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Town of Catskill accused of violating open meetings law

May 09, 2019 8:45 am
Sarah Trafton reports for Columbia-Greene Media that the Town of Catskill violated the open meetings law with two April 11 meetings announced at the last moment and held without agendas posted online. No agendas were posted for the zoning board meeting held at 5 p.m. April 11 and an “emergency” town board meeting held at 5:30 p.m. the same day. Catskill webstreams town meetings through the WGXC app online at wgxc.org, but did not provide live audio, or a recording, of this emergency meeting, and Town Supervisor Doreen Davis did not attend the meeting. The regular zoning board meeting, scheduled the day before, was not held. Both April 11 meetings concerned the Sheepdog Warrior Shooting Range, a firing range located on Haines Road in the town that has drawn opposition from neighbors. Residents were given only one-day notice for the town board meeting and same-day notice for the zoning board meeting. “[The law] requires public notice of the time and place of a meeting scheduled at least one week prior thereto to be given or electronically submitted to the news media and to be conspicuously posted in one or more designated public locations at least 72 hours before such meeting,” according to section 104 of the Public Officers Law. In March the zoning board ruled that the law enforcement training at the firing range was not a recreational use, though owner Ed Rivenburg could seek a use variance. Rivenburg and the town entered into a tolling agreement, allowing him to waive a right to claim that litigation should be dismissed due to the expiration of a statute of limitations. At the town board's May 7 meeting, it was noted that the firing range missed a deadline to get back to the town with more information. Both Davis and Town Attorney Michael Smith did not comment on the matter to the newspaper, though Smith said a response to Attorney John Dowd's letter about the April 11 meetings would come next week. Dowd represents neighbors concerned with Sheepdog Warrior Shooting Range. Rivenburg said he may file a federal lawsuit to keep the firing range open. “Hopefully we can get through it without it,” he said. “We are trying to make everyone happy here. It’s tough. Some people are just anti-gun.” Committee on Open Government Director Robert Freeman commented about the lack of public notice about the meetings. “If the meeting is scheduled a week in advance, notice has to be given not less than 72 hours before the meeting,” Freeman said. “If they knew about it for less than a week, the notice has to be to the extent that it is practicable.” Read the full story at HudsonValley360.com.
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