Brookhaven Town Zoning Board of Appeals chairman Paul DeChance stepped down from the post last week after Southold officials tapped him to serve as town attorney.

The Southold Town Board voted 6-0 on Jan. 3 to hire DeChance to replace acting Town Attorney John Burke, who had served in that position for more than a year following the resignation of Town Attorney Bill Duffy.

DeChance, 61, of Miller Place, starts in the Southold post on Tuesday.

“He has decades of municipal law experience, which is its own field,” Southold Supervisor Scott Russell told Newsday on Thursday. He did not disclose DeChance’s salary. 

Burke will join the Brookhaven Town law department on Monday as an attorney, said town spokesman Kevin Molloy.

DeChance, a lawyer who owns a summer home in East Marion, had been appointed in 2002 to Brookhaven’s ZBA and served as its chairman since 2007. 

The board rules on requests for exemptions from zoning rules, including applications filed by large developers and homeowners seeking to legalize accessory structures such as sheds, decks and swimming pools.

Brookhaven officials lauded DeChance at a town board meeting Thursday, calling him a respected authority on municipal zoning laws.

“Paul DeChance was an excellent chairman for the ZBA who was knowledgeable and professional,” said Supervisor Edward P. Romaine. “He gave people who appeared [before the board] the courtesy that they deserved and he served with distinction. I am sure he is going to do a great job as Southold town attorney.”

Councilman Neil Foley, a former ZBA member, called DeChance “the best in the business, the best in the state,” and Councilwoman Jane Bonner added that DeChance “raised the bar tremendously.”

The town board voted 7-0 on Thursday to appoint East Setauket lawyer Howard M. Bergson, a retired Suffolk County District Court judge, as the new zoning board chairman.

Romaine said Bergson “obviously knows the law and can administer the ZBA with the fairness and professionalism and legal knowledge that is required of really one of our busiest boards.”

DeChance told Newsday on Thursday that some of his ZBA decisions — all hand-written, he said — have been used as examples at state conferences to educate municipal zoning officials.

He said the key to making good zoning decisions is “preparation and patience. Something that comes to you as case number 1 is going to be different than something that comes to you six hours later as case number 51.”

Brookhaven zoning board meetings, held twice a month, typically have dozens of agenda items that stretch meetings to 8-10 hours in length.

“That is something I’m not going to miss,” DeChance said. “I’m going to miss serving the residents of the town.”