Village of New Paltz Planning Board Chairman John Litton has requested that starting in September, all Board members and applicants appear in person at meetings rather than attending remotely.
Litton’s remarks came at the beginning of a Planning Board meeting held on Tuesday, August 16, during which board member Rachel Lagodka appeared virtually, along with several applicants and others associated with applications under review. Litton said that, while the board has allowed for remote appearances during the COVID-19 pandemic, the practice has led to an increase of testy exchanges.
“During live meetings with in person attendance, a greater level of civility and commodity occurs,” Litton said. “This is a volunteer board, members are taking time out of their week to prepare and out of their day to attend, so they deserve the utmost respect. And in turn, the applicants deserve the same respect. This seems to be accorded better when parties are present in attendance and seated before each other. A remote appearance does not appear to provide that same level of civility.”
At a Planning Board meeting held on Tuesday, August 2, board members clashed with Woodland Pond CEO Michelle Gramoglia and Kevin Bernstein, an attorney with Syracuse-based Bond, Schoeneck & King, with some board members, and both applicants appearing virtually. Last week, Litton said that such setups can cause friction simply because of the limitations of virtual meetings.
“Please understand the technology we are employing does not allow for a conversation when voices are raised talking over each other, and when interruptions occur, the meetings devolve into rancorous arguments. With that in mind, I’m asking the applicants to allow conversations and statements between board members and their consultants and attorneys to occur uninterrupted. Likewise, the board will allow you to present and answer uninterrupted.”
Litton said he hoped in-person meetings will help minimize the likelihood of tension.
“This is not a court of law, this is a volunteer Planning Board,” Litton said. “In short, I ask that we remember and practice the same rule we learned in elementary school: Be polite, do not shout or yell, do not interrupt, speak in an indoor voice. And once again, be polite.”
The next meeting of the Village of New Paltz Planning Board is scheduled for Tuesday, September 6.