by Lynne Jackson
After having attended a hundred or more planning board meetings in three different municipalities over the past two decades, I feel that I have enough experience to comment on how welcome members of the public are to comment on planning board actions that impact the quality of their lives.
In the towns of Guilderland and Colonie, the Planning Board meetings are held in the evenings, beginning around 7:00 pm. At most of the meetings that I have attended, there were always members of the public, and often a dozen or more people attended. In Albany, the Planning Board meetings are held on Thursday mornings at 9:00. For the past few Albany Planning Board meetings I have attended, I have often been the only member of the public in attendance. Needless to say, having planning board meetings in the evenings allows many more people to attend.
For both the Towns of Guilderland (http://www.guilderland.org/Calendar_page.htm) and Colonie (http://www.colonie.org/meeting.html), the agenda for the meetings are available on the web. Not only does Albany not have the agenda on the web, its web site (http://www.albanyny. org/calendar.htm) only lists the Planning Board meetings for the year 2000, which is not very helpful this year.
Much of what is said at the Towns of Guilderland and Colonie planning board meetings can be heard by members of the public. Nothing that the chairman of the planning board in Albany says can be heard, and as he is the person doing most of the talking, this is extremely frustrating.
Members of the public are allowed to comment on any agenda item in Guilderland in Colonie, whether or not a public hearing on that item is being held. In Albany, members of the public may only speak if a public hearing is scheduled.
The Albany City Planning Board is in the dark ages. At a time when revitalization of the city is essential for its survival, the public is essentially shut out of the planning process by the CityÕs practices of holding meetings during the day, ensuring that the public cannot hear or see any of the actions, and of the Planning Board not taking public comment except at public hearings.
The Guilderland and Colonie Planning Boards are not perfect models, but the City would do well to change the time the Planning Board meets and change its rules and setup to encourage the public to participate.
Printed in the October/November, 2001 Newsletter