By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
RICHFIELD SPRINGS – The fat’s on the fire in the Town of Richfield, and may be until a new town board is installed after Jan. 1.
About 70 people descended on the RSCS cafeteria this evening for two hours of polite but divided opinion on a new comprehensive plan and associated zoning code. Some say the plan and code were developed by West End neighbors to block the five-turbine Monticello Hills Wind Farms, and that the resulting documents are too restrictive.
About 20 people spoke. Then the action began.
Hearing over, a town board meeting was called to order, and it surfaced that three West End allies – Council members Larry Frigault, Rex Seamon and Kane Seamon – have scheduled a meeting for 7 p.m. next Monday, Sept. 30, to push through a vote on the new law and code before the Nov. 5 election, when they may lose their majority.
It further surfaced that, as required by state law, the county Planning Department had submitted inputs on the plan and code; after a 30-day waiting period, next Monday is the first day the town board can act.
But Town Board member Fred Eckler declared that while the letter from county Planning Director Karen Sullivan had been in the hands of Frigault and the Seamons for a few weeks, “We hadn’t seen them until today.”
Eckler, who with Town Supervisor Paul Palumbo favored further study and revision of the plan and code, then made a motion that next week’s meeting be spent assessing the county inputs, adjusting the documents, then voting on them at a later date.
Palumbo seconded Eckler’s motion, but Frigault and the two Seamons voted it down.
Then Palumbo, who isn’t running again Nov. 5, announced that town supervisor candidate Nick Palevsky had submitted a petition signed by property owners of 25 percent of acreage included in the zoning change. (Palevsky said he’d gotten 30 percent.)
If the petition is found valid, a 4-1 vote would be required, meaning Palumbo and Eckler could block approval.
Palumbo asked Frigault to contact Town Attorney Michelle Kennedy to be on hand to review the petitions’ validity. Frigault appeared surprised. Palumbo said “she doesn’t communicate with us,” himself or Eckler. So Frigault assented to make the call.
(Asked about it after the meeting, Town Attorney Michelle Kennedy said any conversations with town board members are covered by “attorney-client privilege.” However, without discussing the Richfield situation in particular, Kennedy said, she is “responsive” to town board members in all the towns she represents.)
So as it stood at evening’s end, a vote is still scheduled on the comp plan and code next Monday, without discussing Karen Sullivan’s inputs.
Interviewed on the sidewalk in front of RSCS, Palevsky said, as he understands the law, the town must conduct a “sufficiency test” to determine if the petitions are valid.
If Frigault and the Seamons approve the plan and code next Monday, 3-2, and the petitions are then found “sufficient,” the first vote would be invalid and a second one required.
But there’s another twist: The Nov. 5 election may make a second vote moot, Palevsky said.
He, Eckler and Ed Bello Jr. are running on the Republican line for supervisor and two town board seats.
David Simonds, Foursquare Gospel Church pastor, is running for supervisor on the FRD line, and Kane Seamon is seeking reelection on the LIB line.
If the Palevsky-Eckler-Bello ticket is elected, it has the three votes necessary to overturn the comp plan and zoning code, regardless of whether the petitions are ruled valid.
“We’re not going to enforce a law we don’t agree with,” Palevsky said.