It’s official: Longtime Gardiner Planning Board chair Mike Boylan has not been reappointed to that board, effective immediately. In a closely split vote at its May 2 workshop meeting, the Gardiner Town Board selected environmental attorney Josh Verleun from among several applicants to fill the planning board seat that opened up with the expiration of Boylan’s most recent seven-year term at the end of April.
According to councilwoman Laura Walls, Boylan’s vice-chair, Paul Colucci, will “step into the void for now,” serving as chair pro tempore until the planning board officially votes on its recommendation for which of its members should be appointed to replace Boylan as chair. Confirmation of that appointment ultimately rests with the town board.
Walls, who made the motion to appoint Verleun to the planning board, told the New Paltz Times that Verleun had made a “generally excellent presentation” when interviewed by a subcommittee consisting of herself and councilman David Dukler. “He actually came in to interview for a position on the DBA [Downtown Business Association]. Then he said, ‘I just heard about the planning board position, and I’d prefer to be interviewed for that,’” Walls related. “We posed a variety of situations to him and asked what he would do…problem-solving questions.”
Both interviewers were apparently impressed, as it was Dukler who seconded the motion for Verleun’s appointment. A relatively recent transplant to Gardiner from New York City, Verleun headed the Law Review at Pace University Law School during his student years, Walls noted, and is a former member of the legal staff at the environmental organization Riverkeeper. According to Verleun’s own webpage, he is certified as a LEED Green Associate and currently works as “senior legal editor environmental” for the Thomson Reuters news agency’s online resource Practical Law. He and his wife are also the proprietors of a company called Between the Sheets that manufactures “sustainable” lingerie and loungewear.
Councilman Mike Reynolds joined Walls and Dukler in supporting Verleun’s appointment, saying that it was “important for us to take a look at a fresh perspective.” While expressing appreciation for his many years of service to the town in a “thankless job,” he termed Boylan’s ouster “something that’s been brewing for a while…. People are energized by this issue.” Much of the most vocal opposition to Boylan came from past and present members of Gardiner’s Environmental Conservation Commission and their supporters, who alleged that he had refused to hear their input at planning board meetings regarding several controversial development proposals in recent years.
Councilman John Hinson and town supervisor Marybeth Majestic both voted against Verleun’s appointment. Reminding them once again that they had endorsed Boylan’s reappointment as planning board chair at the January 2017 organizational meeting, Hinson urged his fellow town board members to “vote ‘no’ and defer this decision until we have a plan to deal with a change in the chair, rather than rushing into this…. There’s going to be chaos and confusion about leadership, how to go forward.”
For her part, Supervisor Majestic expressed frustration at the amount of “negativity” that she had received from the community regarding Boylan. “I wish we got this much involvement at every town board meeting, and we don’t,” she said ruefully. “I have heard more about this than anything else. Some of the words used to me have included ‘blackmail’ and ‘discrimination against women.’” Citing Boylan’s nearly 25 years of service to the town, she added, “We’re down to one farmer. If the suggestion is bringing in a second environmental attorney to the planning board, I don’t see how that’s bringing diversity.” The only female member of the that body at present is attorney Carol Richman.
Echoing Reynolds’ call for a “fresh perspective,” Walls later told the Times that her primary concern for the Planning Board’s future direction was “healthy organizational requirements.” She noted that in 2007, New York State set up guidelines specifying that municipal planning and zoning officials must get four hours of training annually. She alleged that, although Boylan had received the required training in 2016, in previous years his participation in the state program had been “sporadic.” On account of this, she said, “In my view, he simply was not eligible for reappointment.”
“This is very important to me,” said Walls. “Municipal governance is a very dynamic field. We have to evolve and grow with it.”