Creating a single board is contrary to the intent of Altamont’s overall plan

For the editor:
Altamont Village Council has proposed a local law dissolving the Zoning Appeal Board and Planning Board and creating a new ZBA to perform both functions [“Objections raised to abolishing planning board,” The Altamont Enterprise, Feb. 4, 2022].

At the February village board meeting, several former village officials – Administrator Dean Whalen; ZBA President Maurice McCormick; and myself, a former administrator, strongly opposed this plan. All three had been intimately involved in the creation of the overall plan and all pointed out that this one-board creation was contrary to the intent of the compensation plan.

New York’s enabling zoning laws (state laws that give cities, towns, and villages the power to pass local zoning laws) require that zoning laws be passed in accordance with a comprehensive plan. The global plan should form the backbone of the local zoning law.

The same is true for the various functions of the planning board. Each council has its own function and serves as a system of checks and balances to preserve the unique character and charm of the village, as outlined in the overall plan for Altamont.

Board members said it would save money. The question was asked, “How much?” And they couldn’t tell what it was. How can you undertake a radical restructuring without having this information at your fingertips?

The Enterprise estimated it to be around $4,000, a drop in the ocean and a very small price to pay to preserve Altamont’s Victorian character. Go to Google Earth and see an aerial view of the village. A rough estimate is that only about 30-35% of the village retains its Victorian heritage. We are losing it one piece at a time.

Streamlining the process was also mentioned as a reason. Rationalize it for whom? So what if someone who wants a swerve or wants to do something outside of the character of the village has to go back and forth multiple times? The council is there to preserve the character of the village, not to serve developers.

Finally, the question of transparency, or the lack thereof, has constantly been raised over the past few years and in particular with various vacancies on the Board of Directors. Each time, the administration took offense at this suggestion. This potential board restructuring provides an excellent opportunity to address the issue.

Even if the restructuring does not take place, a village law regarding the open and public process for filling vacancies should be adopted. If restructuring takes place, an open and public process should be incorporated. To this effect, I proposed the following to the Board of Directors at the February meeting.

When a vacancy occurs in a position of council, village council, zoning appeals council or any other council, permanent or temporary, whose actions will have a significant impact on the village, such as the reference committee, all such positions must be advertised publicly in all locally available media including, but not limited to, The Enterprise, the Village Bulletin Board on Main Street, the Village website and Nixle. Candidates may express interest and submit resumes if they wish and the Mayor and Trustees will review and nominate one or more candidates subject to a public vote by the Village Council.

Harvey Vlahos

Altamont