Amid an impending lawsuit over alleged thwarted appointments, the Manorhaven Board of Trustees agreed to expand their zoning and planning board to seven members on Wednesday night.
At the meeting, Mayor John Popeleski said former Mayor Jim Avena left the village “in bad shape,” which prompted the change.
“Things were stopped,” he said. “We feel at this time the BZA [and] planning board are so overloaded with everything. Going back to a seven-person board is the right way to resolve a lot of the problems that Mayor Avena left this village.”
Popeleski reiterated these claims to Blank Slate Media the next day.
“I needed to expand the board because it’s an overload,” he said. “There’s just so much going on and I need more people to input, suggest and all of that.”
State law says that village zoning boards may only have three or five members. When this was brought up by a resident during the meeting, Popeleski said village law takes precedence.
In particular, the meeting’s agenda cites Municipal Home Rule Law Section 10. It specifies that by local law, villages and towns may supersede or change any sections of the Village Law and Town Law that apply to a certain village or town.
“This means that, by local law, a village or town may vary the requirements set forth in the Village Law or Town Law, relating to the number of members on the board of appeals and their terms of office,” according to the state’s James A. Coon Local Government Technical Series.
Popeleski said he “probably” won’t nominate any of the appointment lawsuit claimants for the enlarged boards.
Manorhaven has previously increased its BZA. In January 2013, under then-Mayor Giovanna Giunta, they expanded it to seven members. This persisted until 2017 when Avena reduced it back to five. He said that the previous administration had “illegally expanded” the BZA.
This is yet another significant development for both boards in recent months. On July 15, the trustees approved a new law that, subject to their approval, allows the mayor to choose the chairs of both boards annually. It also limited individuals to two terms on the BZA.
On Aug. 2, Manorhaven received a notice of claim about an impending lawsuit for what the three claimants are calling “unlawful appointments.” The three are contesting the appointments of Elise Ledda, Frank Ottaviani and Richard Zimbardi to the zoning and planning board(s).
At the meeting on Wednesday, Manorhaven also implemented several other laws and changes.
They banned building or construction within the village on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.
In addition, businesses on Manorhaven Boulevard, Orchard Beach Boulevard, Shore Road and on Manhasset Isle will have revised garbage laws. Commercial businesses must dispose of their trash in containers with tight-fitting lids.
The village will fine those who commit their first offense $250, a second offense $500 and a third offense within a year $1,000. Any ensuing offense becomes a violation, which is subject to a punishment of at least $2,500. They will consider a new additional violation for each week that the violation continues.
Manorhaven will also no longer hold meetings over Zoom, except for those that involve public comment sessions.
The village will host a trustees’ work session on Sept. 14 at 6 p.m. The next trustees’ meeting date has not been announced.