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Mamaroneck Resident Holds Board's Feet to the Fire

MAMARONECK, N.Y. - Dan Natchez is known for attending, and commenting, at each of the Village of Mamaroneck Board of Trustees' two monthly meetings, as well as each of the four land-use boards.

Public "Communications to the Board" appears as the first item on every Village Board agenda, but the environmental consultant and stickler for procedure usually reserves comment until the mayor or deputy mayor calls for public comment before making a decision on an agenda item.

"When resolutions are being considered, the mayor typically allows people to ask questions about the items that the board is out there discussing," said Assistant Village Manager Dan Sarnoff. "Everyone has the right to ask questions."

At the July 18 Board of Trustees meeting, Natchez had more of a comment than a question. The Board was holding a public hearing to discuss making amendments to the village code at their next meeting on August 15.

Natchez said the board's proposed changes, which included something as simple as replacing single words in the existing code -- like 'Parking' with 'Improvements' -- didn't take a wide enough perspective on how they would affect the community. The Mamaroneck resident said he was bothered that words without meaning would be replaced by more words without meaning.

"There is a definite need to close the communication gap," said Irvin Scharf, chairman of the Mamaroneck Town Conservative Party,. "Right now, people are losing a percentage of their rights because the Board has failed to make the agenda more explicit. We want people to know what's going on at these meetings."

Agendas are posted to the village's website the Wednesday prior to the meeting by the end of the business day, Sarnoff said. While all other boards and commissions provide a simple outline, the Board of Trustees' agendas have links to resolutions being considered.

"We try and keep the resolutions specific enough to the item because I'm thinking of someone looking at the minutes 20 years from now. The resolution will give them an idea of why the board was asked to take a certain action and what they did."

Agendas are also published in a newspaper and made available at the meeting or upon request.

At the same July 18 meeting, no agendas were provided, Scharf noted. Village Manager Richard Slingerland said the Village clerk was off that day and the board neglected to bring copies. Sarnoff made copies and distributed them to the media present soon after.

"I go online to find the agenda," said Joe Castellani, a 36-year resident, who watches the various board meetings live on the local public-access channel LMC-TV.

Castellani recently had to attend a meeting in person because he put up a fence, which the Zoning Board of Appeals alerted him wasn't in compliance with Village Code.

"They were helpful, they told me what I had to do and I did it," he said.

In addition to its regularly scheduled meetings on the second and fourth Monday of the month, the Board of Trustees also holds public work sessions in the Regatta Office on the first and third Monday of the month.

Do you know how your government works? Do you feel the public is given enough opportunities to comment during meetings? Comment below, on Facebook or Twitter .

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