Most annual town reorganization meetings are short, uneventful and even a bit routine, as the Town Board approves a series of motions that sets the days for certain governmental meetings, designates what banks the town will use in the coming year, approves the standard reimbursement rate for business miles and affirms base salaries for a host of town positions, to name just a few. Last week’s reorganization meeting in Lloyd, however, was anything but routine, with the first moment of discord coming when the new Democratic majority voted not to reappoint Dave Plavchak to the Planning Board. The 3-2 vote went along party lines with Democrats Claire Winslow, Mike Guerriero and Joe Mazzetti voting no and Republicans Paul Hansut and Lenny Auchmoody voting yes. Plavchak has served on the Planning Board since 2010 and chaired it starting in January 2016. Following this vote Scott McCarthy was appointed to the Planning Board, also along party lines by a 3-2 vote.
Plavchak asked the board for an explanation.
“I am trying to get reasons as to why you want to change an incumbent Planning Board member to not be on the Planning Board,” he said.
Mazzetti said the appointment process is being properly followed, with the Town Board deciding if a particular person is to be appointed or not. Plavchak pressed Mazzetti further, pointing out that he had previously urged him to reapply. Mazzetti said other factors were recently brought to his attention that caused him to withdraw his support. He questioned Plavchak’s sole no vote on the Tremont Hall residential project, surmising that it was done for political gain during his unsuccessful run for the Town Board last fall. On the recently approved solar law, Mazzetti acknowledged that he did vote for it but after listening to the negative comments from residents on Perkinsville Road, where a large solar farm has been proposed, he made a motion later that evening to have the law rewritten to eliminate them from agricultural and residential districts in the town. This was also approved by a 3-2 vote along party lines. Mazzetti pointed out that Plavchak was the “point person [on the solar law] and pitched it one way and caused a lot of controversy in the community, so that’s why I’m basing my decision to change on that [reappointing Plavchak].”
Plavchak responded; “I really believe what you are doing is politicizing the [town] board; that’s fine, if that’s what you want to do, just say that,” he said, with his wife Darlene interjecting, “You are the one who has to go home and look in the mirror about it,” trailing off with “Claire you also have done nothing every time I saw you.”
Darlene later apologized to Winslow for her comments, but fully backed her husband.
“I am angry because I know that he does a great job and I have heard community members call my home in support of him…on a job well-done,” she said.
Winslow said she does not see “eye to eye” with the type of developments that Plavchak has supported, such as the Trail View Place off Toc Drive.
“So that was my choice to make the vote that I made. We’re looking for a change,” she said.
Planning Board member Larry Hammond pointed out that by the Town Board appointing McCarthy to the status of a full board member, they have by-passed two individuals who have been alternates on the Planning Board for two years.
Supervisor Hansut said he had spoken with most of the Planning Board members who were in support of Plavchak’s reappointment “and that is why he is on the agenda and the board has decided to go in another direction.”
The board tabled a motion to appoint Peter Brooks as the new chairman of the Planning Board, awaiting confirmation that he is interested in the position.
In the days following, Supervisor Hansut received resignation letters from Planing Board members Bill Ogden, Debra Dooley (alternate) and Nicki Anzivina. In his letter, Ogden said he could not continue serving on the Planning Board, saying, “the introduction of partisan politics into a neutral Town Board is in my view very ill-advised.”
Dooley stated that the Town Board has changed the existing Planning Board rules and were interjecting “partisan politics” while disregarding experienced candidates. She said the Democrats removed Plavchak from the board simply to “settle a debt with the Republicans.”
Nicki Anzivina said, “I can no longer, in good conscience, participate on a board that does not have the respect or consideration of our elected town officials,” finding it disappointing “that the opinions of the Planning Board members are considered irrelevant and that the Planning Board no longer has input on new appointments.”
In subsequent interviews, board members reflected on the action to not reappoint Plavchak.
Plavchak said he felt the Democrats justified a political, back-room deal by using “little things they didn’t even have facts on.” He said he was on vacation for the Trail View Place vote and his no vote on the Tremont Hall project was because of safety issues at the entrance/exit of the project that he felt were not adequately addressed by the Department of Transportation.
Plavchak said members of the Planning Board have worked very well together.
“We all had our own debates but at the end of a project or a meeting we were all on the same page of where everybody was,” he said. “They are very good people, we had a great working board.”
Mazzetti said friendships among board members are important but, “that doesn’t mean because you like someone that they need to stay in that position. We need people that are going to do what’s right for the community and move the town in the right direction.”
Supervisor Hansut pointed out that on the Planning Board, “You’ve got Republicans, you’ve got Democrats working together.”
Hansut said Democrats on the Town Board have stressed that proper procedures, qualifications and experience should be given priority when making appointments to the Planning Board. He said although Plavchak meets the criteria, the Democrats chose not to appoint him.
“You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Do you want to follow protocol and procedure and put people into places based on being an alternate or based on experience and qualifications or are you going to do it political and last night it was strictly political,” he said.
Hansut said some members of the Planning Board even offered to step down if Plavchak was allowed to stay and McCarthy would have been appointed to their spot.
“They were fixated in getting rid of Dave Plavchak, that’s the bottom line and there’s no ifs, ands, or buts. To say it’s not politically motivated I don’t think anybody with a reasonable sense of mind would think that its not,” he said. Winslow said Hansut should have brought the meeting under control “but he didn’t do that probably because he was happy to let it go on. I really felt he was unfair in that.”
Winslow said she ran for office because protecting the residents over developers is her priority and feels Plavchak and other Planning Board members have not held this view.
“I’m not giving anybody necessarily a hard time; I’m saying I look at things differently than they do. That is why I’m here and for me to push Dave forward would have been a slap in the face of the residents that got me into politics,” she said.
By Mark Reynolds