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Brocton, Portland evaluating Planning, Zoning Board mergers

OBSERVER Photo by Braden Carmen Portland Town Board member Tammy Thompson also serves as one of three members of the Village of Brocton Zoning Board of Appeals. Both municipalities are evaluating options with declining membership of the Planning and Zoning Boards.

PORTLAND — With both the town of Portland and the village of Brocton struggling to find and retain members on local Boards, the Chairmen of the Brocton and Portland Planning Boards each expressed an interest in merging with their respective neighbor at recent meetings.

“We have an issue here in the village that it’s hard to get members for both boards to step up,” said Brocton Planning Board Chairman Bill Westin.

At a previous Brocton Village Board meeting, the option of eliminating the Planning Board to merge with the Zoning Board of Appeals. In that scenario, Brocton would have one Board overseeing the present duties of both the Planning Board and the Zoning Board of Appeals. The Village is required to have a Zoning Board of Appeals, but not required to have a Planning Board.

At the next monthly Portland Town Board meeting after Brocton’s discussion on the matter, Portland Planning Board Chairman Dale Carlson addressed the topic. He stated that a recent annual training he attended, municipalities were urged not to merge the two boards into one all-encompassing Zoning Board of Appeals, calling that option a “last resort.”

Carlson suggested the town and the village instead partner to merge both of their current Planning and Zoning Boards to create one Planning Board and one Zoning Board of Appeals to serve both the Town and the Village.

A week after Carlson’s comments at the Portland Town Board meeting, Westin attended the monthly Brocton Village Board meeting to suggest the same approach.

The shared Planning and Zoning Boards would be agreed upon as a shared services agreement, similar to many other shared services between the Town and the Village, including the Highway Department, Dog Control, and Code Enforcement. Portland Town Supervisor Rich Lewis also serves as the Waste Water Treatment Supervisor for the Village of Brocton, while Brocton Zoning Board member Tammy Thompson is also a member of the Portland Town Board.

The Portland Planning Board currently consists of Carlson, Harold Smith, Mike McIntyre, Dave Travis, and Robert Patterson, Sr., with the need for two alternates. The Portland Zoning Board of Appeals has just three members: Mike Riforgiato, Mike Felsman and Lowell Reynolds.

The Brocton Planning Board currently consists of Westin, Bill Maher, Steve Mawhir, and Terry Presto, with a need for alternates, as well. Like Portland, the Brocton Zoning Board of Appeals consists of only three members: Signe Rominger, Tammy Thompson and Donna Frost, with one of the three members expressing a desire to resign. Members of the Planning Board have also expressed a desire to step down within the coming years.

“(The Zoning Board) somehow would have to come up with 3-4 members, and the Planning Board would have to come up with 3-4 members,” Westin said.

Carlson also noted that at the recent training he attended, he learned that there is a statewide issue regarding recruiting and retaining members for Planning and Zoning Boards. Carlson asked why there has not been any interest from the public, and also shared a belief that if residents were more informed of the duties of the Planning and Zoning Boards, there would be more of an interest.

“In my opinion, if this town expects to recruit valuable resources from its citizens, it needs to figure out how to effectively communicate and recruit,” Carlson said.

Lewis later highlighted that two Village Trustees were elected this past November after both ran unopposed.

“It’s a general disinterest in society in general,” Lewis said.

No final decision has been made on the issue. If a merger between the municipalities were to take place, both the Town Board and the Village Board would need to approve the agreement before it takes effect.

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