Town of Lansing

Despite seven years of open meetings to craft a comprehensive plan revision, many Lansing residents complained last month that the public was not adequately invited to weigh in on the plan.  Controversy over a public hearing scheduled only a few days before Christmas led to the Town Board agreeing not to vote on final acceptance of the plan until there has been time to hold several more meetings at times and places accessible to residents.  Responding to that concern, Town Supervisor Ed LaVigne says he will ask the Town Board to add regular meetings and to agree to other measures that will help keep the public in the know.

"I will propose a series of two meetings a month," he says.  "The first one will be the first Wednesday of the month at 6:30.  We'll discuss this at our organizational meeting on January 17th."

When LaVigne became Supervisor he consolidated the two monthly Town Board meetings into one, with the regular meeting on the third Wednesday, immediately followed by a working meeting.  Previously, a working meeting had been held on the first Wednesday of the month, with the regular Town Board meeting taking place on the third Wednesday.  This new proposal will restore the separate working meeting, but with a twist.  LaVigne says he wants to hold the first meeting each month at different locations around the town to allow residents of the various neighborhoods easier access.

"For the organizational meeting we have to specify a specific location, which will be at the Town Hall," he says.  "Those will be changed periodically as we rotate around.  The regular meeting will always be at the Town Hall, but the working meeting may be switched, let's say, to the Village of Lansing or to one of the fire stations.  I reached out to the Fire District to see if we can use their facilities, and they said yes."

Until the Comprehensive Plan is officially accepted LaVigne says that each working meeting will begin with a comment period when comments, concerns, and questions can be raised by the public.  After that the Board will continue to work on regular business.

Working meetings have differed from regular Town Board meetings in that, while the public is invited to attend, the format is such that only board members speak.  It is usually for the purpose of discussing matters informally, or working on items so they can be voted on at the next regular meeting.  Regular meetings, by contrast, have a public input segment built in.  The new format will allow public input before other items are discussed by the Board.

But LaVigne says he will ask to discontinue the meetings if it turns out there is not enough work to merit a separate meeting.  He says that costs of a second meeting, including attorney's fees, and fees for the Town Engineer and Planner will have to be justified.  But he adds that with a new board member this year, the extra time will give all board members a chance to really understand issues at hand.

"It will give us an opportunity to explain more, because we have a new board member," he says. "It will help bring everybody up to speed, because there's a lot going on."

He says he also wants a regular time during the regular meetings on the third Wednesdays specifically for comments on the Comprehensive Plan.

"At our regular meetings, after Privilege of the Floor, we will have a Comp Plan comment section, so people have a chance to come to every meeting that we have at our regular Board meeting to share their concerns, recommendations, and suggestions," he says.

LaVigne says he intends to request that the Board approve the creation of an email list and other measures on the Town Web site to make it easier for residents to be informed and become involved in town business.  He says that he is on an email that summarizes County Board meetings almost immediately after that board's meetings, and he would like to institute a similar opt-in list at the town level.

"This is something Chris Williams has come up with," LaVigne says. "I'll recommend to the Board that we pursue this, so that people can sign up to get that email and we can send them the minutes right away.  We will email the minutes of the Town Board, the Planning Board, and the Zoning Board of Appeals so if you see something that strikes a question, concern, or comment you now have the minutes available practically the next day, once they have been approved."