tuesday that he has received three résumés and that he expects two more.

Asked if the town would reappoint Stapf, who has served two seven-year terms, Dolin said, “I don’t know. I think it’s time for a new chairman, myself. He’s been there two terms. I think two terms is enough for anyone on the planning board. Some new blood would be good.”

Stapf could not be reached for comment.

Planning board member Cynthia Elliott, a land surveyor, disagreed with Dolin.

“Bob Stapf’s the best man for the job,” Elliott said. Stapf, a licensed surveyor, is retired and “puts in plenty of time,” she said. “I hope he’s going to be reappointed as chairman.”

Elliott also praised Davies for her knowledge of the planning process and the amount of time she puts in on the board.

Residents, in letters to the Enterprise editor, have called Elliott the “heir apparent” to the chairmanship. Elliott warned residents not to believe everything they hear.

Dolin said that he had also heard that Stapf “was going to support her as chairman.”

“Bob and I will have a little chat,” Elliott said when she was informed of the rumor. “I think he’s feeling under pressure. I have no other candidates that I am aware of” with qualifications as good as Stapf’s, Elliott said. She said, however, that there may be others who apply.

“It wouldn’t be my call. That’s the town board’s issue,” she said.

Changing the process

Some town residents have said that the appointment process is not an open one.

“It will be this year,” Dolin said. “I’m looking at [the résumés]. I’m reading them. There are some very qualified people.”

He said that he had not yet discussed any of the candidates with the other town board members.

“It takes a majority of the town board to appoint someone,” Dolin said. “This is all starting to come together. There has been some interest.”

Residents have complained that the current planning board is dysfunctional.

“I disagree completely,” Elliott said. “We agree more than we disagree, but we bring it out in discussion. I don’t find it to be dysfunctional, at all.”

Residents have also complained about board members’ absences, and Dolin responded by calling for term limits.

Dolin said that he will suggest that the town board adopt a policy requiring planning board members to resign if they miss more than three meetings in a year. The planning board meets once a month.

“I don’t think [the absences are] helpful for the functioning of the board,” Dolin said.

Daniel Mackay, one of the residents who submitted a résumé for a planning board seat, provided a chart listing the top absentee offenders on the planning board.

Planning board members Robert Smith, Lorraine Tuzzulo, and Elizabeth Stewart missed the most meetings in a two-year period, Mackay noted, with each missing more than three per year. Chairman Stapf, according to the chart, did not miss any of the meetings in the past two years.

Dolin also suggested term limits for planning board members.

“Two terms is enough,” he said.

Absences and unlimited terms affect the town, he said.

“This board is very vital to the functioning of the town government, and it’s important that it’s representative of the town,” Dolin said.

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