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135 Marion Ave.

Wynantskill, NY 12198
July 7, 2009

North Greenbush Comprehensive Plan Committee


2 Douglas St.
Wynantskill, NY 12198

Dear Chairman Spain and Committee Members:

I am formally calling on you to explain the failure of this committee to conduct itself pursuant to the provisions
of Town Law S272a by adhering to the NY State Open Meetings Law as a public body, legally constituted by
the Town Board of North Greenbush.

I recently obtained the Minutes of meetings held by this committee pursuant to the Freedom of Information
Law, (FOIL). The vast majority of the documents provided lack even the most basic adherence to the Open
Meetings Law which according to Robert Freeman, Executive Director of the State’s Open Government
Committee, affirm that a public body, such as a CPC, “can take action and carry out its duties only at meetings
properly held, those actions must be approved by majority vote of the total membership, and minutes must be
prepared indicating the nature of action and taken and the vote of the members. In addition, FOIL requires
that a voting record indicate the manner in which each member cast his or her vote.”

Having attended your June 2nd meeting in which only 5 members were present and for which no minutes were
taken or provided pursuant to my FOIL request, there are serious questions as to the circumstances, presence of
required quorums for official actions, the failure to schedule a Public Hearing held by the Committee, and the
adoption of a Resolution, with a quorum of members, calling on the Town Board to schedule two required
Public Hearings under Section 272 A of Town Law for adoption of a Comprehensive Plan. These questions
arise not only from the meeting of June 2nd for which there are no minutes recording attendance or votes, but
from the majority of your meetings which apparently resulted in numerous decisions to amend the Land Use
Map presented to the town in December 2006 by the first duly constituted CPC.

Absent a written public record consisting of a record of those present, quorums, discussions and motions to
amend the Comprehensive Plan provided to the town by the first CPC, there is every reason to question why
these changes were made to the Land Use Map and Plan itself, at whose request, at whose benefit and potential
detriment, were these changes approved and ultimately whether these changes are legally sustainable?

The absence of a clear public record provided by minutes leaves the Committee’s actions and motivations under
public suspicion which is unacceptable and totally avoidable. The Open Meetings Law requires minutes which
“at a minimum, they must consist of a record or summary of motions, proposals, resolutions, action taken and
the vote of the members”, according to Robert Freeman, Director of the NY State Committee on Open
Government. Only if no actions were taken could a public body avoid recording minutes. Clearly numerous
actions have been undertaken by this committee as evidenced by the changes to the Comprehensive Plan
provided to the town in December 2006. Yet, none of the documents provided under FOIL as minutes of your
proceedings explain the reasons for those changes or a minimal accounting of the record or summary of
motions, proposals, resolutions, actions taken and the vote of the members.

The records of your minutes obtained under FOIL can be categorized in the following manner:
• Only 4 meetings (3/18/08, 4/15/08 , 5/20/08, 6/24/08) in which accurate minutes were taken, and those
were taken by the town clerk.
• The so called minutes provided for meetings of 7/7/08, 7/15/08, contain no records of attendance,
quorum, or actions taken, if any.
• There are four meetings with only Attendance Sheets and no record of minutes on 9/16/08,
9/30/08,10/7/08, and 10/21/08.
• There are five additional meetings in which minutes lack any record of attendance, quorum, or actions
taken, if any.(11/18/08, 12/1/08, 1/13/09, 2/10/09,3/24/09)

Upon review of the minutes of the meetings of this committee which led to the town board scheduling two
Public Hearings, it appears that the second Comprehensive Plan Committee failed to comply with critical
provisions of the Open Meetings Law which require minutes which “at a minimum, must consist of a record or
summary of motions, proposals, resolutions, action taken and the vote of the members”.

As I stated previously, the last meeting of the 16 member CPC was held June 2, 2009. Only 5 members were
present and no minutes were taken or provided under FOIL. Without a quorum, the members present declared
the draft plan to be completed and ready to send to the Town Board so that two Public Hearing could be
scheduled. No votes were taken and with no quorum present, the Five members had no authority to take any
formal action. This means that the Town Board is holding two Public Hearings upon the recommendation of a
Comprehensive Plan Committee meeting at which no quorum was present and which utterly failed to comply
with provisions of the Open Meetings Law.

Comprehensive Planning Committees are constituted under Town Law S272A which in Paragraph (4), states:
“Preparation. The town board, or by resolution of such town board, the planning board or a special
board, may prepare a proposed town comprehensive plan and amendments thereto. In the event the
planning board or special board is directed to prepare a proposed comprehensive plan or amendment
thereto, such board shall, by resolution, recommend such proposed plan or amendment to the town
board.” To make a recommendation to the Town Board, the CPC needed a quorum, and a record of the votes
of the members. None exists because they didn’t prepare minutes for the last meeting of the CPC and did not
have a quorum to recommend passage, public hearings or any action to the town board.

Under S272A, the CPC itself must hold a Public Hearing.


272A 5(b) In the event the town board has directed the planning board or a special board to prepare a
proposed comprehensive plan or amendment thereto, the board preparing the plan shall hold one
or more public hearings and such other meetings as it deems necessary to assure full opportunity for
citizen participation in the preparation of such proposed plan or amendment. There is no record of
such a Public Hearing held by this committee, which leaves adoption of this plan as changed, a legal
impossibility.

For all or the aforementioned reasons, I request that this Comprehensive Plan Committee explain its failure to
take sustainable minutes during the vast majority of its meetings as well as its apparent failure to comply with
statutory requirements of S272a listed above. I further request that this committee seek legal council to review
and advise said committee of its compliance with appropriate statutes before any revised Comprehensive Plan is
approved and forwarded by the CPC to the Town Board for consideration. Because you are seeking
reimbursement for this additional consultant from the Rensselaer County IDA and Planning Office, I am
forwarding this correspondence to them so that they are fully informed of these concerns.

Sincerely,

Charles B. Smith

CC:Rensselaer County Planning Office/RCIDA