Townsend out, Rich in for Southold Town Planning Board

Southold Planning Board member Joe Townsend, a Democrat, got the ax Tuesday when the Republican-dominated Southold Town Board voted at its annual reorganizational meeting to name builder James Rich to the seat Mr. Townsend had held for one five-year term.

Councilman Al Krupski, the Town Board’s sole Democrat, cast the only vote opposing the change.

“I know appointments are political in nature, but Joe’s worked hard and done a good job for the town,” he commented at the meeting.

Republican board members said Tuesday that the decision was not political.

Councilman Vincent Orlando pointed out that the board had reappointed Zoning Board of Appeals chairwoman Leslie Kanes Weisman, an active Democrat, during the same meeting. “I don’t see it as political. It’s about who’s doing the best job,” he said.

“Joe brings a lot to the town. I hope he stays engaged,” said Supervisor Scott Russell, adding that he hoped Mr. Townsend would continue to be involved in the preparation of the town’s comprehensive plan.

“We were looking for the Planning Board to go in a different direction, to be more assertive going into the future,” Mr. Russell added.

Mr. Townsend, a former town councilman and Greenport mayor, said Tuesday that he had helped write much of the town code when he first served on the Town Board as a Republican in the early 1980s. He also served on the Town Board as an independent with the United Southold coalition in the early 1990s. As a Democrat, he ran unsuccessfully for another Town Board term in 1997. He also served on the Greenport Village Planning Board in the 1970s.

He said that the Town Board had given him no advance warning that he would not be appointed for another term, though he was not surprised at the decision.

“I expected it. I am a Democrat and they don’t like Democrats, I guess,” he said. “Jim Rich, I’m sure, is a good candidate but it’s the kind of position they should review.” He said that for some reason the town did not ask for resumes from prospective appointees.

Southold Democratic Committee Chairman Art Tillman shared Mr. Krupski’s support for  Mr. Townsend in an email message Tuesday.

“Why the Town Board would not want someone with his experience on the Planning Board when the town is about to embark on a comprehensive plan is hard to understand,” he said. “Does Jim Rich have the experience of Joe Townsend? One can only conclude that this was another politically motivated move to purge the Planning Board of Democrats.”

During Tuesday’s reorganization meeting, the board also agreed to reduce Phillip Beltz’s salary as deputy supervisor from $5,000 to $2,000. It was budgeted for $10,000 when Mr. Russell became supervisor in 2006 but it was reduced last year to $5,000 as the town was tightening its budget. This year, Mr. Russell asked Mr. Beltz to take a cut to $2,000 as a cost-saving measure.

Mr. Beltz also serves as the town’s special projects coordinator and youth bureau director.

“He is just a phenomenal worker on the part of the people of Southold Town,” said Mr. Russell.

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