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Hammond considers dropping planning board members

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HAMMOND – The Town Council will decide next month whether to add two new members to its joint Planning Board with the village.

When two members’ five-year terms expire at the end of the year, the Planning Board will be left with seven members. And that’s still a sizable amount, according to Planning Board Chairman Ronald Papke.

“For a small town, the size of our Planning Board is rare,” Mr. Papke said. “Many other small towns have five members. Ideally, I say we could do well with or without adding new members. Things have been fairly quiet and going well.”

Unlike many planning boards within the county, Mr. Papke said, Hammond does not struggle with volunteer and attendance issues.

“It was a problem in prior years where the attendance was a little sparse,” said Mr. Papke. “At least this past year, we have not had any significant problems.”

Planning board members are paid a $30 stipend per monthly meeting.

“It’s not about the money so much as it can be difficult to find qualified, available and trained volunteers,” said Town Supervisor Ronald W. Bertram. “We need at least five members to hold a quorum. When members are absent, it can be difficult to fill those spots.”

The board already has one vacancy, Mr. Bertram said.

The Town Council will decide whether to keep the two soon-to-be-vacant Planning Board seats at its Jan. 8 meeting.

Beginning in January, the biggest issue facing residents will be St. Lawrence County’s newly imposed $25 fee for site plans and subdivision applications, Mr. Papke said. Previously, applications were free.

“Under certain circumstances, requests for subdivisions or site plans for approval will be reviewed by the county planning department for a fee,” Mr. Papke said. “Not every request goes to the county, and there are some exemptions.”

But site plan applications are not to be confused with a simple building permit, he said.

“Moving a single mobile unit or adding onto a site doesn’t require site plan review,” he said. “It is for bigger type projects like establishing a business, and somebody who wants to subdivide or make two lots out of one.”

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