Members of the public interested in watching or participating in Village of New Paltz Planning Board meetings may be interested in learning about new procedures being put into place. Comments will be offered directly in the future, as they are at village board meetings. It also appears likely that meetings will be starting earlier, barring significant opposition; while comment on the idea of starting meetings at 6 p.m. was invited, the way board chair John Litton has spoken about the change in subsequent emails signals that the decision to do this has already been made.
Throughout the pandemic, public comment for planning board meetings has been submitted in writing via email, or by posting a comment alongside the live video feed. That’s no longer a workable solution; Litton said that it’s the comments during the meeting that are particularly challenging to manage. Taking a page from the procedures used by the village trustees all this time, future planning board agendas will include the link to participate in the conference directly. That has led to some lengthy conversations between elected officials and residents at those village board meetings, but those tangents will not be accepted by planning board members. Those wishing to speak will be relegated to the “waiting room” feature, unable to interact with anyone else through the software, until they are granted leave to speak their piece. There are several projects for which planning board review is expected to draw significant interest among members of the public, and this change is intended to make the whole process easier to manage. The entire comment period will be limited to 15 minutes per meeting.
Starting meetings earlier is an idea that, according to Litton’s remarks during the June 1 meeting, is presently being discussed among board members. Those same projects that will need a more controlled comment process — such as New Paltz Apartments, a mixed-use development in the “pit” parcel near village hall, and another mixed-use project in the neighborhood-business-residential district along North Chestnut Street — have resulted in a “discussion” about moving the start time to 6 p.m. At the time, Litton said that some board members support the change, while others feel it may conflict with other obligations.
Litton said not once, but twice, that comments about that idea should be submitted to the board’s secretary for distribution to members. However, responding to an emailed comment about the change, Litton wrote in part, “Beginning at an earlier time will allow for the sessions to run their time and to be as long as we need in order to study the matters at hand. We had the interests of the board members and the applicants in mind when this was suggested,” suggesting that the decision may have already been made, regardless of what was said during the meeting. Regardless of when such a public meeting is held, notice must be provided according to the state’s open meetings law, section 7 of the public officers law.