Tread Lightly With CACs

Hamptons Editorial

The Southampton Town Board’s announcement last week that it would adopt new rules prohibiting its various citizens advisory committees from passing formal resolutions taking stances on issues before the town board is a bit puzzling.

After all, the town board established the committees nearly 30 years ago with the express intention of having them serve as a bridge between the broader community and elected officials. Apparently, the board feels that over the years, some CACs have come to represent an increasingly narrow segment of the community and not reflect broad-based public opinion.

To counter those concerns, the board now wants CACs to keep detailed minutes of their meetings that reflect the comments made by both the committee and members of the general public in attendance. Those comments will then be submitted to the town board in the place of a resolution.

That is certainly not the end of the world, but an easier solution, it seems, would be to allow all residents present to vote on resolutions adopted by the CAC. The board could still require the CACs to submit detailed minutes, and any town board member who wanted to parse them would be entitled to do so.

The town board has also grown wary of CACs commenting on applications before the planning, zoning, conservation, and architectural review boards. The argument goes that CACs were established to advise the town board, and because the town board is prohibited from trying to influence the deliberations of those regulatory boards, CACs should be too.

The problem, though, is that much of what comes before the average CAC — and draws the most public interest — involves land-use issues such as whether a shopping center should be expanded or a historic house razed.

Again, a simpler solution might be to tweak the charter governing CACs to allow them to advise both the town board and any of its regulatory boards. Preventing CACs from formally weighing in on such applications may undercut their very usefulness and discourage people from wanting to participate at all.

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