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Letter to the Editor: R'Ville Planning Board in Disarray

Written By Cicero on 2/25/15 | 2/25/15

Dear Editor:

Last week’s Times-Journal reported that the Town of Richmondville was claiming that it had difficulty finding people to serve on its Planning Board. That could not be further from the truth. The Town has steadfastly refused to advertise vacant positions on the board, refused to conduct public interviews of people willing to serve (something other towns do) and repeatedly rejected qualified candidates, some of whom have extensive planning and zoning experience. The Town has not had difficulty finding qualified candidates, only difficulty finding individuals willing to pretend that local land use and environmental regulations don’t apply to political cronies and that the role of the Planning Board is to rubber stamp proposals from local developers.
The Town of Richmondville Planning Board has a notorious history that includes taking just a few minutes to issue a slap dash environmental approval of the proposed Maranatha facility, ignoring a voluminous archeological report warning that the proposed facility would have a significant negative impacts and then being forced to withdraw that approval only to reissue a second and then a third approval after each was challenged. The Planning Board ultimately admitted, in a letter signed by their secretary, that the environmental approval was given for the sole purpose of allowing the developer to gain access to tax payer funded grant monies. We all know how that turned out.
The same Planning Board acted with such disregard for standards of behavior that it was issued a letter of admonishment by the Town Board and Town Attorney regarding conflicts of interest and the appearance of impropriety, which they subsequently ignored.
The Planning Board is led by a chairman who, despite years in the position, often appears to struggle with even a basic understanding of local zoning regulations, requiring the Board secretary to repeatedly remind him of the process that must be followed. That same chairman erroneously advised his board that they could quickly issue a permit for a proposed massive pipeline staging area along Route 7 without a site plan review and environmental assessment. It is unclear if a total lack of understanding of the law or some other factor motivated his misstatements. Certainly the fact that his family later received nearly $70,000 in payments from the pipeline company does not help the public perception. After the Center for Sustainable Rural Communities stepped in, the Planning Board was advised by the Town Attorney to conduct the appropriate reviews before issuing permits for the pipeline staging area.
Observing the actions of the Town of Richmondville Planning Board at any monthly meeting is an eye opening experience. They careen through the approval process basing their decisions on irrelevant anecdotes and preconceived notions instead of facts and reach their conclusions with a shocking lack of thoroughness.
Unfortunately, the Town Planning Board deliberations will likely continue to be some of the most dysfunctional in the region because under Supervisor Lape’s stewardship the Town Board is not willing to do anything about it.
But there is hope for change. The Village Trustees and Mayor Neary can refuse to sink to the Town’s level and insist that a Joint Planning Board reject political cronyism, incompetence and conflicts of interest and conduct itself in a manner that respects the residents of Richmondville as well as the planning and zoning process. If the Village can’t secure those assurances they should stay as far away from the Town Planning Board as possible so as not to be party to the embarrassing spectacle that poses as governance in the Town of Richmondville.
Bob Nied
Board of Directors
Center for Sustainable Rural Communities
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Norie61 said...

Truly, how can these things keep happening? Are these things even legal? How can one gain a huge sum of money and work for the very people who issue permits etc.Is that not a conflict of interest? Has anyone filed a complaint to the AG?I don't for the life of me, understand how people just sit by and keep electing these incompetent people in, and let them get away with it. What the hell is it going to take before people get their dander up and do something about the wrongs of these people. Please people take responsibility.

Unknown said...

The Attorney General’s office has acknowledged that there are clear conflicts of interest and improper activities in Richmondville but actually said that because this type of corruption is so widespread in local government that they don’t have the resources or mandate to pursue it! I once thought that there was a monetary threshold that had to be hit before the AG would act. Given that millions of dollars in taxpayer money was squandered by the Maranatha project and no one was indicted, it would appear that there is no such threshold. - Bob Nied

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