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May 18, 2010 5:39 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

East Hampton Planning Board rebuffs Wilkinson's request for streamlined review

May 18, 2010 5:39 PM

East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson and Deputy Supervisor Theresa Quigley were roundly berated by two members of the town’s Planning Board last Wednesday, after the two approached the board to ask its members to consider streamlining the town’s planning process.

Mr. Wilkinson and Ms. Quigley told the board that they thought the average wait time for approval of an application before the Planning Board, which they estimated at 28 months, was far too long.

“I told everyone I wanted it reduced in half to 14,” Mr. Wilkinson told the Planning Board, adding that he had promised during his campaign last fall to make the planning process less onerous for applicants. “The schedule followed the process. I want the process to follow the schedule.”

Ms. Quigley was quick to point out that she has no intention of inserting the Town Board’s will into the planning process, but would like to discuss legislative changes the Town Board could make that would make that process less cumbersome.

Mr. Wilkinson and Ms. Quigley had met with Planning Board Chairman John Lycke and Planning Department Director Marguerite Wolffsohn prior to the meeting to discuss the possibility of a “steering committee,” comprised of members of the town’s Zoning Board, Architectural Review Board and Planning Board, which would give informal advice to applicants before they submit formal applications so that they will understand what the process entails.

Planning Board members Sylvia Overby and Eileen Catalano were infuriated by the request. Ms. Catalano accused the two of holding secret meetings that other Planning Board members were not aware of, and of “politicking and grandstanding” before her board.

Ms. Overby, an active Democratic Party member whom Mr. Wilkinson replaced as chairwoman of the Planning Board when he took office in January, was equally miffed. She told the two that questions like ones that the steering committee might ask were already on applications in the Planning Department.

“You should have had a meeting that wasn’t a secret meeting,” she said, but later added that she was offended that the Town Board members would waste the time of applicants sitting in the meeting room by addressing the board at the beginning of the public meeting.

“We shouldn’t be hashing this out with this many people here,” said Ms. Overby.

Ms. Quigley said that both she and Mr. Wilkinson were grateful that Ms. Wolffsohn and Mr. Lycke had asked them to present their ideas to the board in public.

“I want input. I’m asking for input right now, Eileen,” said Ms. Quigley. “If you find this offensive, we’ll leave.”

“There’s not a bit of politics in my saying I want it reduced from 28 to 14 months,” said Mr. Wilkinson. “If you think we’re wasting their time and we’re politicizing, we’ll leave.”

Other members of the Planning Board were more receptive to their ideas.

“I’m not sure the reason it’s too long lies with any party or applicant,” said board member Peter Van Skoyoc. “Some applications have laid dormant for five to seven years. Some applicants have been very diligent. ... I don’t think, frankly, you’re going to speed it up a great deal. Part of the problem is that applicants don’t understand the process.”

“I am certainly not opposed to speeding up the process,” added board member Bob Schaeffer, as Mr. Wilkinson and Ms. Quigley got up to leave the meeting room after trading barbs with Ms. Overby and Ms. Catalano. He urged them to stay and hash out some of the details of the committee.

“I apologize to everyone here. We’re simply trying to move this process along. We’ll leave,” said Mr. Wilkinson as he and Ms. Quigley left the room. “I’m sorry to burden all.”

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Just a thought. Isn't Ms. Quigley a lawyer who has practiced in town for years? Hasn't she sued the various town boards on behalf of her clients, arguing against the zoning codes many times? Yes. In fact a number of those suets have been for her own benifit concerning properties she or her family has owned. I wonder if her motovations are more personal then public. Fact.
By facts man (148), east hampton on May 23, 10 8:49 AM
Mr. Wilkinson and Ms. Quigley would have gotten a more accurate view of the cumbersome aspects of the planning process had they talked to some of the applicants and the attorneys, surveyors, and land planners who represent them. My own experience is that the Planning Department, not the Board, sent back our survey and application material several times with new requests based on follow-up site visits. Yet another tree or rock was determined to be of "importance" so we had to go to the extra time ...more
By P.A.B. (23), East Hampton on May 23, 10 5:43 PM
I've never been through the planning process but what strikes me is the lack of respect shown the elected officials by the appointed ones. There was a severe lack of leadership demonstrated by the chair first of all. Secondly if applicants are treated in the same fashion we not only need to speed up the process we need new people on the planning board and in the planning department to accomplish this.
By montaukman (98), easthampton on May 24, 10 8:58 PM
Mr. Wilkinson is exactly right. The whole process is counterproductive. The long delays have virtually nothing to do with protecting the environment or protecting from overdevelopment. To lay blame on the applicant is completely ridiculous. The town’s information request and follow up procedure is excruciating. This is a quality of life issue for the taxpayer, let’s get this department fixed and move on.
By eli4sxp (2), melville on May 25, 10 1:54 PM
It is all about the power. Making the applicants jump thru hoops, imposing the BOARD'as tastes on theTown and puslic. Yhey seem to revel in feeding thte requested changes in one at a time adding a month to the procrss each time. Bureaucrat busy bodies ordering the public around , all, of course, for our own good....well....mebby not.

The Town Board is the responsible party. Tge Town has delagated its' aurthority to the various unelected boards but it is they that are responsible and they ...more
By Lost Tribe (66), East Hampton on May 26, 10 8:54 PM
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