Mastic Beach has formed its first planning board to relieve the trustees of some of their duties, draft a comprehensive master plan and help bring new businesses to the village.
The new five-member board has so far made one decision: approving the relocation of Gabe's Auto Repair, which will move across the street from its current location to the site of the former Village Hall building on Neighborhood Road.
The board's workload soon will increase with several development proposals in the pipeline, planning board member Ernest Hoffstaetter Jr. said. "Certainly, it will keep us busy to make sure the correct thing is done," he said.
Mastic Beach Mayor Bill Biondi said a top priority for the board, which was formed in November and started meeting earlier this year, is to create a comprehensive master plan, which has been contracted out to an engineering company. "You have to have a vision," he said.
To help expand existing businesses and lure new ones to the village, officials said, Mastic Beach will need its own sewer system.
Biondi, who appointed every unpaid member of the planning board, noted the $3 million that New York State has promised the village for sewers, infrastructure and to clean up local wetlands. The village has yet to receive the funds.
With the new planning board making decisions, Biondi said pressure will be taken off the village trustees. "It wasn't fair for us to make housing decisions," he said.
Planning board chairman Thomas Gross, an electrician and a former two-year member of the village's zoning board of appeals, agreed.
"I always welcome the opportunity to help out village trustees," Gross said. "My only responsibility is to run the meeting."
Others shared his sentiments.
"The trustees have a very valuable job, seeing that they are creating jobs and changing codes. That's what they should be concentrating on. You don't want to spread them too thin," Hoffstaetter said.
Members of the village trustees have given the planning board a vote of confidence.
"The new board has building, architectural and government experience," trustee Bruce Summa said. "Those are necessary. They bring a variety of expertise to the table that one person can't do by themselves."
He also said the planning board is better equipped to decide on development and protecting neighbors and their privacy to avoid inconsistencies with building regulations.
As with any five-member board, a majority three votes wins approval on any decision. The board meets the fourth Monday of each month at 6 p.m. at Village Hall.