Equal Time: Committees serve a valuable role in Southold

It is disappointing that Rona Smith felt compelled to resign from the three committees she had served on. Her stated reasons, however, aren’t sentiments that are shared by several other committee members. Furthermore, her implication that the committees have no real input ignores the substantial success of each and disparages the hard work and very real contributions made by the members. Each committee is comprised of volunteers who all work hard to fulfill their stated mission. Many past initiatives or code amendments by the Town Board are the result of their recommendations. Each committee member is given broad discretion to pursue projects of their own with no interference from the board. A quick glance at the recent success of just some of these committees reveals that her claims are baseless.

The Town Board created the Southold Local Development Corporation to assist local not-for-profit employers with financial opportunities otherwise not available to them. The LDC had a substantial role in the financing of the recent expansion of Peconic Landing and the refinancing of bond debt for Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital. The hospital’s CEO even came before the board only a few weeks ago and said that the role of the LDC was critical to making the merger with Stony Brook possible. Protecting and creating jobs? Expanding health care? Hardly sounds dysfunctional.

The Affordable Housing Committee has taken the lead role in vetting affordable housing proposals and offers guidance to make them viable. In fact, while many projects in the past simply weren’t financially feasible, the town’s dedicated Affordable Housing Fund is now generating income that will greatly expand opportunities. Recently, the AHC allocated a $250,000 loan to the project referred to as Vineyard View — a project which may not have come to fruition without it. With considerable funds still in hand, and more coming in, we trust the sound judgment of the professionals of the AHC to use it for the benefit of the community, without the meddling of the Town Board.

Ms. Smith discusses the importance of small businesses in Southold. We agree. That is the very reason we created an Economic Development Committee. The EDC’s goals are to promote and help guide small businesses — both existing and new. The committee sponsored forums on topics such as developing a business plan, grant opportunities and marketing. In the near future, the committee is hosting new forums that range from hiring and business tax information. By partnering with several governmental agencies, the record of the EDC speaks for itself. It’s true that sometimes people want to build what they want, where they want and when they want it, but, when the code gets in their way, they file a lawsuit (“Brinkmanns file suit,” June 6). Her suggestion, however, that if we all just collaborated we can avoid the lawsuits doesn’t hold water. Capitulating isn’t collaborating.

All other committees contribute equally, but Ms. Smith states that we aren’t taking advantage of them as policy advisers. Actually, we do. Code changes were made, policies were created and procedures were altered based on their input. The members we appoint are independent-minded, professional and deeply committed. Allowing them to operate as they are is not ambivalence to them; it is trust and confidence in them.

Photo caption: Work beginning in April at Vineyard View, a 50-unit affordable apartment complex in Greenport. (file photo)

Mr. Ruland is a member of the Southold Town Board and deputy supervisor.