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Town considers tweaking ethics code to allow vacancies to be filled on Historic Preservation Commission

To fill vacancies on the town’s Historic Preservation Commission, the town board may have to tweak its ethics code.

But some board members worry it’s a slippery slope.

According to town attorney Bill Duffy, the HPC has had difficulty recruiting new members because of a requirement that some of its members be architects.

The rule, Mr. Duffy said, has deterred qualified members from sitting on the commission because of language in the town’s ethics code that bars them from representing applicants before other boards, such as the Trustees or building department. “It’s a huge conflict for them,” Mr. Duffy said.

Supervisor Scott Russell said membership on the commission is “dwindling” and that, given the nature of historic preservation, insight from engineers and architects is needed. “We’re losing a pool of people to choose from,” he said, suggesting the board instead carve out an exception that precludes architects serving on the HPC from representing applicants with projects in historic districts or structures.

Councilman Jim Dinizio said he’s opposed to the idea. 

“I think that’s a bad road to go down,” he said, pointing to the possibility for conflicts of interest and so on. “We should find some other way to do it.”

Councilwoman Louisa Evans suggested changing the requirement that some members of the HPC be architects and instead have consulting architects the commission can ask questions of.

No decision was made Tuesday and the board is expected to discuss the issue again later this month. “We need to think it through,” Ms. Doherty said. “I’d hate to just jump and change the ethics code.”

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