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Grand Island Town Board OKs 12-year term limits; issue goes to public vote

Sat, Jun 22nd 2024 07:00 am

By Karen Carr Keefe

Senior Contributing Writer

The Town Board on Monday adopted a new law redefining existing town legislation on term limits for elected town officials. The law will go before voters in the Nov. 5 general election.

Local Law 5 increases to 12 years – from the previous eight – the number of years the supervisor and council members can serve in office before term limits kick in. The limit then bars them from running for that office again.

This amounts to an increase to three full terms for an officeholder, whereas the previous law allowed only two full terms.

The law also limits the terms of town clerk and highway superintendent to 16 years. But terms for those two positions that were completed before Jan. 1, 2025, do not count toward the term limit.

The measure must then go to a public referendum, when voters will get to decide the total number of years their town elected officials can serve in a given office.

The purpose of the new law is to align with New York state’s even-year cycle.

Council member Dan Kilmer explained the revised term limit law this way: “The governor is trying to change the cycle of when town officials get elected, and it was going to come in between a couple of our terms and it would be weird. We wouldn’t get eight (years) in, or we would be over eight – I forget how the math worked out.”

“The reason I’m for it is I’m always for something that people get to vote on,” Kilmer said.

“This isn’t us (the Town Board) saying ‘term limits.’ This is us putting it on the ballot and you get to make the decision in November.”

 “So, to me, letting the people decide if we should do 12 years, eight years or with no term limits, it’s their choice how we serve the public,” Kilmer said.

Supervisor Peter Marston said he completely echoed Kilmer’s thoughts on the issue.

“We put years on it instead of terms because the governor has altered the term durations,” he said. “I think this is the decision of the people. It shouldn’t be the decision of this board,” Marston said.

Council member Thomas Digati said the consensus is that, if the new measure is defeated at the polls, it would be appropriate that the Town Board consider rescinding the current law and go to no term limits.

Digati gave the current council members as an example.

“We’re not career politicians, and by the time we kind of get our feet beneath us, sometimes you’re kind of just hitting your stride by the time you get to eight years,” he said. “And while I think term limits are a necessity, I think there’s something to be said for perhaps extending that a little bit and allowing people to get up to speed and be effective before they’re moving on.”

A public hearing preceded the 4-0 vote in favor of the new term limits. In the hearing, resident Jennifer Chin spoke in favor of the current law limiting terms to eight years. She said she favored amending the current law to take into account partial terms served, instead of going to 12 years as the overall limit.

“I don’t think that 12 years is accommodating the fact that some people may be serving ultimately three consecutive terms, and the whole point of the term limits was to limit it to two,” Chin said.

In other news, the Town Board:

•Adopted a local law putting a moratorium on big development in the town’s business district. On May 6, council members had OK’d a motion to have town attorneys draft a law establishing a moratorium of at least six months on projects with commercial structures or site plans that exceed a size of 25,000 square feet.

The moratorium applies to prospective developments for which plans have not yet been submitted. It will affect applications, approvals and/or construction or installations on uses in the following zoning districts: B-1, B-2, B-3, CR, M-1 and M-2.

Town and county planning boards OK’d the draft of the moratorium law and a public hearing was held.

The town Planning Board, in its favorable recommendation, reported that Marston stated it’s important to look at the town’s zoning “to see if it’s representative of what we want.” Marston told the Planning Board in its June 10 meeting that, with a moratorium in place, a neutral planner could be hired at a possible cost of $50,000.

On Monday, Marston said a meeting will be held next week to establish a committee to determine how to proceed with the overall zoning review. The committee would be formed with a representative from the Planning Board, Comprehensive Plan Review Board and other advisory boards and professional individuals in the zoning field to work with the planner.

A significant prompt to the zoning review is Acquest Development’s plan for a 1.1-million-square-foot warehouse on a 207-acre parcel at 2780 Long Road. The project has prompted some residents’ concerns over traffic and environmental impact. But residents and the Town Board have both sought to establish a guideline for all such projects.

•Approved a bond resolution in an amount not to exceed $1 million for construction of improvements to various roads.

•Gave site plan approval to Starline USA’s building expansion at 3036 Alt Blvd. The addition will be used for a warehouse and storage.

•Issued a negative declaration indicating no significant environmental concerns for a change in use for a building owned by Gary Ebersole at 2880 Alt Blvd. The reuse would include first-floor offices and three second-floor apartments. The board also gave site plan approval, with conditions regarding the parking lot, lighting and landscaping, as recommended by the town Planning Board.

•Awarded a contract for professional services for a townwide reassessment project. The vote was 3-1 in favor of the contract, with Kilmer casting the “no” vote.

“I’m 100% against reassessment,” Kilmer said. “I think that spending $125,000 when we did it (reassessment) four years ago is – I don’t see without a sampling that we’re that far off.

“We’re one of only a handful of towns in Erie County that have done it this frequently.”

Kilmer said a better time frame would be every six or eight years for reassessment.

Assessor Jill Murphy said, in a memo to the Town Board, there is state reimbursement money available to go toward reassessment costs. This would be based on the town’s commitment to a cyclical four-year term, Digati said.

Murphy also said a revaluation allows the town “to equalize the tax burden among all owners based on the true value of their property in an ever-changing market.”

She said the town should ensure residents are paying taxes proportionate to their market value and that they are receiving “the full benefit of their exemptions.”


•Marston announced the Grand Island Police Department has received a technology grant of $81,500 from the state Division of Criminal Justice.

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