SPRINGPORT | Answering the call from the state to consolidate constituent services, the Town of Springport is considering combining its planning board and zoning board of appeals.

Longtime town board member Andy Rindfleisch said the municipality is trying to accommodate advice from the state to pare down services.

"For the town we're getting a lot of pressure to make cost-cutting changes and consolidate some services," he said.

The planning board and the ZBA, Rindfleisch said, could be considered a duplication of services and he advocates consolidating the two panels into one.

The process of obtaining permission to move forward with a project could become easier for residents when they have one board to address rather than two, Rindfleisch said. Typically, the planning board responds to applicants who request, for example, special use permits. And the ZBA is the panel applicants refer to when they wish to appeal planning board decisions and from whom variances are sought.

"If an applicant is denied, it can get convoluted for folks," he said. "By having one board it will reduce the cost to the taxpayer."

But, not all town board members are on the same page on the issue.

"The board is definitely split over that," said Doug Bower. "I don't see a reason at all for it."

Bower views the ZBA as providing another level of checks and balances for applicants who seek an "appellate" panel after receiving a denial of request they first present to the planning board or the code enforcement officer.

And Richard Hodges, another town board member, said he's not in favor of making a change and views a combining of boards as a conflict of interest.

"It's like policing yourself," he said.

Though, Hodges did say finding people with an interest and the time to accept appointments to local boards is becoming difficult and some standing committees are lacking members.

"Sometimes it's getting harder and harder to find people to serve," he said.

According to Rindfleisch, applicants receiving an initial denial from the planning board would, under the proposed combination, have the opportunity to return to the panel after conducting more research and make a re-request, he said.

Town Supervisor David Schenck said the seven-member planning board receives mandated training at the state and local level that keeps members abreast of current and changing zoning and municipal law. The ZBA, which meets only as needed, does not receive the same training, he said.

"To me it's a more professional way to go," Schenck said. "The process would stay the same, but with more people up on the legal codes."

The public is invited to attend a hearing on the proposed local law Monday, Jan. 12.

Staff writer Carrie Chantler can be reached at (315) 282-2244 or carrie.chantler@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter @CitizenChantler.

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