Though Lloyd Supervisor Ray Costantino struggled to focus last weeks Public Hearing on Matt Smith’s zoning change request, he was unable to quell significant public condemnation for the actions of Lloyd’s Planning Board Chairman, Dominick Martorana, who commented on Smith’s parcel at the Jan. 6 Ulster County Planning Board [UCPB] meeting, where he is also a member.
Smith has long been seeking a zoning change from residential ¼ acre to General Business [GB] for his Commercial Avenue property. At last weeks Town Board Public Hearing there was no public opposition to the zone change for Smith.
At the county Planning Board meeting Martorana spoke freely about Smith’s parcel, which succeeded in moving the board away from a no impact statement they were about to issue, to a Required Modification recommendation, not of GB but of Central Business [CB], a zoning designation Smith has repeatedly stated is of no use to him.
Paul Hansut, Lloyd’s Republican Party Chairman and Majority Leader of the Ulster County Legislature, pressed the Town Board on the issue.
“I listened to the recording of the meeting and he [Martorana] misled the county Planning Board about this,” he said, adding that he was disheartened to learn about Martorana’s actions.
Many residents stated that Martorana should have recused himself at the county level, especially in light of the fact that he did so when Smith previously appeared before his Lloyd Planning Board.
Donna Deeprose cited NYS General Municipal Law, Article 12-B sec 239-C (2)(c) that back’s the recusal argument.
“A member of a county planning board shall excuse himself or herself from any deliberation or vote relating to a matter or proposal before such county planning board which is or has been the subject of a proposal, application or vote before the municipal board of which he or she is a member.”
A subsequent NYS Attorney General’s opinion in 2003 clarified the wording of the law even further: “Under General Municipal Law 239 a county planning board member must recuse himself or herself from voting on any matter that was subject of a vote, proposal or application, before any body in the municipality where the individual serves as an official.”
Martorana, at one time, had also been the real estate agent of record for Smith’s parcel and recused himself from his own Planning Board, but only at a second meeting and only after repeated requests from Smith.
Lloyd’s Planning Board and Town Board both voted to proceed with a GB designation for Smith, a key fact Martorana omitted at the Jan. 6 UCPB meeting.
Councilman Mike Horodyski said he had also heard the recording of the county meeting and concurred with the characterization that Martorana had overstepped himself. Horodyski is on record stating that Martorana, by speaking at the UCPB meeting, placed his opinions above the decision of his own Planning Board as that of the Town Board.
“This should be talked about by the Town Board at a later date,” he said with Costantino agreeing, “not here tonight.”
Resident Joe Indelicato pressed Costantino on the issue, saying he felt Martorana had “disobeyed the law.”
The Supervisor asserted that Martorana acts as the town’s area representative who looks at regional issues when he is at the UCPB.
“It is about what is good for Ulster County,” he said. “It is not political but a planning issue.”
Costantino further added that Smith has not yet made a formal application to the town and the decision reached by the Lloyd Planning Board favoring GB was of an informal nature. Costantino appeared to be defending Martorana’s actions by asserting that because of the informal nature of the decision and that Smith was not immediately before the Lloyd Planning Board, that Martorana was not breaking the law.
In a subsequent interview, Hansut said that the Supervisor is splitting hairs on the issue and that what Martorana had done is troubling and should not be tolerated.
Dan McLaughlin voiced his concern about Martorana’s actions and urged the Town Board to investigate the matter further.
“I trust you will do the right thing,” he said.
As previously reported in the July 16, 2008 edition of the Southern Ulster Times, Martorana did exactly the same thing at the May 7, 2008 UCPB meeting concerning John Indelicato’s request for an Open Development designation for his New Paltz Road property.
Indelicato had been before the Town seeking relief in order to build himself a home on property that has been in his family for nearly a century. Not only did Martorana speak about this application in violation of state statute, he again, as with Smith, failed to convey accurate information to the members of the UCPB, resulting in a final recommendation from the UCPB that did not reflect the facts.
In 2008 attorney Steven Leventhal, of Leventhal and Sliney LLP, an authority on ethical and procedural municipal matters, commented on the Indelicato situation that also pertains to the Smith matter in 2010. Leventhal said then that Martorana, by sitting on the local and county boards, is essentially acting as his own boss.
“If you are a member of a board on the town level that has to refer matters to a county board for its approval, you essentially are in the position of reviewing your own work,” he said. “You cannot participate in the deliberations or the vote.”
On the Indelicato and Smith proposals, Martorana not only spoke but voted on both matters at the county level. In 2008 the town and the county were apprised of the violations concerning Indelicato but no action was taken against Martorana at that time. The Lloyd Town Board indicated they will review the present situation with Martorana but did not elaborate on what action they will take in the future.
Hansut said that he hopes this entire matter is investigated.
“I hope Ray [Costantino] looks at this,” he said. “It is my understanding that this is the second time he [Martorana] spoke before the county board involving a project in the town.”