An appointment by the Greenport Village Board to fill a vacant space on the Zoning Board of Appeals was delayed Thursday evening after another Greenport resident stepped forward hours before to announce his interest in the position.
Bob Kehl, a local builder, said he wanted to be considered for the spot that will be left vacant by resigning chairman Douglass Moore. Greenport Mayor George Hubbard Jr. had intended to appoint John Reardon, a former schoolteacher, to fill the position.
“I feel my 35 years as a builder … speaks volumes above Mr. Reardon’s time in the classroom,” Mr. Kehl said at the Village Board meeting. Mr. Kehl also publicly criticized Mr. Reardon for not attending ZBA meetings more frequently, while claiming that he is a regular attendee.
“Wouldn’t the village rather have a ZBA member who is truly interested in the village and has a reputation to prove it, rather than someone who never participated with the ZBA before?” Mr. Kehl asked.
The board ultimately voted 4-1 to delay making an appointment to the ZBA before both men could be vetted, with Mayor Hubbard casting the only opposing vote.
Community boards in Greenport Village like the Planning Board and the ZBA have long lamented the lack of volunteers for the positions, with the Village Board itself calling for more people to get involved.
Mr. Hubbard said Mr. Moore’s retirement from the board was known months in advance. Mr. Hubbard said he heard from Mr. Kehl just a few hours before the meeting, but had already confirmed with Mr. Reardon that he was available to be the appointee.
Mr. Hubbard said he had also spoken with Mr. Kehl months prior. But Mr. Hubbard said Mr. Kehl had been too busy with a construction project in Southampton to take on the responsibility.
Mr. Kehl also brought several supporters who spoke on his behalf to Thursday night’s board meeting.
“I’ve known Bob for a long, long time,” said Greenport resident Joe Hollid. “Among builders, he was the one I heard about the most [who was] doing the right job.” Another supporter read a series of letters supporting Mr. Kehl’s bid and faulted Mr. Reardon for not attending Thursday night’s meeting, calling it “disrespectful.”
Other supporters questioned whether Mr. Hubbard was moving too quickly to fill the position.
The mayor said he was trying to fill the position in advance of Mr. Moore’s resignation next month because the ZBA had asked not to have the vacant space open for long. Under the village code, the mayor makes appointments to the various boards in town, which are then confirmed by the Village Board.
Mr. Moore himself spoke at Thursday night’s meeting, saying that while it’s a good thing that regular attendees of the ZBA meetings may be considered, it was also important for the mayor to preserve “balance” on the code between those who are “disciplinarians” and others who are “more relaxed.”
“The board has the authority to accept the code, but also the responsibility to support it,” Mr. Moore said.
To solve the conundrum, Mr. Moore suggested the board consider changing village code to allow alternate board members to attend when one board member is unavailable. Currently alternate board members can only be used when an existing board member has a conflict of interest with an application or must recuse themselves.
But since Mr. Moore is not leaving the board until Oct. 1, the other Village Board members said there’s no rush to fill the open space.
Trustee Mary Bess Phillips, who voted to hold off on making an appointment, said she wanted to “take a step back” and let the mayor interview both Mr. Kehl and Mr. Reardon for the spot. But she also said Mr. Kehl’s appointment could cause issues with potential conflicts of interest.
“On some of the applications, you may have to recuse yourself on the vote,” she said to Mr. Kehl. “Are you aware of that?”
Trustee Doug Roberts praised Mr. Kehl and backed Mr. Moore’s idea for a change to the alternate rules. On Mr. Reardon’s appointment, Mr. Roberts said: “Let’s table this. Let’s do this right.”
After the vote to table the appointment, Mr. Hubbard said he had voted no because he already had an “honest conversation” with Mr. Reardon about taking over the position on the board. Now, he said, he’ll have to call and explain what happened, and then review both applicants for the position.
Editor’s note: In an earlier version of this story, Mr. Kehl’s name was misspelled.
Top photo: Local builder Bob Kehl, who expressed interest in serving on the Greenport Village ZBA, brought several supporters who spoke on his behalf to last Thursday’s Village Board meeting. (Credit: Paul Squire)