Huntington Town Councilwoman Susan Berland's efforts to reform
the Zoning Board of Appeals came to fruition late Tuesday night when town board
members voted unanimously to pass her "tiebreaking" legislation.
Berland's legislation, Resolution #672-2002, "Amending the code
of the town of Huntington, Chapter 198 (Zoning), Article 16 (Board of Appeals)
Section 198-112 (Rules as to Procedure; Hearings; Notice)," establishes ZBA
procedures in instances where the vote is tied and the remaining board members
have not attended the hearing at issue. The resolution mandates full and
complete hearing of the merits by the remaining Board members before they can
vote on the application at issue.
Berland sponsored the legislation to safeguard town residents
against future Tall Trees cases. In the 1998 case of Tall Trees vs. Huntington
Zoning Board of Appeals, a court cited the ZBA for non-action (tie) votes taken
on applications and rampant member absences. Presently, in the event of a tie,
an absent member of the board is called in at a later date to vote.
The measure regulates the board by outlining procedures for
that member who will cast the deciding vote. The absent member, before casting a
vote, must first visit the site and review the minutes and record of the public
hearing. The Zoning Board of Appeals must then schedule a public hearing to
supplement the initial public hearing and allow the public and applicant to
present their views before deciding member.
The goal of this proposal is to ensure informed voting action
is taken on all applications that come before the board. A lack of even one
member of the board unjustly puts the applicant and residents at a disadvantage
by leaving a window open for a tie vote.
"This proposal will cut through the bureaucratic red tape, and
prevent uninformed decisions that may later have an adverse impact on our
communities. An informed decision is the best decision," explained Berland.