By KATIE HOOS
Reviewing a draft of the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program last week, the Village of Mamaroneck Board of Trustees decided to stick to the status quo regarding the role of the Harbor Coastal Zone Management Commission and its involvement with analyzing the waterfront document and making consistency determinations.
At its July 21 work session, the Board of Trustees discussed further amendments to the village’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Program, LWRP, but the contentious issue of how involved the Harbor and Coastal Zone Management Commission should be in the updating process arose once again.
The document, which acts as a guide for expansion along the village’s coastline and ultimately promotes balance between environmental preservation and economic development, was first created in 1984 and its latest draft has been under review by the LWRP Update Steering Committee and BFJ Planning, a consulting firm, for the last six years.
Last week, in a 3 to 2 vote, the board voted down a proposal by Trustee Leon Potok, a Democrat, in which he suggested that, in addition to a review by the Board of Trustees, the Harbor Coastal Commission look over the updated LWRP before it goes to the New York Department of State for final review.
Potok and Trustee Ilissa Miller, a Democrat, voted in favor of the volunteer committee reviewing the LWRP, while trustees Andres Bermudez Hallstrom, a Democrat; Louis Santoro, a Republican, and Mayor Norman Rosenblum, a Republican, voted against it.
Potok said the decision made by the majority of the board further demonstrates those trustees’ desire to minimize the authority of the commission and that position breaks village code.
“I suggested we refer to the HCZMC for review—which is what our village code calls for,” Potok said. “That doesn’t mean we have to adopt [their suggestions] or they can overrule the Board of Trustees, but the code does call for it, and I’m saying simply to follow the law.”
Chapter 240, article 37 of the Village Code states the Harbor Coastal Commission is “charged with the responsibility and duty of having reviewed the material” in the LWRP and it shall “make recommendations” to the Board of Trustees regarding LWRP updates.
Potok said he made the proposal because he feels as though the commission, which consists of volunteer experts, is the most qualified body to review the document.
“They are the people who are most qualified to share their views on the draft of the LWRP,” he said. “I’ve said consistently I don’t know enough to do it justice.”
But Rosenblum believes the Board of Trustees is indeed qualified to review the document and took exception to Potok’s comments.
“It’s the Board of Trustees that takes the information and ultimately decides how the LWRP moves forward,” Rosenblum said. “This is a prime example of [Potok] abrogating his responsibility as an elected official. If you are an elected official and you can’t make a decision, don’t run for office.”
Potok said he believes he is doing what he’s supposed to do as a trustee.
“Elected officials should make decisions based on the best information available to them, and in areas in which they are not experienced, trained or informed, they should delegate the work to people who are,” he said. “Making decisions based on incomplete information and flawed analysis is not the best way to serve our residents.”
At the same work session, the board also voted to keep the status quo in terms of how the Harbor Coastal Commission makes consistency determinations.
Currently, if the commission determines a proposed application or plan is inconsistent with the LWRP, it may advise the Board of Trustees of that determination, and the board has the final say in deciding consistency.
Rosenblum proposed a vote to keep Harbor Coastal as the authority on consistency determinations, but to allow an applicant to enter into an appeals process to challenge the commission’s inconsistency determination, with the Board of Trustees acting as the appellate body in the case.
The proposal failed in a party line 3 to 2 vote of the board, with Potok, Miller and Bermudez Hallstrom citing the board’s lack of qualifications to hear appeal cases as their reason to vote no.
“I’m uncomfortable with us taking this on,” Bermudez Hallstorm said. “We don’t have the experience…we don’t do these sorts of applications.”
Again, Rosenblum said he believes the board is fully qualified to handle appeal cases and argues the Board of Trustees has received appropriate training to do so.
“I think that this board is qualified,” he said. “It’s simple, it’s a document [like] everything else we work with. If you can read English, you can understand it, ask questions and make decisions.”
Potok found the mayor’s position absurd.
“So if you can read a manual on how to fly a 747 in two hours, does that mean you know how to fly it?” he said.
The LWRP update process has been riddled with conflict, particularly involving the authority of the Harbor Coastal Commission.
In May, the trustees adopted an amendment to the village code that reduced the HCZMC’s role to advisory when it comes to consistency determinations with the LWRP and village code. Previously, the commission could halt a proposed project if it determined the project was inconsistent with the LWRP.
Potok and Miller opposed the reduction of the commission’s purview.
The Board of Trustees will send the current draft of the LWRP to the Department of State within the coming months for a final review. Once the Department of State reviews the document, the board will hold further public hearings on the updates before adopting the document by the end of the year.
The LWRP must be approved by the Department of State and adopted by the Board of Trustees before Dec. 31, 2014.