by Joshua Maloni
Ken Slaugenhoupt and David Giusiana, two prominent Village of Lewiston Planning Board members, are stepping down.
"I notified the mayor a couple weeks ago that I didn't want to be re-considered when they re-organize the Planning Board in July," Chairman Slaugenhoupt said Thursday. "I did not resign, but I am not going to be continuing at the transition in July."
He cited personal reasons for his decision.
"The final bottom line was, I essentially retired from my career (as a land surveyor) a year ago last December," he said. "This is something I thought I could do in my retirement and (do) some community service and so on and so forth. But, as hard as we have worked at the Planning Commission to try and make some positive changes and to get some things (accomplished) - I guess what I'm concerned about is better documentation, better communication, better cooperation within the organization - it just seems like we were constantly meeting road blocks.
"I became very keenly aware that this was getting aggravating to the point where, now, instead of waking up at 3 o'clock in the morning worrying about what I used to do professionally, I wake up at 3 o'clock in the morning worrying about how I'm going to solve this or I'm going to solve that."
Past Chairman Giusiana resigned Wednesday, following Mayor Terry Collesano's re-election Tuesday.
"Quotes like the mayor saying because of his re-election he's going to continue to act as he has means that I see no foreseeable change in the failure to enforce what is regulated and what we approve," Giusiana said Thursday. "I just can't be a part (of it). My time is way too valuable to sit there and put great efforts into things like the signage code revisions, and the administering of the planning and historic code, and have it just be summarily dismissed after our approvals are done."
Both Slaugenhoupt and Giusiana expressed frustration in what they described as disconnect between the Planning Board and the Village Board of Trustees.
"There's an awful lot of things that don't get finished in the village is part of the aggravation," Slaugenhoupt said. "We make an approval on a project and the owner goes out and does what he wants to do. And then we stop him, and then nothing ever happens. That type of thing has been going on consistently.
"There's no follow-through on the part of the government to enforce the current regulations. In my view, I don't see an interest in changing that. So, I'm not going to continue to bump my head against the wall."
Giusiana echoed that statement.
"I was a steward for the care of the village," he said. "I and Ken, that's what we've all been doing. The ball gets dropped after the Planning Board sees it and it goes into the mayor's office.
"(Zoning Officer) Harry Wright has a binder 3 inches thick of all the violations and problems that we need to be addressing and we've identified. The mayor and the mayor's office chooses not to follow through on it. It's very disappointing."
Giusiana, an architect, is currently dating Jamie Symmonds, Collesano's opponent in Tuesday's election. However, his irritation with what he called the mayor's lack of follow-through far predates his relationship with Symmonds. Giusiana contemplated resigning when he was chairman two years ago.
"(Collesano) could've done a lot of things to change my mind," Giusiana said. "He could've enforced the regulations and the laws that we've been telling him he needs to enforce over the last four years that he's been mayor, and he's chosen not to."
"There's 66 current violations that have been duly noted, duly notified, and registered mailed notified," he continued. "These are violations that have not been corrected. These are all now actionable with fines and potential court. If he would've told me (Wednesday) that he was sending out 66 court summonses for those violations, then, yes (I would've stayed on the board). Anything other than that, to me, is just another evidence of his inaction."
Giusiana viewed Collesano's post-election comments as proof the mayor will continue along the same path.
"For him to be quoted ... as saying he has the confidence because the people have spoken, well, the people have spoken," Giusiana said. "More people voted against him than for him. He does not have the mandate of the people."
Slaugenhoupt and Giusiana, along with Planning Board members Loretta Frankovitch, Norm Machelor and Ernie Krell, worked on preparing new sign law language. Symmonds worked on the project, too, before Collesano opted to replace her last year.
The Village Board adopted the recommended code changes. Still, several business owners have yet to comply with the new laws.
"Post the election, I think I had two choices: the choice to resign, or at the very next Planning Board meeting ... I would've made motions to the trustees recommending the dissolution of the Historic Preservation and Planning Commission, and then also either the total dissolution of the planning and signage code or the adoption of, essentially, some other sort of reduced code that we could actually enforce," Giusiana said. "Because if the two sets of regulations that we have aren't enforced, then I just don't understand why we have them then. It's just silliness."
"To me, if you're not going to enforce these laws, you should just abolish them," he said.
Collesano was aware of Slaugenhoupt's desire to step away. He said he didn't expect Giusiana to resign.
"With Ken, I knew this for a few weeks now," Collesano said Thursday. "The way he explained it to me, he said he was at the stage in his life where he wants to enjoy life a little bit. With the wear and tear, I suppose, that the Planning Board members get, it's a lot of responsibility, and he just wants to get away from that.
"That's the way he explained it to me. I said, 'Fine.' I accepted it."
"As far as Dave Giusiana, I don't know," Collesano said. "I have not spoke to him. I just received a call yesterday afternoon. (Village Clerk) Anne (Welch) explained to me that he brought in his letter of resignation."
Collesano said he is aware of Slaugenhoupt's and Giusiana's concerns. He said he's waiting to hear back from Wright and Trustee Vic Eydt.
"I know there's a meeting, I think it's already set up, between the liaison to my board, which would be Vic Eydt in this case, with Mr. Wright, pertaining to those issues. Just as soon as they have that meeting, then I'll get my report as to what's going on.
"I don't micromanage. Everybody has their responsibilities, and I expect that they are following through and doing their duties. If there is a problem, then I'll hear it through the liaison of whatever department or agency, and come back to me then. I'll take it on at that point."
Collesano said he is reluctant to initiate legal or financial actions against village business owners.
"I'd like to stay away, clear of those sort of things," he said. "There are times when you have to follow-through to the extent of the law. I don't ever like to see anything happen in that respect. It's a small village. Everybody knows everybody. Let's keep it on a personal basis, if we can."
Still, he added, "there are times when you have to pursue (action)."
Collesano intends to take a look at the sign law enforcement.
"I think we're in the right direction, as to we have laws, ordinances, in our codebook that we should be following," he said. "Really, there is no gray area. There is an area that either you do this, or you don't do this. I think that's some of the difficulty, as I understand it, that we're having with some of the different personnel. Some feel it should be more lax; others feel it should be stern in tackling these problems."
"How do we attack it? Well, this is what I hope to find out in the next day or two after they have some meetings, and I get the results from those meetings," Collesano added. "If I'm not satisfied, then I may take action, and the action will come out in the appointments that I make on the reorganization meeting.
"I'm not going to go any further at this time until after I hear from the rest of the people and what's going on."
With regard to replacing Slaugenhoupt and Giusiana, Collesano said, "I understand there's a couple applications in our office for people who want to get on a planning board. I'll look at those and a decision will be made come our organizational meeting, which is the first meeting in July. We'll look at it at that time."
Collesano appointed Slaugenhoupt chairman in 2013. Giusiana served in that capacity in prior years.