by Joshua Maloni
Village of Lewiston Mayor Terry Collesano has appointed a new chairman for the municipality's Historic Preservation Commission/Planning Board, and taken steps to replace two departed members.
At Monday's reorganizational meeting, Collesano selected Norm Machelor to replace Ken Slaugenhoupt, who opted not to continue on the board.
Machelor was appointed to the Planning Board in 2013. Prior to that, he served 12 years on Grand Island's Planning Board.
"I like the way he is with people that come in looking to build, or for expanding or whatever," Collesano said. "He's got a level head."
"His experience, and his way with people - he's been in business, also - Machelor Maintenance - for many years. So, he's a business-savvy person," the mayor added.
Collesano said Machelor is a person who can work to repair the rift that occurred between the two boards. Both Slaugenhoupt and David Giusiana, who resigned from the Planning Board last month, said the Village Board wasn't following through and penalizing business owners whose retail and restaurant establishments aren't conforming to village law.
Machelor said, "I don't think it's a matter of being on the same page as the Village Board. What I think is that the Planning Board itself needed to be reorganized and refocused on what exactly they're supposed to do. And my opinion is that they're supposed to serve the citizens."
"It's going to be a challenge, though," he said. "It would be nice if you were going to take over and everything's running along smoothly and all you got to do is pull the levers," he said. "But in this case, I think everybody's going to have to step up and say, 'What are we going to do to make this different than it was?' "
Machelor has already identified areas he intends to fix.
"Among the changes (is to) reorganize the schedule, so when we open the meeting we call the easiest first - you know, the citizen that just wants to do a simple thing. He gets up there first," Machelor said. "And then the attorneys and architects and developers go in last, because obviously they're being paid to be there or represent somebody."
The Planning Board has regularly tabled agenda items when business owners fail to attend a meeting. That policy might end now that Machelor is chairman.
"I don't think it's necessary to table things all the time - for any number of reasons. For example, the owner isn't there, and so on and so forth," he said. "I think, if things look like they're supposed to look, then we should say, 'Well, conditional approval.' We'd like to send a letter to the owner saying, 'Yes; we think that's fine. Go ahead and do whatever you're doing.'
"We don't want to hold up business development, particularly in the summer."
"For the businesspeople, we have to really step up and make sure that their stuff is taken care of, and expeditiously," Machelor said.
He noted it's imperative the Planning Board members understand the agenda topics before each meeting.
"I like to understand all the issues right from the beginning," Machelor said. "I think, sometimes, the people on the Planning Board come here on Planning Board evening and try to absorb everything that's gone on in the last month.
"I think it's important - just like in any other thing - to do your homework. And I think if people do their homework, then when they come to the meetings ... we won't have such a long time for everybody to get up to speed."
"We're going to try to get the minutes from the last meeting quicker, so that people can have them," he added. "We're going to try to make sure that the material is available sooner, and that people come in and check it out before we meet."
"And then I think there is some coordination that we should do between the Planning Board and the Zoning Board of Appeals," he said. "I think, sometimes, one side doesn't really know what the other people are doing, or why. So, we need to have that."
Collesano and Village Board members Vic Eydt, Nick Conde and Dan Gibson voted to appoint Machelor chairman and to add Joseph Sorce (formerly an alternate) and Richard Ries to the Planning Board. Kristin Savard, a former Planning Board member, will serve as an alternate/liaison.
Planning Board veterans Ernie Krell and Loretta Frankovitch will begin the second year of their two-year appointment.
The next Planning Board meeting is Monday at 6 p.m. inside the Red Brick Municipal Building, 145 N. Fourth St.