Mayor Joanne Yepsen made two appointments to land use boards at the Tuesday, January 3rd City Council meeting.
Yepsen appointed Amy Durland to fill the unexpired term of Howard Pinsley on the Planning Board. The term will end next year.
Ms. Durland has established herself, in my eyes, as one of the best people to have served on our land use boards. An attorney by training, Ms. Durland has a record of extraordinary thoroughness in her preparation for meetings. She has served on both the Zoning Board of Appeals and on the Planning Board. For a period she chaired the Planning Board. She has also shown herself to be fearless in her willingness to do what she believes to be right while maintaining a courteous and dignified manner. It is not easy to say no to applicants. Just on a human level, the tendency to please can be quite strong. Couple this with serving on boards that have been traditionally dominated by the real estate industry, it is particularly hard. Ms. Durland has not been afraid to be the sole dissenter as she was recently on an issue involving commercial property where the CVS pharmacy and Purdy’s Liquor are located.
I must give the Mayor a lot of credit for making this appointment. For obvious reasons, Ms. Durland is not a popular figure with the development community in our city.
This is quite the extreme reversal from Mayor Yepsen’s reappointment of Bill Moore to serve another seven years as chair of the Zoning Board of Appeals. In contrast to Ms. Durland, Mr. Moore appears to be oblivious to any elements of the zoning laws and the comprehensive plan that would temper his apparent passion to please the developers who come before him. Mr. Moore, who is a real estate appraiser, most notoriously recently supported the “barn conversion” on Murphy Lane and “Downton Walk.”
Some might argue that Mayor Yepsen has not merely burned her bridges with the development community but incinerated them. The whole hearted support Mayor Yepsen’s last opponent enjoyed from the Saratoga PAC demonstrated this. It is possible that she has decided to embrace what I call the “quality of life” constituency. These are the people who are more concerned about traffic congestion, green space, bike paths, etc. The demographics of this city have changed radically during the last two decades from the provincial village that was owned by the Republicans and that viewed exploitation of our land as the ultimate goal of city planning to a community dominated by people who have moved here for the city’s charm and want to protect this.
Mayor Yepsen also appointed Cheryl Grey to the Zoning Board of Appeals as a regular board member. Ms. Grey had been serving as an alternate on that board. Ms. Grey has also established a record for rigorously preparing for land use meetings. She has a long history of being involved in land use questions. I am cautiously hopeful that she will demonstrate the same independence and grit that Ms. Durland has shown.