In the coming days the East Hampton Town Board may appoint several newcomers to fill seats on boards that fulfill some of the most important functions of local government. Although we have not yet heard of any vacancies on the planning board, there are likely to be openings on the zoning and architectural review boards. And the supervisor and other members of the board will have the annual opportunity to name each board’s chair. Judging from the board’s record in this regard, there is reason for concern.
Given the questionable performance of the town’s legal and ordinance enforcement functions, the citizens appointed to the various boards have become even more instrumental in upholding the law and helping to ensure East Hampton does not turn into a place its residents dislike. And, in the waning 12 months of Bill Wilkinson’s business-first administration, you can expect the pressure to be on to get the more problematic applications through the approvals process as fast as possible.
A great deal is apt to rest now on the shoulders of Councilman Dominick Stanzione. He has emerged as the town board’s swing vote and the key voice of moderation in most controversial debates. At least a 3-2 majority will be required to change the composition of the various boards, and Mr. Stanzione may well face heat from the supervisor and his ideological ally, Councilwoman Theresa Quigley, if he bucks their hard-line choices.
Members of the town’s appointed boards serve for long terms, up to seven years on the planning board and five years on the Z.B.A. This is intended to allow them to learn the intricacies of the town code and also to remain above the fray of political infighting and influence. Any appointments or decisions about how the boards are to be organized must be made with the long-term in mind. The struggle for the heart and soul — not to forget the environment — of this place we call home now comes down to private properties, backyards, and small businesses, and the battle’s front line is in front of the town’s appointed boards.