G’town board punts again on naming plan review team

GERMANTOWN–The tension was audible between board members and some residents in the audience at the June 21 Town Board meeting.

During the public comment period at the end of the meeting, Jeremy Smith, a school board member and former councilman, said that due to a discussion a week earlier about the Comprehensive Plan Review Committee, “we expected a decision from the board this week about committee members but you haven’t even mentioned it tonight.”

“We didn’t have time to put something together,” said Brittany DuFresne, deputy supervisor, who chaired the June 21 meeting in the absence of Supervisor Joel Craig.

“What is your process for choosing people for the committee?” said Ellen Jouret-Epstein from the audience. “What are your criteria?”

“We want a wide range of residents–business owners, young people, long-time residents and representatives from the different advisory committees, such as economic development and history,” said Ms. DuFresne. “We’re trying to get a well-rounded group of people.”

Ms. Jouret-Epstein offered advice. “Given what volunteers you have, you look at how they fit in, you ID the holes and then try to fill the holes,” she said.

“We’re also trying to figure out what the process would be regarding the consultant to the committee,” said Ms. DuFresne. “That’s all we’re going to say tonight.”

“We have to wait until the July board meeting?” asked Mr. Smith.

“We will do it in open session,” said Ms. DuFresne.

“I’m very disappointed,” said Mr. Smith.

Discussion between the board and residents about appointing a committee to review the town’s 2007 Comprehensive Plan began last fall, when Supervisor Craig said that he would wait to appoint until after the November election, which would bring in two new board members.

Ms. DuFresne and Matthew Phelan were elected, and discussion has continued this year. At the March 22 Town Board meeting, resident Kay Abraham expressed her disappointment that three months into the new year, no committee had been appointed.

At that meeting, Mr. Craig said that trying to find the right person to lead the committee was part of the delay.

At the April 26 Town Board meeting, Ms. DuFresne told the board, “We need to get people on the Comprehensive Plan and Waterfront Committees. What we’ve been doing hasn’t been working.

“We need an open discussion of the goals of the committees, with those interested,” she continued. “Joel [Craig] has a list of who’s approached him. We should try to make a decision by the May meeting.”

At that same April meeting Ms. Jouret-Epstein said, “I’m not sure that everyone realizes they can contact you about the Comprehensive Plan Committee.”

Ms. Abraham, unable to attend the May 24 Town Board meeting, sent an email urging the board to appoint a Comprehensive Plan Review Committee. Town clerk Joyce Vale read the email aloud. It drew no comment until late in the meeting, when Ms. DuFresne said she wanted to respond to it.

“We tried to get a mixed group of 10 residents and businesses, but it didn’t work out,” she said. “Response was lacking. Now we’re looking into working with a professional.”

The town has a $5,000 matching grant from the Hudson River Valley Greenway for a review of the plan, and that, Ms. DuFresne said at the May 24 meeting, “will cover this cost” for the professional consultant.

“We’ll do this in the next month,” she said. “We have enough residents to form a small group who will work with this professional.”

(The following paragraphs were omitted from the original online post of this story.–Ed.)

Then the June 21 meeting passed with no decision on the matter.

Reached after that meeting, Mr. Smith said he believes that hiring a consultant would cost more than the available funds.

Ms. Jouret-Epstein said after the June 21 meeting that “people have come forward” to serve on the committee.

The conversation started well before last fall, she added. “I wrote a memo to the board in April 2015, which was read at the April 2015 Town Board meeting. I suggested a process.”

In a telephone conversation after the meeting, Supervisor Craig said, “We’re still having discussions about the next steps. The board needs to reach a consensus on how we want to approach the Comprehensive Plan review.

“I’m one of five,” he noted.

The process appears likely to continue at the July 26 Town Board meeting.


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