In their Sept. 17 meeting, four members of the Planning Board discovered they had no authority over the size of the buildings of Butterfield. They expressed surprise to learn they had missed the opportunity to secure that authority. Each said they had been told they could make the development smaller later. Certain that the Village Board had intended for them to have this authority, they said they wanted to review the matter with the Village Board.
Instead of taking their discussion to an open meeting with the Village Board, or continuing discussion among themselves in an open meeting, Planning Board Chairman Barney Molloy announced an executive session with Special Counsel Anna Georgiou, away from public scrutiny.
Where four clearly confused, frustrated but diligent volunteers went into that closed meeting looking to reclaim their authority, three came out quietly agreeing to not go to the Village Board, instead ceding authority over the size and scale of these buildings, which they deemed too large for our village.
“Open government” seemed very important to Barney Molloy and his candidates Bowman and Fadde during our last village election. They demanded immediate posting of meeting minutes and videotaping of all meetings. They accused then Trustee Matt Francisco of “unprecedented” and “illegal” use of executive session.
(It should be noted that in their first six months as trustees, Bowman and Fadde have invoked executive sessions four and six times respectively, more than Francisco requested in two years, and still there are no videotaped Village Board workshops, and no videotaped meetings of our standing boards and committees. Five weeks have passed since the Planning Board’s Sept. 17 meeting and still there are no minutes posted.)
Francisco’s board invoked executive session for interviewing village job applicants in service of the interviewee’s privacy. For some reason, it was important to Bowman, Fadde and Molloy that the public have access to such interviews. Is it not equally important for the public to have access to a meeting where they might understand how our Planning Board came to cede its authority over the size of the largest development in Cold Spring’s history?
One board member said at that Sept. 17 meeting, before going into the closed session: “I have grave doubts that the community understands the mass of this project … and I think will be surprised at the result.” “Open government” should be an active principle rather than a banner to be waved at opponents during an election. We need to put it into practice at once, if we don’t want to be unhappily surprised down the road.