Holley hires new police officers, consolidates planning and zoning boards

By Kristina Gabalski, Correspondent Posted 15 June 2016 at 12:00 am

John Kenney leads final meeting as mayor

HOLLEY – Mayor John Kenney ended 13 years of public service to the village Tuesday evening when he oversaw his final meeting of the Village Board.

Mayor Kenney, who served three years as a trustee before being elected mayor, decided not to seek re-election this year.

“I have enjoyed my time serving this community,” he told Orleans Hub. “I am thankful for all the support from this community.”

Kenney said his retirement from public service will allow him to spend more time with family, including his grandchildren.

During their meeting, board members approved hiring six new part-time police officers for the Holley Police Department. The move will help the department stabilize after what Police Chief Roland Nenni described as a “serious loss of personnel.”

During the supervisors’ meeting prior to the Village Board meeting, Chief Nenni reported that over the history of the Holley Police Department, there have typically been three to four full-timers.

“We can get back to that stability with a couple of full-time officers,” the chief said.

Two of the six part-time officers will become full-time before the end of the year, after they have received a second phase of training, Nenni said. He noted that Orleans County has extended the probationary time for newly hired police officers to 78 weeks, meaning that when the two part-time hires become full time, the department will be able to retain them for 18 months.

“Starting in November we will have real stability,” Nenni told Village Board members. “A full-time employee has a stake in the department.”

He noted that officers will work to fulfill priorities of the Holley community.

“The non-police type stuff can be the most important,” he said, and added that he is working to have the police department become more involved in the community. For example, he recently met with members of the library board as part of that effort, the chief said.

Kenney asked the chief if the village will be able to financially handle the new hires. Nenni said as a budgetary measure, the village could cover the expense. Recent vacancies in the police department will also help to cover payroll expenses, Nenni said.

In other business, the Village Board approved the consolidation of the Planning and Zoning Boards, by adopting Local Law No. 2 of 2016.  The purpose of the consolidation is to, “increase the efficiency and administration of land use, planning and zoning review in the village,” Section 1 of the law states.

The board will now be called the Joint Zoning Board of Appeals/Planning Board and will consist of five members. Membership will be comprised initially from existing selected members from both boards for the remaining length of their current terms of office.

Resident Kerri Neale spoke against the consolidation during a public hearing before the vote. He said a Zoning Board of Appeals creates a safety valve for oppressive zoning laws.

“It should not share responsibility with any other board,” Neale said. “What happens today may change tomorrow. I have difficulty understanding how a joint board can rule on hardship cases it created by itself.”

Deputy Mayor Brian Sorochty tried to allay Neale’s fears by explaining that every right of review or appeal will still exist.

“The Planning Board does not issue site plan approval,” Sorochty said.  “If you need relief you can still go to zoning. Every avenue a resident had before, he will still have.”

Code Enforcement Officer Ron Vendetti said residents also have recourse to Article 78 as well as other appeals at higher levels of government.  He noted other municipalities in the state have consolidated the two boards, including the Village of Hilton.

Zoning Board Chairwoman Sandra Heise stated she is “a little nervous” about the consolidation, mainly due to the increased workload.  She said she felt more at ease knowing other municipalities have taken the same step.

Neale said he would like to see the village work to encourage residents to fill both boards, as lack of interest is one reason for the consolidation.

Sorochty additionally pointed out the make-up of the boards is a concern as two married couples serve on the boards – one couple on the Planning Board and a second on the Zoning Board. Sorochty said that is not appropriate.

Kenney thanked Neale for his comments.

“It’s good to see input,” the mayor said.

Neale said it is important for community residents to become involved and to attend meetings, enabling them to have a part in the process and to, “see why decisions are made.”