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Nov 5, 2018 1:23 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Bel-Aire Cove Resolution Sparks Questions Of When Walk-On Resolutions Are Appropriate

Southampton Town Board members, left to right: Tommy John Schiavoni, John Bouvier, Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, Christine Scalera, Julie Lofstad and Southampton Town Attorney James Burke. GREG WEHNER
Nov 8, 2018 3:30 PM

On October 23, Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman “walked on” a resolution that, if approved by the Town Board, would have authorized the purchase of the Bel-Aire Cove motel in Hampton Bays.

The board declined to vote on the measure that evening. But it did raise some questions about when walk-ons—or resolutions that are not included on the agenda for a particular meeting, which is circulated in advance—are appropriate to be acted upon.

The resolution was introduced following a public hearing on the proposed purchase, during which many people spoke in opposition to the deal, in which the town would buy the blighted motel for $1,060,000 using funds from the town’s Community Development Program. Once purchased, the town would level the property and secure the proper permits to construct a new building on the property—permits to help with things such as installing a nitrogen-reducing septic system.

During that time, the town would work with members of the community to find out what they would like to see built on the site before selling it to a developer in a public auction, with the permits in place.

After the public hearing, the members of the public who spoke on the matter left the building, having not been informed that the supervisor planned to introduce a resolution to approve the purchase at the end of the meeting.

When the resolution was presented, Town Board member Christine Scalera objected, saying it would not be fair to vote on the resolution without the public knowing the vote was coming. The other board members concurred and voted to hold off on taking action on the resolution until the next board meeting, scheduled for November 13.

On Friday, Mr. Schneiderman said the Bel-Aire Cove resolution had been walked on at the October 9 meeting, and that it was an oversight that it wasn’t added to the October 23 meeting agenda for action. “I thought it was in the packet,” he said.

But whether it was a simple oversight or not, Ms. Scalera suggested it should not have been walked on at the end of the meeting.

“When trying to be transparent, why walk on an issue where people are interested?” Ms. Scalera said in an interview on Thursday, November 1. “There should be a common sense policy.”

Resolutions are typically “walked on” when a matter is urgent. In 2011, changes were made to the rules and procedures when it comes to resolutions.

Board members have deadlines if they want a resolution they are sponsoring to be included on an agenda. Summed up, the proposed legislation must be submitted to the town clerk by Wednesday before the following Tuesday’s meeting, to ensure that it is added to the draft agenda, which gets reviewed by board members on Thursday. If board members miss that deadline, they can still have their resolutions added onto the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting with the board’s consent, granted at the preceding Thursday work session.

At that point, the agenda is set for the regular board meeting—with one exception. Walk-ons can still be introduced by board members, but with the “express consent of a majority plus one … present, with an explanation from the sponsor regarding the time-sensitive nature of the resolution.”

The walk-on also has to be circulated before the meeting to allow board members time to review the resolution.

On Tuesday, Town Board member Tommy John Schiavoni said he likes the state law that requires a super majority, or four out of five votes, for the resolution even to be put on the agenda. While he would not speak specifically about the Bel-Aire Cove resolution, he said walk-on resolutions are important for timely actions—things like approving money transfers and hiring, firing or accepting resignations or retirements.

“I believe the design of the walk-on resolution is for matters that are somewhat timely, to keep government running in the interim,” Mr. Schiavoni said. “Our meetings are two weeks apart. If something is time sensitive—like a contract or something—and that’s the reason for the walk-on resolution, I think that is appropriate.”

Town Board member Julie Lofstad also said on Tuesday that walk-ons should be used for timely matters only. She added that when contracts are ending or when something needs to be serviced, walk-on resolutions are appropriate.

As far as the Bel-Aire Cove motel resolution being presented as a walk-on, Ms. Lofstad said she agreed that it may have been a simple oversight, and that it was supposed to be on the agenda originally. “If it would have been kept on, I think we would have been fine,” she said. “There are a lot of good reasons to walk on, but this one … I guess you can say time is of the essence.”

Ms. Lofstad also said one of the issues with walk-ons is that board members find out about them only 30 to 60 minutes before the meeting, limiting the amount of time they have to review the resolutions.

Regarding the motel resolution, Mr. Schneiderman reiterated that he thought there was an urgency to getting it approved, as he fears the owner of the motel may sell to another purchaser.

He maintains that there are no restrictions when it comes to introducing walk-on resolutions, other than having a super majority to agree.

“It’s something the town has done for years,” Mr. Schneiderman said, explaining that they are primarily used for time-sensitive matters. “I felt there was time sensitivity to Bel-Aire, but at the same time … I was willing to wait.”

Walk-on resolutions, at times, have had a muddy past in Southampton Town and the surrounding municipalities.

In 2010, former Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst presented a walk-on resolution that proposed taking $500,000 from an account set aside for preservation to make up the shortfall for the purchase of a home on Moses Lane in Southampton.

At the time, the other members of the Town Board were under the assumption that the funding for the purchase was vetted by the town attorney and Ms. Throne-Holst. Board member Nancy Graboski presented facts about the purchase along with a resolution to rescind the walk-on, and it was approved unanimously.

Months later, the board approved changes to the rules regarding resolutions, requiring a super majority for walk-on resolutions to be introduced.

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Keep it open. It’s a death trap for those poor people. Either fix it or knock it down and relocate the people. It’s out of control
By bigblue84 (63), Hampton Bays on Nov 6, 18 6:27 PM
It’s amazing how people relocate from places like, Smithtown, an than complain complain complain about how horrible the town is they moved to.
By toes in the water (692), southampton on Nov 6, 18 6:34 PM
???? - I don't understand your comment. Can you explain.
By HB Proud (887), Hampton Bays on Nov 6, 18 8:24 PM
This walk on was a disgrace and the way the Southampton Town Board along with Jay did it. The distrust continues with this board the from towns west of the canal of East Quogue, Hampton Bays and Flanders. There was no communication and the walk on rush is proof.

The right thing needs to be done. CPF !
By Hamptonsway (34), Southampton on Nov 6, 18 7:36 PM
This walk on was a disgrace and the way the Southampton Town Board along with Jay did it. The distrust continues with this board the from towns west of the canal of East Quogue, Hampton Bays and Flanders. There was no communication and the walk on rush is proof.

The right thing needs to be done. CPF !
By Hamptonsway (34), Southampton on Nov 6, 18 7:40 PM
I think the best way to describe what goes on in the Town Government is "institutional corruption" - nothing necessary illegal, just wrong. This is the place where facts, law and the truth go to die. The discussion about the Community Development Agency and who is actually buying this property and what they are going to do with it was like the Abott and Costello "who's on first routine. I give Councilperson Scalera and Lofstad for at least trying to get some information. Good luck with that.
By G.A.Lombardi (232), Hampton Bays on Nov 7, 18 8:38 AM
1 member liked this comment
Here we go again. The blighted canal and OBI sites finds a developer with beautiful projects and the local HB idiots hate it.
Today we have Jay Schneiderman who has a solution to get rid of a polluting, dangerous property, which floods the local school district and that's no good? Politics is a no win game.
By chief1 (2551), southampton on Nov 10, 18 4:51 PM
I don't think that anyone wants the site to stay a disaster they just don't understand what the town is going to do with it. They don't have a good track record with managing properties. Why would we think they'll get it right with this one?
By bb (819), Hampton Bays on Nov 12, 18 6:06 PM