With a minimum of public comment, Bedford moved Tuesday to expand the planning board’s role in granting special-land-use permits.
The proposal, embodied in a local law now sent to the county for review, would take permitting authority in six areas out of the town board’s hands and vest it instead in the planning board. The six areas are utility substations, transmission lines, solid-waste transfer stations, cellular telephone towers, philanthropic uses and group-care facilities, all of which would need planning board approval for at least some part of their applications, anyway.
Town Planning Director Jeffrey Osterman, who initiated the change, said its goal was “to simplify the application process.” Since 1983, the town’s three land-use regulatory bodies—town board, planning board and zoning board of appeals—all issue specific special permits.
But, Osterman notes, because of its expertise, the planning board often performs the state-mandated reviews of a proposal’s environmental impact. If the planning panel does not have permitting authority, key information could be lost in transmitting it between two bodies.
“Because the environmental impacts of a proposal invariably relate directly to the nature of the proposal, the approved conditions of one board my not match the interests of another board,” Osterman wrote in a letter to the town board last year.
Moreover, under current permitting, “it is common for a proposal to require the approval of three boards.”
“At some point,” Osterman said at Tuesday's public hearing, “we all realized we could do better.”
Two speakers, neither opposing the suggested change, addressed the town board before it voted 4-0 to submit the permitting change to county review.
“This will not affect any pending applications,” Supervisor Lee V.A. Roberts said.
Lewis on planning board
Diane Lewis of Katonah, an environmental activist and member of the town’s Open Space Acquisition Committee, was named Tuesday to the planning board.
Lewis fills a vacancy created in January when Donald J. Coe, the board’s longtime chairman and a member for almost 40 years, stepped down. Board member Deirdre Courtney-Batson succeeded him as chair.