New Paltz Village Planning Board members spent a portion of their July 19 meeting figuring out how to relate to the village’s newly-minted Environmental Policy Board (EPB), the successor to the old Environmental Policy Commission (EPC). The designation of “board” enables its members to provide comment on Planning Board applications, and exactly how to do that was a focus of the discussion. Guy Kempe appeared as an EPB member, along with village trustee Don Kerr, who was one of the EPC’s charter members. The comments provided will be taken under consideration by Planning Board members during the wider review process.
According to Kerr, the purpose of the meeting was to establish “standard operating procedures, to make sure there is harmony, not a burden” by adding the additional layer to the process.
The three members of the EPB who will be reviewing applications may also take a look at the existing open space in the village — creating an inventory of such space was the final requirement before the village board could transform the EPC into the EPB — and lay out some of the preexisting conditions which Planning Board members should be aware of when applications are filed. Environmental board member Rachel Lagodka had already begun that process, he said.
Planning Board chairman Michael Zierler liked the idea of the open space review, and also wanted a chance for members of his board to review that inventory for themselves. There are only 11-14 properties on the list, leading Kempe to suggest that any application tied to one of them could be flagged so that applicants could be urged to consult with the EPB early on in the process.
Zierler saw another advantage, in that EPB members might be able to help identify natural resources on other lots, such as wetlands, rock outcroppings, and forests which should be preserved. Kerr said that should not only be welcome news at the next EPB meeting, but to members of the Shade Tree Commission, as well.
Not every application before the Planning Board will rise to the level of needing that much environmental review, Zierler said, but he agreed to arrange for access to all the files so that they can make their own determination on each application. Should they wish to comment, Zierler asked that they provide their input in writing and no later than one week prior to the Planning Board meeting so that the commentary can be reviewed ahead of time. He said that they could even make comments in person, if they feel “it rises to that level.” The EPB only meets the fourth Thursday of each month.
On the question of consulting the consultants, and whether EPB members would have the opportunity to ask village-retained professionals clarifying questions, that will all be run through Zierler so that he can monitor costs. “I prefer to minimize the use of escrow accounts,” he explained; while ultimately those bills are paid for by the applicant, he is trying to keep costs from ballooning unnecessarily. That will also make it cleaner when complying with freedom of information law requests, he noted, and keeps Planning Board members aware of everything occurring in relation to a particular application.