One way or another, the question of rezoning the gateway area near the Thruway gets brought up at nearly all New Paltz Town Board meetings. On February 2, a resolution to officially create a special board of citizens to review that zoning was on the agenda, and that led to a number of critiques and questions by council members Jeff Logan and Marty Irwin, who have each registered their opposition to the project in clear terms. Largely they have each framed their concerns in terms of spending money on this committee and the associated moratorium that could be better spent on efforts such as developing a new comprehensive plan, but this night the two members of the minority each sought to worry out the details of the proposal before them.
Logan was fixated on what this group would be called. The resolution creating it, he pointed out, referred to both a “special board” and a “committee,” and the council member maintained that these terms have very different meanings under the law. He continued to push this as a problem despite the fact that Town Supervisor Neil Bettez assured him that the wording had been drafted by an attorney, which presumably means that it’s legal, and that he’d been advised the terms were essentially synonymous.
After providing a laundry list of small fixes to capitalization and such, Marty Irwin said he didn’t want to appoint anyone to this body until they were interviewed, and he had an opportunity to ask each candidate if they have ever spoken out against any particular project in the town. He and Logan have long maintained that rezoning this area, and particularly the development moratorium proposed, are intended to target the CVS application which has received considerable public opposition. They have lobbied unsuccessfully to have ongoing applications exempted, they have expressed concerns that this process will expose the town to indefensible lawsuits, and now Irwin was saying that appointing largely the same people who came up with the idea for a moratorium in the first place would do nothing to restore the credibility he believes has been lost along the way.
The rationale for simply adding people to the group which studied the suitability of a moratorium is that those volunteers are most familiar with the issues due to their months of study and analysis. Logan scoffed at that notion, singling out planner Susan Blickstein is “biased” and noting that no one among those named worked on the 2011 comprehensive planning process, which failed to yield a plan that was passed by the town council at that time. Logan is the only remaining member of that board who is still in office.
“I feel we have already made our decision,” Logan said.
Deputy Supervisor Daniel Torres said that he was of the opinion that it was “probably one of the most qualified boards appointed since I have been on the town board.” He also pointed out that the town’s elected body is interchangeably called a council and a board, and although Logan would not let that particular issue go, Irwin did come around and agree that the terms “special board” and “committee” appeared to likewise be synonyms.
JulieSeyfert-Lillis also took the opportunity to again decry the characterization that she is personally targeting the CVS project. “I’m not anti-development,” she said. “I’m looking at the whole district, and what will be good for the town.”
The motion passed 3-2 to create the new committee, as most votes do regarding this topic, but the conversation was far from done. An update on the moratorium itself was added to the end of the agenda, as Irwin and Logan wanted to know if the required changes imposed by members of the county planning board had been incorporated.
“The sense of urgency to pass this seemingly has disappeared,” Irwin observed, musing that the delay was strategic foot-dragging to give the newly-constituted special board more time to revise the zoning. “I want to vote on the moratorium soon,” he said.
Seyfert-Lillis told Irwin, “You’ve got it all wrong. We were advised to move expeditiously, but we were slowed down by you being uncomfortable with us moving too fast.”
Bettez suggested that one way to move forward more quickly would be to authorize another $1,000 for the legal work, which Logan quickly jumped on. “[Attorney Victoria Polidoro] said on public record” that the price was all-inclusive, he pointed out.
“Not anymore,” replied the supervisor.
That set Logan off on a tear, and he quickly leapfrogged from his opinions on Polidoro to Seyfert-Lillis being one of several people featured in a 2015 front-page New Paltz Times article about the problems some residents felt the CVS project could cause or exacerbate. Seyfert-Lillis pushed back against what she felt was Logan’s attempts to “tarnish the process,” as well as her own reputation.
As there was no motion being discussed and nothing else on the agenda, Bettez abruptly moved to adjourn the meeting because, as he said later, “we weren’t debating something, we were arguing.”
Logan, however, was not yet done. Multiple people were speaking simultaneously, and even after interviewing several of them the reports of what occurred are contradictory. Bettez recalls being called a moron, and both he and Seyfert-Lillis said that Logan called them more incompetent than Torres, with whom he has had a long feud. Torres goaded Logan, advising him that the first question he was asked in one high school government class he attended this year was, “Why is Jeff Logan so angry?” The evening concluded with Logan offering an obscene gesture and an invitation (either to Torres or members of the board generally, depending on who is asked) to perform an anatomically improbable act upon oneself.
Reached individually, Bettez and Seyfert-Lillis both said that the believe elected officials should be held to a higher standard of decorum than Logan demonstrated; the supervisor further said that several people had told him they believe that Logan’s behavior toward women including Seyfert-Lillis and attorney Polidoro is sexist. Logan did not respond to a request for comment by press time.