I was shocked and dismayed that at the June 26 Brookfield Planning Board meeting Marylou Rhodes and myself were repeatedly shouted at publicly by two fellow Planning Board members. We were called “liars” and accused of “lying to the Planning Board members and the people of this town” regarding the legal meaning of a comprehensive plan.
One of them waved a supposed copy of the state Statute on Comprehensive Planning, Town Law §272-a, while both of them shouted loudly at us that “the state says once adopted, a Comprehensive Plan becomes law.”
What these individuals had in reality was a document that had been altered. They did NOT have an exact printout of Town Law §272-a. They had a document where said law had been copied and pasted into a new document, with the formatting changed and statements added to intentionally mislead both the Planning Board and the community into believing the plan becomes an actual law.
Because of the anger and hostility created by the altered document described, I requested a legal opinion from our town attorney, based on the actual law, which follows:
“First. No Town is required to adopt a comprehensive plan. It is voluntary.
Second. If a Town adopts a comprehensive plan it does so by a Resolution, not by Ordinance or Local Law. Resolutions are the least formal kind of legislation; they are typically used by Town Boards to govern the day to day management of government (adopt a budget, set meeting dates, honor a citizen, etc.).
Third. A comprehensive plan does not require anyone to do anything, and there are no penalties for not following it. The plan is really just the ‘goals, objectives, principles, guidelines, policies, standards, devices and instruments’ of the Town to promote ‘protection, enhancement, growth and development’ of the Town, according to NY Town Law Section 272-a(2-a). By its very nature the plan is simply that, a plan, not a requirement. As with all plans it is meant to be advisory and informative, not to be mandatory. It is designed to give guidance, not to be mandatory or punitive.
Fourth. If a plan is adopted, then all ‘town land use regulations must be in accordance’ with the plan according to NY Town Law Section 272-a (11). So, if a plan is adopted, and the Town later wants to adopt land use laws, they must be in harmony with the plan.
Fifth. NY Town Law Section 272-a (12) says if a plan is adopted, it must be filed in the office of the Town Clerk, and the office of the county planning agency. Local Laws must also be filed with the Secretary of State, but that is not required for comprehensive plans.
So, can it be said that a comprehensive plan is a form of legislation? Yes, but it is legislation that is voluntary, adopted in the least formal manner, and it does not require anyone to do anything. It just serves as a guide.”
To the citizens of Brookfield, please do not be misled by this deliberate attempt to deceive. I urge you to either visit Town Hall and request to see the actual Town Law or visit public.leginfo.state.ny.us/menugetf.cgi?COMMONQUERY=LAWS to download and print a copy of any law yourself.
Karen Nowak, Town of Brookfield Planning Board