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Cape Vincent officials accused of conducting private meetings

CAPE VINCENT – Town Zoning Board of Appeals member Hester M. Chase accused town officials of conducting private meetings and encouraged Town Zoning Board members and other board members at their October meeting Monday night to adopt a set of fair practices.

Ms. Chase said that for the past 10 months, town residents and multiple Town Zoning Board members were kept unaware of information and delegations conducted during private meetings among different public officials, including Zoning Board of Appeals Chairman R. Dennis Faulknham, who was unable to attend the meeting, and including decisions regarding three zoning variance applications for Cape Vincent residents Rick Lawrence, Frank Giaquinto and Jarrod Radley to erect 10-kilowatt wind turbines leased through United Wind Energy LLC, Mahwah.

“I don’t think that we need to rely on the chairman to make decisions for the whole board,” Ms. Chase said. “We expect the to act as part of this board.”

In order to ensure all information and delegations were available to the public, Ms. Chase recommended that town officials should be prohibited from holding private work sessions and cameras should be installed in their back office.

Ms. Chase said that both practices would provide a record of discussions conducted by town officials.

“It is my word against theirs, because there is no record,” Ms. Chase said.

Mrs. Chase also suggested that Town Zoning Board members should adopt a strict schedule for zoning variance applications to ensure that residents have enough time to gather the required materials and to ensure that less applications are expedited or “pushed aside.”

She recommended an application deadline for the 15th of every month.

“Then they are going to know that they are going to be heard,” Mrs. Chase said.

Ms. Chase’s proposed practices received no public comments.

“Do you have that in writing?” said Town Zoning Board member Edward A. Hludzenski, who was the only board member that addressed Ms. Chase. “For the record?”

Deputy Zoning Officer David M. Rowe said he intends to make more documentation available for the community.

“(I am) only trying to help,” Mr. Rowe said.

At its September meeting, the Cape Vincent Town Council resolved to send Ms. Chase a letter requesting her resignation for alleged zoning, health and safety violations on her farm, mentioned in a complaint issued by town Zoning Enforcement Officer James G. Millington Jr. In August, the Town Board voted to drop the case at the time because the complaint was not submitted in writing or properly filed for the board to discuss.

“I think that if we talk about it, we can make it happen,” Ms. Chase said. “I have seen in the last month and a half that there have been improvements.”