A leader of the Edgemont incorporation committee yesterday rejected a surprise offer from Town Supervisor Paul Feiner to be appointed to the Town’s Planning Board.
Jeff Sherwin, who with two other Edgemont residents, Mark Rosenblatt and Jon Lewis, leads the Edgemont Incorporation Committee (EIC), was offered the planning board seat in an email from Mr. Feiner late Monday night.
Mr. Feiner had offered Mr. Sherwin the seat without any prior discussion with him beforehand, which suggested to some that the offer was a political stunt.
In rejecting the offer, Mr. Sherwin noted that its timing came just after he had published a year-end status report on incorporation in the Scarsdale Inquirer that showed the incorporation petition already has “more than enough signatures to demand a referendum” and that his committee’s feasibility experts have identified “a substantial budget surplus” if Edgemont votes to incorporate.
Mr. Sherwin gave several reasons for turning down the seat, citing among other things, his work on the incorporation effort, his belief that land use decisions should be decided at the local level by the people who would be affected by such decisions; and his concern about a potential conflict of interest involving a pending lawsuit the Town may choose not to defend to stop Mr. Feiner from certifying Edgemont’s incorporation petition.
The planning board seat opened up last month when longtime chair of the Planning Board, Frances McLaughlin, announced her retirement, effective December 31. Had Mr. Sherwin agreed to accept Mr. Feiner’s offer, he would have become the third Edgemont resident on the 7-member board.
The Town has never before allowed more than two Edgemont residents to serve on either the Planning Board or the Zoning Board, and there has not been an Edgemont resident on the Town Board itself since Mr. Feiner ran a slate of candidates that ousted board member Eddie Mae Barnes in 2007.
The other two planning board members from Edgemont are Michael Golden, a former fire district commissioner, and Hugh Schwartz, whose wife is a member of a small law firm that represents a developer suing the Town to prevent Mr. Feiner from certifying Edgemont’s incorporation petition.
Paul Feiner sent the following email to Mr. Sherwin:
As you may know, there is currently one vacancy on the Planning Board. Would you be interested in being nominated for a seat on this policy making Board? The Board meets twice a month. We would ask that you be open minded when reviewing applications and that you devote the time necessary reviewing each case that is before you.
If you are interested in discussing the responsibilities in greater detail please contact me or Garrett. Please also send a resume to the Town Board and Garrett. I have spoken with others who also believe that you would be an asset to the Planning Board.”
Mr. Sherwin’s letter to Mr. Feiner reads in its entirety as follows:
“I received your invitation to fill the empty seat on the Town of Greenburgh Planning Board. I must admit that I am puzzled by the timing of this request, arriving, as it did, on the heels of my January 9 Scarsdale Inquirer piece, “Edgemont Incorporation Committee (EIC) 2016 Year-End Status Report.” As you know, that report revealed: (1) the incorporation effort currently has enough signatures to demand a referendum on incorporation, and (2) our financial feasibility experts identified a substantial budget surplus if the Edgemont community votes to become a village.
I have considered your offer and feel must decline to serve for the following reasons:
- As one of the EIC leaders, I am occupied with our core mission: 1) researching and disseminating the most accurate and thorough incorporation information possible to the Edgemont community, and 2) providing the residents of Edgemont with an opportunity to vote on incorporation. Fulfilling that mission consumes much, if not all, of the time I can provide to the community with continuous neighborhood discussions, fundraising for outside experts, managing petition gathering and quality, and maintaining a comprehensive website at http://edgemont2017.org.
- My philosophy is that real estate development planning should be conducted ata local level: Just as I do not believe non-Edgemont residents should make long-term decisions affecting Edgemont, I also do not believe that I should be making long-term decisions for communities outside my own, where I may not understand local needs and conditions.
- I also believe that the practice of endowing the Town Planning Board with special permitting authority allows the Town to spot zone development it promotes, a practice I don’t condone.
- Further, I am concerned about the conflicts embedded in the Planning Board. Athirteen-year incumbent on that Board (whom you’ve repeatedly reappointed) is married to a partner in a small law firm representing a client suing both the Town and the Planning Board. In addition to monetary damages, the suit seeks an injunction against the Town barring it from certifying the very petition central to the EIC’s mission. I understand the court has already found the Town in default on that case. Conveniently, if the Town does not put up a robust defense, that injunction will serve the Town in its mission to defeat incorporation. My joining the Planning Board would then put me in an untenable position between those two missions.
I hope you understand my position on this matter.”