Category “Zoning Board of Appeals”

TRUST- the “glue” that BINDS the people AND government

Where PUBLIC TRUST starts!

One sad aspect of the closed-to-the-public government in the Town of Amherst during this time of a pandemic is going to be the possible lingering impression somehow town government likes it that way. This is not good for anyone, either the public or town government because it can erode the public trust of town government.

Historically public participation in town government has been lackluster at best, with only a few residents bothering to come to Town Board meetings, and even fewer to Planning Board or Zoning Board of Appeals meetings. Of course there have been times when public attendance at a specific Town Board or other meeting has been “through the roof”, but these are rare. The recent upset with the proposed changes to the Audubon Golf Course comes to mind here.

It is understandable that knowing that public participation at Town Board meeting is normally quite small that the Supervisor would conclude that there was no need to allow the public to “attend” a video only Town Board meeting. But the recent large and complex Planning Board and ZBA agendas tell another story to those willing to listen.  The Planning Board chairman can be heard on the April 23rd meeting video stating loudly and often that no public comments would be allowed based on the Supervisor’s Executive Orders to that effect.

One blatant example that comes to mind immediately is the seemingly fast and furious effort of the Planning Board and ZBA to move a specific project located on Park Club Lane as quickly as possible past all the hurdles it faced with little/no public participation or potential public opposition.  What makes this process even more suspicious is that the attorney for the petitioner and his support people were allowed to present their arguments for the project inactively over video while all public attendees were continuously muted and could only listen! At one point there were 52 people on this video meeting, but ONLY the Planning Board members, appropriate town staff, or agents for the petitioner could speak (i.e., were NOT muted)

The Town Board was also busy this year providing “Relief of Zoning Condition” for a project on Park Club Lane. Check out Resolution 2020-215  passed at the March 6th Town Board meeting just before the Supervisor’s first Executive Order of March 15th.

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MISSING: Public participation at Town Public Meetings this week!

This is a full week for Amherst Town government activity.

1. The Town Board “meets” on Monday, April 20 at 4 pm.
2. The Zoning Board of Appeals “meets” on Tuesday, April 21 at 6:30 pm.
3. The Planning Board “meets” on Thursday,  April 23 at 6:30 pm.  (“Pre-meeting” at 6 pm)

Link to Agendas :   http://amherstny.iqm2.com/citizens/

The agenda content for each of these “meeting” is full, in fact very full as if for the Town of Amherst, the corona virus pandemic is not happening.   It’s business as usual, and get as much done as possible regardless of the collateral damage to meetings caused by the pandemic.

But there is one thing that is different, actually overwhelming different.  It appears ways of fully including the public in the process of a “public meeting” do not yet exist.  While it is clear that the corona virus pandemic makes public gathering almost impossible at this time, it is also clear that the the town hasn’t yet found OR proven it has an minimally adequate replacement.

The Town of Amherst must first PROVE, not ASSUME, that the Zoom Meetings videoconferencing process it is attempting to use for the first time for ZBA and Planning Board meetings is “good enough” to support robust and meaningful public participation.  Starting with meetings that contain heavily loaded agendas,  where some of these items appear both complex and controversial is asking for trouble.

So start simple, reduce the number of agenda items and put off the controversial ones for a month or two. Work out the problems with Zoom Meetings videoconferencing, and if it is not good enough, find a better way and test that method. But don’t fail to adequately provide for public participation by insisting to schedule large agendas where public participation is not properly supported.


ALSO ...

  • Town Board: The Town Board “meeting” this Monday does not even support any meaningful or effective form of public participation. No live streaming. just a video posted later. The justification appears to be that since this “meeting” has no public hearing, no live streaming and no public expression is OK.
  • Planning Board: Also it appears the Planning Board agenda is a “double stuff” one, at least two months of REGULAR agenda items crammed into one. Actually it might even be more than that, so this agenda is even more suspicious than usual as to why it is NOW so full.

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New Way for Important Government Meetings in Amherst

The Town Board, Zoning Board of Appeals, and Planning Board meetings for the month of April will held remotely using videoconferencing software. While this is the right way to protect the board members, town employees and public from potential viral infection, it also makes it more difficult to have a public meeting that is truly public.

The ZBA announced it would use Zoom videoconferencing for its April 21, 2020 meeting with the meeting id and password on the Town of Amherst (TOA) website. The Planning Board later followed with its own Zoom videoconferencing meeting id and password for its April 23, 2020 meeting.

TOA website link: http://www.amherst.ny.us/content/track-us.php

The Town Board held its March 25th and April 6th meetings using remote videoconferencing software, but decided not to publish the meeting id’s or passwords. Will they do this for the next Town Board meeting?

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One Million Trees or Tree Hypocrite?

Supervisor Kulpa’s Plant One Million Trees initiative is a laudable goal and has won accolades around town. However, this effort is poised to be undermined before tree one is planted by the Town Board appointees on the ZONING BOARD OF APPEALS at their meeting on Tuesday night.

Northtown Automotive continues to land grab any available space near its ever expanding Sheridan Drive sea of asphalt. Recently, Northtown paved over its newly acquired properties located at 3890-3930 Sheridan Drive & 621 Getzville Road from its frontage on Sheridan Drive all the way back to the 290. The completed project was required, under zoning code 7-2-4 (A) & 7-2 4(A)(2), to have installed landscaped screening on the parcels northern edges. In typical arrogant-developer manner, Northtown ignored the landscaping requirements and, when called on their non-compliance by the town landscape architect, they filed an after-the-fact variance request to retroactively approve their bad behavior ignoring the tree planting requirements.

It would clearly be the height of hypocrisy if the Kulpa appointed ZBA approves this outrageous request and lets Northtown skate on meeting basic landscaping requirement in place for all projects.

Hey, Northown, we are not only Not coming there first, we’re not coming there at all unless you start acting like a good neighbor. Plant the trees as required and rescind the variance request.

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