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Glen Cove delays vote on changing zoning board decision format

The Glen Cove City Council voted Tuesday night to delay a vote on a proposal to allow the zoning board to issue decisions more quickly.

Currently, decisions are not final until they are issued in lengthy documents that include the detailed reasoning for the finding. The requirement can delay decisions for two to three months, creating “frustration and anxiety” among applicants because they cannot proceed with their projects, John Chase, attorney for the Board of Zoning Appeals, told the council.

The board interprets zoning law and has the power to grant variances.

The proposed amendment to the zoning law would allow decisions in a “summary format” that includes the decisions and any conditions that may be part of the decisions, but “without enumerating detailed findings which formed the basis for its determination.”

Board chairman Tip Henderson said before the meeting that those brief summary decisions, which would be about a paragraph, would let applicants pursue approved projects without delay.

Resident Marie Rummo, a frequent critic of Mayor Reginald Spinello, who proposed the resolution, said that would conceal the process that leads to decisions.

“Why should we give up transparency so a decision can be rendered in haste?” she asked. “The public must be certain the decision was not arbitrary or capricious.”

The proposal allows “any person aggrieved by a decision” — whether the applicant or, for example, a neighbor — to demand that the board use the longer process.

Drew Lawrence, a former member of the zoning board, said the amendment should require those aggrieved by a decision to request the long process, rather than just offer that as an option. Otherwise, if that person files an appeal to a zoning board decision in State Supreme Court, a judge is more likely to rule against the city, because the board’s reasoning for its decision would be unknown, he said.

Chase said the amendment allows the board to submit the reasoning for findings in such cases by affidavit. He said a number of villages on Long Island — including Brookville and Old Brookville, where he serves as village attorney — have used summary decisions for years, without the legal problems Lawrence worries might occur.

But, Lawrence said, “There’s always a first time.”

The council voted 6-0 — with Councilman Timothy Tenke absent — to table the measure.

Spinello said after the meeting that he proposed postponing the vote because “some council members need a little clarity” on the legal issues raised. He said he’d be open to tweaking some of the wording in the resolution, if necessary. But in the end, he said, “I believe it will pass.”

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