Diversity Needed On Appointed Boards

The prime examples are the planning, zoning, and architectural review boards

    Supervisor-elect Larry Cantwell announced the names of the new East Hampton Town attorney’s office staff this week. While judgment must be reserved until the public gets to know Elizabeth Vail and the members of her team, their résumés appear to be strong. Next comes the task of sorting out the town’s appointed boards, in particular deciding who should lead them.

    The prime examples are the planning, zoning, and architectural review boards. It is difficult to overstate just how important these boards are. They are the main line of defense against ill-thought projects and overbuilding. It is important to note that with so much of the town already subdivided, it is often the seemingly small decisions, when aggregated, that can cause major changes. The fight for East Hampton has, in effect, moved to our backyards.

    Builders, business owners, and some homeowners have lamented that the process takes too long. To them, we point out that, indeed, complicated projects will require detailed review, as will those in environmentally sensitive areas. Conversely, work for which zoning variances or site plan studies are not needed will get building permits speedily. The complainers should get over it.

    One thing that must be considered is whether a distinct tilt toward the appointment of people in real estate, building, architecture, and related fields should be countered. Roughly half the 17 people who make up the planning and zoning boards and the A.R.B. are either in these professions or in a closely allied industry. Residents should also be troubled that there are only four women among the total. As bad is that there is not a single African-American and only one Latino among the town’s key appointed boards.

    As Mr. Cantwell and the rest of the town board look over candidates for 10 open positions — and the chairmanships — they should keep in mind that diversity of backgrounds and between the sexes is more than warranted.