Brookhaven Town Board votes itself and supervisor a pay hike

Vote also disbands Planning Board


Brookhaven Town Board members at their meeting on Feb. 22 voted themselves a 24 percent pay increase for 2024 that will raise their pay to $98,000. They approved a pay hike for supervisor Daniel J. Panico, whose salary will increase 24 percent to $168,000.

The pay raises, which are on top of the 3 percent increase included in the 2024 budget, are because of the additional work the six part-time town board members will be taking on after voting to disband the town’s planning board, whose final meeting was Feb. 26, and assume its responsibilities for reviewing and approving new development.

“It’s almost double the work,” deputy supervisor and 5th District councilman Neil Foley said.

The town board will now start its twice monthly meetings two hours earlier at 3 p.m. to hear development issues and will add an additional work session, Foley said.

The pay raise is equivalent to the amount planning board members were paid, he said.

Streamlining a development approval process that some say is slow, cumbersome, and expensive and has slowed construction of new housing, has been one of Panico’s top priorities. He mentioned it in his inauguration speech when he was sworn into office in January.

Eliminating the planning board will shave six to eight months off a development approval process that can take 18 months to two years, Foley said.

At the town board meeting on Feb. 22, Panico said other towns on Long Island are looking to Brookhaven as a model for streamlining their development approval processes.

“We’re either going to talk about it and do nothing, or we’re going to do something,” he said. “And this town board is taking affirmative action to actually do something to make the change.”

Panico pointed to the expertise he and other town board members have when it comes to land use.

District 6 councilwoman Karen Dunne Kesnig served on the planning board for 10 years, including as deputy chair. Foley was a member of the town’s board of zoning appeals for a year back in 2013.

“The process is in no way new to us,” said Panico, who served on the planning board for two and a half years. “The subject matter is not new, and each and every one of you is extremely knowledgeable about your council districts and I know it will be successful.”

There are pros and cons to eliminating the planning board, said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

Unlike planning board members who are appointed, town board members are elected and therefore more accountable to the public, she said.

On the other hand, Esposito, who served on the Suffolk County Planning Commission for 12 years including as vice chair, worries that town board members won’t have the time to give potential projects the thorough review they deserve, including considering potential environmental issues.

“I hope they understand that they’ve increased their work load significantly,” Esposito said.

Lillian Clayman, who ran unsuccessfully against Panico for supervisor in November, said the town board was premature in voting for a pay raise even before they took on the added work. How can they determine what an appropriate pay raise would be until they start doing the work? she asked.
Foley, however, said the town board had taken that into consideration.

“We knew how much work is going to be involved,” he said.

Clayman said she was also concerned that eliminating the planning board leaves residents with one less government body to which they can address concerns about development projects.

“I think it’s an important issue and they need to assure people every opportunity to have input,” she said.

Another of Panico’s priorities was to abolish the town’s accessory apartment review board and turn over the board’s responsibilities to the town building department. The town board also approved that change at its meeting on Feb. 22. 


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