C.J. O’Rourke cites focusing on his business and ineptitude of planning department as reasons for resignation
Following conflict with the Colonie Planning Department, Chairman C.J. O’Rourke has stepped down, and the town has appointed Peter Stuto to take his place Thursday, Jan. 6.
Although his tenure is up this year, O’Rourke said he asked to not be reappointed because of problems he’s had with the department’s lack of development in the town, and issues with Planning Department Director Joe LaCivita.
I think it’s quite apparent that if you look at the Town of Colonie, just 12 to 15 miles away there is the largest construction project in the world under way, said O’Rourke, describing the GlobalFoundries Semiconductor Chip Fabrication Plant in Malta. `There’s only been one application that’s come across the planning department’s desk since December. One person. That tells a big story about developers and the town.`
O’Rourke said it was also a business decision as he owns and operates a construction company and said that he wasn’t willing to put the amount of time required to chair the board when it wasn’t being run properly.
`I worked very hard to try and make changes within the town in terms of business and planning,` he said. `I just felt my efforts weren’t fully successful.`
A recent incident occurred at a Dec. 20th planning board meeting, where his unrest with the planning department and LaCivita spilled out into a public forum.
The issue was over the Van Buren Subdivision on Turner Lane where members of the project were seeking for final site plan approval. O’Rourke said that the agenda item was not ready to be presented because there had not been a public hearing called and ended up tabling it to Jan. 11.
`We couldn’t have action, there couldn’t be any,` he said, adding that an agenda change was requested. `The board didn’t need an update, they were looking for final approval and it was evident someone was telling the truth. Either the developer or the planning department, someone made an error.`
O’Rourke said LaCivita failed to provide notification for a public hearing, which he said the board usually publishes in local newspapers. He took LaCivita to task during the meeting and criticized him for his mistake where he referred to him as `incompetent.`
`I’ve been senior level management in several organizations before I started my business, and never once has a senior level person I’ve been associated with been as incompetent as he is,` O’Rourke said.
He referred to the incident as `a waste of taxpayers’ money`, and said that it also wasted the time and money of the developer as he would have to pay his attorney for representation.
`We failed to do proper notification in terms of the land use law and public notification,` he said. `It specifically states when an application comes to final approval that a public hearing must be called. Certain notifications must be made and one was never done.`
O’Rourke was appointed as chairman of planning board on Jan. 1, 2010, by Supervisor Paula Mahan, after serving as a member of the board for a three year term. During his tenure, O’Rourke said when he made decisions he did not exert any of his political beliefs over the issue.
`I felt I did what’s right for the taxpayers and what’s right for the people of Colonie,` he said, `I felt I was successful in doing that, and I’m frustrated I couldn’t effect more change in the way planning was handled in the town.`
Mahan said she is appreciative of the work done by O’Rourke and that she understands his reasoning to step down as chair of the planning board.
`Both Joe LaCivita and C.J. O’Rourke have worked very hard on behalf of the town and both have made strong contributions,` she said. `I am grateful for C.J.’s years of service as Planning Board member and chair and I understand his decision to resign in order to devote more time to his business and family.`
The town board unanimously voted to appoint Peter Stuto as the new chairman of the Planning Board on Jan. 6.
LaCivita had nothing bad to say towards O’Rourke and said his mind is locked on moving the Planning and Economic Development Department in the right direction.
`I wish Mr. O’Rourke well but I am concentration on the job at hand and moving the town forward,` he said.“
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