By Katherine Donlevy
The Town of Marlborough Planning Board invited its Town Board colleagues to its Dec. 21 meeting to discuss and resolve statements raised by Councilman Scott Corcoran that there were procedural issues that were delaying land use, special permit and such applications.
“I take issue with Mr. Corcoran’s statement that the process is broken in Marlborough,” Planning Board Chairperson Chris Band said. “In short, Mr.Corcoran’s assertions regarding the Planning Board are wrong and he seems to not fully grasp the process. In fact, the current Planning Board is highly effective and the dedicated and knowledgeable individuals who serve on there work tirelessly to ensure that the process is effective in regards to time, cost and outcomes for projects under its review.”
Brand referenced comments made by Corcoran at the Town Board’s Dec. 14, which was subsequently quoted in a Dec. 16 Southern Ulster Times story. The councilman called the process “broken,” adding that applicants are frequently told to return before the board on multiple occasions, thus extending the length of time before approval.
Corcoran suggested some ways to streamline the process, such as contacting applications via email to let them know there are issues with their application prior to the meeting so that they could potentially remedy the inaccuracies or missing information beforehand. Fellow Councilman Allan Koenig agreed with Corcoran that procedures should be subject to change. Both Town Board members were absent from the Monday meeting.
Reading from a prepared statement, Brand noted that close collaboration and consultation with community residents, professional representatives, attorneys, engineers and a myriad of governmental municipalities which although time consuming, is imperative for making informed decisions on applications.
“Certainly one can see how the coordination of providing and receiving feedback from these entities can often result in a time consuming process,” Brand said. “In all my time as member and board chairman of the Planning Board, we have reviewed and approved hundreds of projects within the Town of Marlborough. We have also worked diligently to improve the process.”
As chance would have it, the Planning Board was in the midst of streamlining its application process during the Town Board’s arguments. Led by board member James Garofalo, the board is revising the checklist in an effort to make it more concise, including adding all affiliated party contact information for easy communication. It would also rearrange required information into a more comprehensive and less redundant manner so that related information would be grouped together. Later at the Dec. 21 meeting, the Planning Board made a motion to send the revised checklist to Attorney Pat Hines for evaluation.
“As a current member of the Town board, Mr. Corcoran and other members of this legislative body have the sole authority to modify the rules and regulations which we are responsible to adhere to as members of the Planning Board,” Brand continued. “I respectfully suggest if Mr. Corcoran or any other members of the Town Board are dissatisfied with the current regulations that they enact immediate legislation to remedy these procedural problems.”
Town Supervisor Al Lanzetta hopped on the call to assert his belief that the process by which the Planning Board operates is a sturdy one. He had defended it at the Dec. 14 Town Board meeting, citing the town code as vital. He had said that if an applicant adheres to the checklist and other rules then they wouldn’t be asked to reappear more than necessary.
“I think it’s working. Sometimes people get a little frustrated; I understand that. Sometimes a lot of people that come to the Planning Board and their checklist hasn’t been checked off on every single item and they look for guidance from the Planning Board and sometimes that leads to them coming back because of not having an engineer or trying to do it themselves. That’s their prerogative,” Lanzetta said, a sentiment that the attending Town Board and Planning Board members agreed with.
Board member Manny Cauchi admitted he could see a “nugget of truth” in both sides of the argument and used an application from earlier in the meeting as an example — HSC Milton LLC submitted a lot line revision and site plan application to build a Dollar General and was asked to return to next month’s meeting with missing information: a Department of Transportation traffic study to be sent to Ulster County, to respond to technical comments left by Hines and to provide a lot line change map of the property’s two parcels. In addition to the required information, the Planning Board asked the applicant representatives to inquire about installing a fire sprinkler system, a bicycle rack and a sidewalk between the property and Route 9, none of which the applicant is legally obligated to include.
“These Dollar General people, they work all with budgets,” Cauchi said. “If a project is beyond their budget they’re just going to scrap their budget, say it’s too expensive and move someplace else … Let me tell you something, if they move on it’s going to set a bad example for our community that there’s no way for big corporations like Dollar General to come in and not be able to do any business there.”
There was a brief argument about whether requests such as the latter three are warranted. Some members said bicycle racks would increase ridership in the area and tourism to the district, which the town hopes to grow commercially, as well as shape the personality of the town, while sprinkler systems are purely for safety. Cauchi worried the additional requests would intimidate and scare off the applicants.
The Dollar General application could be near the end of its Planning Board journey, however. If the application and its representatives can acquire the legally requested materials in the coming weeks, a public hearing could be scheduled as soon as Jan. 4 or at that meeting. The Board unanimously declared itself the project’s lead agency during the meeting.