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William Cremers reflects on 22 years with Town Planning Board

09/25/2017 6:00 AM |

For the past 22 years, the Town of Southold’s land-use decisions have been shaped by Planning Board member William Cremers. He resigned last week due to health reasons.

“I was interested in planning when I first moved out here permanently,” he said. “Because I wanted it to stay, not the same as it always was, but to preserve as much as I could, and that’s been my principle all along.”

Mr. Cremers’ involvement in planning began after retiring to Southold in 1986, when he started a group called Southold 2000, which focused on the future of the town.

“We came up with a group of people interested in how Southold would look in the year 2000, and we didn’t want it destroyed at that point,” Mr. Cremers said. “We came up with a planning conference which over 100 people attended from the town. It was an all-day affair and it went over great.”

Getting involved in code committees and other groups familiarized him with the town code and helped prepare him to work with the Planning Board, which he joined in 1995. One of his favorite memories was being a part of the US-UK program, when four planners from the United Kingdom and four from the United States spent a week in Southold to come up with recommendations about preservation and town codes.

“Since I started, the main thing is, if you follow the code then I think you can preserve a lot right there, and our code is really good,” Mr. Cremers added.

Mark Terry, assistant director of planning, has worked closely with Mr. Cremers since 2002.

“Bill’s decision-making is embedded in this town’s greatest qualities; almost every business, subdivision, major plan and effort over the last 22 years was scrutinized and steered by Bill’s hard work and vision that put the town’s environment and people first,” Mr. Terry said.

Mr. Cremers recalls that the first planning project he worked on — the McDonald’s in Mattituck — is one of his favorites.

“That came out beautiful,” he said.

“Bill has been an invaluable member of the Planning Board with his dedication, hard work and vast knowledge,” Planning Board chairman Donald Wilcenski said. “The contributions and decisions that Bill made while serving on the board over the many years will resonate well into the future and benefit generations. It was a privilege to serve with him on the board and he will be missed. We all wish him well in the future.”

In March 1949 Mr. Cremers joined the U.S. Navy and served aboard the USS Philippine Sea off the coast of Korea during the Korean War. He was discharged in 1952 and married his wife, Anne, of 61 years. He served on the affordable housing committee from 1997 to 1999 and was successful in creating affordable housing subdivisions in the town at that time, according to Mr. Terry.

“I’ll miss everything about the Planning Board,” Mr. Cremers said. “I didn’t want to retire, but I wasn’t spending as much time at meetings and it wasn’t fair to the other members to be short all the time.”

Supervisor Scott Russell said he hopes to appoint a replacement sometime within the next four to six weeks.

“We’re gonna miss him a lot,” said board member Martin Sidor, who served with Mr. Cremers for more than 10 years. “It’s going to be very hard to fill those shoes.”

“The many generations that follow may not know of every decision that Bill made to shape the town they love,” Mr. Terry said. “But they will live it; walking through the front door of their home, driving to a favorite business, hiking their favorite trail or enjoying their favorite creek.”

rsiford@timesreview.com

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