Members of the Southampton Town Board are looking at ways they can reduce the personnel costs of the zoning board of appeals and the planning board while retaining the same number of members sitting on each board.
Two related resolutions would shrink each board from seven members to five, saving approximately $80,000 according to town officials. At public hearings last week, no community members spoke in favor of or against the plan.
Councilwoman Nancy Graboski, R-Bridgehampton, having serves on the planning board for nine years herself, said she voted against shrinking the board when it came up two years ago. “Land use is a hot-button issue,” she said, adding that the board deals with tough decisions and “wrangle with the processes.” But now she favors the idea, in light of the economic climate and , she said.
Graboski noted that when she joined the planning board in 1991, it had just five members, and it was expanded to seven a year or two later.
Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, I-Sag Harbor, said she too voted against it two years ago but is now in support of the idea, citing cost reductions that could save one or two full-time jobs.
To achieve the savings without losing the diversity of viewpoints on the boards, Councilman Jim Malone, C-Hampton Bays, pitched the idea of putting two unpaid, nonvoting members on each board, to replace the two voting members who would be lost.
As the board members discussed their options with Deputy Town Attorney Kathleen Murray, the idea arose that the town board, without the need for a public hearing or code change, could keep all seven seats on each the board, and just not pay two members of each board. All members would have voting rights.
Councilwoman Bridget Fleming, D-Noyac, voted against closing the public hearings, so members of the public could comment on the new ideas being explored.
However, the rest of the board members voted to close the hearings, so votes on the legislation could be held in time for the 2012 budget adoption.
Throne-Holst said the options could be subject to the public hearings on the proposed 2012 town budget.