We agree with New York State’s new standards for planning and zoning boards, which are to be implemented on Jan. 1.
Members of planning boards and zoning boards of appeal are now required to receive a minimum of four hours of training in order to maintain their seats.
The law was passed because, according to the newsletter “Planning News,” the state’s cities, towns and villages have primary responsibility to regulate private land use through citizen planning and zoning boards. Their actions have profound impact on state and local land use patterns and individual landowners.
Well-considered and timely decisions by municipal boards and commissions attract quality community development and result in fewer lawsuits and lower costs for municipal liability insurance, the publication stated. The new law
promotes a minimum training standard for members without having much of a fiscal impact on municipalities.
Although the state has provided training in the past, it hasn’t been required until now. Town and village boards appoint the planning and zoning board members, and although some elect members based on expertise, much of it is political.
Setting these new guidelines will confirm that codes and design standards are maintained in each municipality. Members will become more confident in their decisions and know the laws and codes of the towns and villages.
As Williamsville Trustee Brian Geary said, “Many new members do not realize how much authority they have.”
These are the men and women who recommend to the municipalities site plan approvals that will best fit the settings of that area. They also have the power to prevent projects.
According to “Planning Board Basics,” site plans are defined as “a rendering, drawing or sketch prepared to specifications and containing necessary elements, as set forth in the applicable local law, which shows the arrangement, layout and design of the proposed use of a single parcel of land as shown on said plan.” The legislative body of a city or village may, by local law, authorize a planning board to review and approve with modifications, or disapprove site plans prepared to specifications set forth in local law or regulations.
Members need proper training to implement these standards fairly and legally. Requiring training will reduce the probability of getting sued because board members will be more knowledgeable on local law and codes.
We applaud the state for this new level of standard.