Z.B.A. Wants to Limit the Endless Meetings

There may be changes afoot for the East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals. During a prolonged discussion on Oct. 11, the board wrestled with implementing rules that have been in effect since 1989, but have not been followed.

Chief among them is a rule limiting applicants or their representatives to a maximum of 10 minutes to make their opening remarks. “These are the rules that are sent [to applicants]; they just have not been enforced,” Elizabeth Baldwin, the board’s attorney, told the members.

The discussion was sparked in part by two recent public hearings that ran until midnight. Board members agreed that such sessions were unfair to all concerned, including those whose hearings follow controversial applications.

David Lys, a board member, expressed concern that a strict limitation to 10 minutes might constrain a representative who needed more time. Other members mostly agreed. “The applicant can ask for more time,” Ms. Baldwin told the board. “Ten minutes will be the target,” John Whelan, the chairman, said.

Representatives sometimes dump volumes of documents on the Planning Department and the zoning board on the day of the hearing, which is another pet peeve for the board. Cate Rogers held up a five-inch-thick folder recently presented that way by an applicant. “I want to have as much information as possible, as soon as possible,” Mr. Lys said.

The board seemed to agree that 10 days in advance of the hearing would be a good deadline for documents to be submitted. That, Ms. Rogers said, would allow board members, as well as the Planning Department, upon whose memos the board relies, time to digest the matter at hand.

While 10 minutes would be a nominal limit for representatives’ initial presentation, the rebuttal would not have a time limit. However, Mr. Whelan said, the rebuttal would have to be narrowly focused on what had already been said at the hearing. “We need a better job of stopping the redundancy,” Mr. Lys said.

Also, experts brought along to testify, such as landscapers, contractors, or environmental experts, would be limited to three minutes apiece.

Ms. Rogers expressed concern that wealthy people can show up with an army of experts, an inequity as opposed to those less well off. “It is kind of skewed to those who can afford it,” she lamented.

One time concern problem is self-inflicted, Mr. Whelan acknowledged, taking a self-deprecating swipe, noting he occasionally can “ramble.”

Ms. Baldwin is working on a draft for a new set of rules, which will be taken up by the board in weeks to come.