There are three opportunities for public input at a typical Riverhead Town Board meeting: public hearings, public comment on resolutions being voted upon, and public comment on any and all business.
Public hearings take place towards the beginning of the meeting. All those who wish to contribute are sworn in before addressing the Board from the podium. After the Town, and/or an involved third party briefly describes the issue or makes a formal presentation, the public can speak. Unlike in some other towns, the Riverhead Town Board’s custom (at the time of this writing) is to have dialogue with residents during their comments. This can be quite constructive but it can also be disruptive and even contentious. If you would like to make your comments uninterrupted you can ask the Town Board to let you do so.
Try to limit your remarks to those directly related to the issue at hand. Comments on other topics should be saved for later in the meeting. As long as you are on topic your remarks may range from emotional pleas, to suggestions for improvements, to quasi-legal arguments for or against a proposed measure. (You may bring an attorney to represent your interests.) You should maintain a reasonable level of respect in speaking with officials and responding to other testifying members of the public to which you may be responding (you may speak more than once).
Depending on the nature of your remarks, you may want to do some research in advance of the hearing. Consider preparing a script if the issue is particularly complex or sensitive—of if you anticipate that it might become the subject of a future action, such as litigation. See Getting Info in the previous column.
The Supervisor will announce how long the hearing will be left open for public comment at the end of the hearing. It is normally 10 days. During this period you can submit comments to the Town Board through the Town Clerk. See contact information below.
Town Board meetings are taped in their entirety, broadcast on Cablevision and minutes are taken for the public record and later posted on the Town Board Minutes & Agenda page.
After the public hearings are over, anyone can comment on any resolution scheduled to be voted upon. Although most resolutions will appear on the official agenda, the Town Board often takes additional resolutions “off the floor.” These resolutions range from the mundane, to emergency related, to politically sensitive and unpopular. If you are concerned about a specific resolution that is not on the official agenda, ask the Board about the resolutions coming off the floor so you can comment on them if you so choose.
Although this is rather late stage to address an issue, last minute comments have occasionally resulted in the tabling of resolutions and often result in changes to resolutions. The latter happens most often when the comment points out an error in a resolution. You might also want to speak in order to draw attention to an issue or get certain statements into the public record. For tips on research, preparation and protocol, read the Public Hearings writeup.
At the very end of the meeting, you can address and engage the Town Board on just about any topic related to Riverhead. You can thank them for a prior action. You can call them on something you think they’ve done (or might do) that you believe is not in the public’s best interest. You can make a suggestion for a new policy or law. As always, just try to keep it civil and to the point. Technically, each member of the public has five minutes to comment but the Riverhead Town custom is to allow people to speak longer, until it becomes overlong or unpleasant (at the Board’s discretion.
Photos courtesy of Riverhead Patch
The Town Board manages the day-to-day operations of the Town Government. As the legislative body, it is also responsible for all Town laws including zoning and land use regulations. It adopts and amends the Town’s comprehensive plan and can also issue special land use permits. The Town Board also annually adopts a budget that funds town services.
The Town Board does the people’s business via two recurring meetings. During work sessions, they discuss policy and administrative issues, as well as proposed legislation often regarding land use. During Town Board meetings, they vote on legislation. Certain legislation, including all zoning and Town code revisions, as well as special use permits for events and other specially-permitted land uses, requires a public hearing. Hearings are announced in the publication of record and on the Town's Public Hearings page.
Town Board work sessions are usually held on Thursday mornings. At work sessions, the Board discusses all types of business except for sensitive personnel or legal issues, which are discussed in closed-door executive sessions. This is a working meeting during which the Board does not have to allow public input, although it is their custom to allow a limited discourse with the audience at their discretion. Town Board work session agendas are online.
Town Board meetings (see schedule) are normally held on the first Tuesday of the month at 2:00 pm and the third Tuesday at 7:00 pm. These meetings generally consist of public hearings, public comment on resolutions, voting on resolutions, and public comment on any issue (in that order). The Town Board meeting agenda is normally posted a few hours before the meeting. Public hearings are listed on the website over a week in advance. Read tips for attending and participating in these meetings including hearings in the column on the right.
Riverhead is governed by the Town Board, which consists of four part-time councilpersons serving four-year terms and a full-time supervisor serving a two-year term. All five have an equal vote on all matters. Get contact info for the entire Town Board below .
The agendas for both types of meetings provide very basic information. Currently, information including proposed resolutions is not available to the public before the meeting. For more insight into a work session agenda item, contact the Supervisor’s Office at 631-727-3200. For a copy of a proposed resolution, contact the Town Clerk’s Office at 631-727-3200. Prior to these meetings, a copy of resolutions and backup documents can usually be found on the table just outside the main meeting room.
Get suggestions on how to prepare for, and what to
expect at a Town Board meeting in the next section in the right column.
The Town Clerk’s Office is responsible for recording activities of Town Government: it is the central place where documents and papers vital to the lives of the townspeople are filed and may be accessed. It is also a central repository for all Town applications and forms.
Most processes related to land use require some documents be filed with the Town Clerk, which can then be accessed there via an Application for Public Access to Records. This includes Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals and Town Board decisions—as well as final site plans.
The Town Clerk does not hold its own public meetings but does attend and perform a central role in all official Town Board Meetings. The Town Clerk is also responsible for the official meeting minutes, posted on the Town Board Agendas & Minutes page.
The Town Clerk is an elected official with a four-year term, who is supported by a small staff in the Town Clerk’s office.
Anyone can request to review or attain a copy of an official record, map and document (etc) by submitting an Application for Public Access to Records (commonly referred to as a F.O.I.L.) to the Clerk. If the item cannot be found in the Town Clerk’s office, your request will be forwarded to the appropriate department.
Forms and applications, of various departments, can be accessed online via the Town Clerk’s Document Center.
Think of the Town Clerk as the keeper of the official record and thus submit comments and letters to boards (including the Town Board, Planning Board and ZBA) through the Town Clerk. Do this by addressing the communication to the appropriate board or individual official “care of ” the Town Clerk.
Riverhead _________ Board
c/o Town Clerk
Riverhead Town Hall
200 Howell Avenue
Riverhead, NY 11901
The clerk’s office will record your communication as received, keep a copy of it, and distribute it to the appropriate board members and staff. This ensures that your letter is entered into the official public record for later reference.
Supervisor Sean Walter &
Members of the Riverhead Town Board
c/o Town Clerk
Riverhead Town Hall
200 Howell Avenue
Riverhead, NY 11901
Note: Don't forget to indicate care of (c/o) the Town Clerk so
that your correspondence will be entered into the public record
and thus will 'count'.
Supervisor Sean Walter - email@example.com
Councilman John Dunleavy - Dunleavy@riverheadli.com
Councilwoman Jodi Giglio - Giglio@riverheadli.com
Councilman Tim Hubbard - Hubbard@riverheadli.com
Councilman Jim Wooten - Wooten@riverheadli.com