The town board tapped Joann Waski of Jamesport to serve on the planning board as acting chairperson. Photo: Denise Civiletti

Joann Waski of Jamesport was appointed acting chairperson of the Riverhead Planning Board Tuesday.

Planning Board Chairman Stan Carey last month announced his retirement effective Nov. 30 after nearly eight years on the board — almost six as its chairman.

Waski, a lifelong resident of Riverhead Town, grew up in Aquebogue. She owns Peconic Abstract, a real estate title search company in Riverhead founded by her father Richard Spanburgh in 1983.

“I think that I have a lot to offer,” Waski said after yesterday’s planning board meeting, which she observed from the audience. “We all bring something different. And I really think that I’ll have a little bit of a different perspective than the other board members and together we’re going to do great things,” she said.

“I’m excited. I know each and every one of them for quite a long time,” Waski said.

Waski said she worked in the family title business starting in high school and became president of the company when her father died in 2008. “I did take a little bit of a leave of absence to raise my children,” she said. She is the mother of twin daughters, who are now 20 years old. Her husband is a retired Riverhead police officer.

“I want to do good for my town,” Waski said.

The planning board is a five-person board established pursuant to state law. Each member serves a five-year term, as required by state law. Members are appointed by the town board, which also appoints the planning board chairperson and vice-chairperson. The chair and vice-chair positions have traditionally been one-year appointments.

The Riverhead Planning Board handles commercial site plan applications — except within Riverhead’s designated urban renewal areas, which are handled by the town board — and all land subdivisions.

Waski was appointed to fill the remainder of Carey’s term, town board members said Tuesday after their meeting. His term expires Dec. 31, 2023.

She was also appointed to the acting chair position, a role she will fill “for the time being,” Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said after the meeting Tuesday.

The resolution passed by the town board did not speak to Waski’s appointment to the planning board. It did not say she was appointed to serve the balance of Carey’s term or mention any term at all. It simply stated effective Dec. 1 Waski was “appointed acting Chairperson to the Town of Riverhead Planning Board at an annual
salary as determined by the Town Board and prorated for the period of time of serving in said position.”

In response to questions after Tuesday’s meeting and after some discussion, the supervisor and two board members agreed the appointment needed clarification.

“All right, so we’ll put it in,” Aguiar said. “We’ll send out an email. Everybody agrees — to finish out his term.”

Councilman Tim Hubbard the town board should do another resolution to correct it. Councilman Ken Rothwell agreed that the town board “should probably clarify that.”

The resolution appointing Waski passed in a 4-1 vote, with Councilwoman Catherine Kent dissenting.

“Certainly I have nothing, no problem with this applicant,” Kent said of Waski, who is an ally of the supervisor and was a vocal advocate for her re-election in opposition to Kent’s challenge to Aguiar.

“But I am always seeking a more open process for these kinds of appointments,” Kent said.

“We had an open process, a process that we normally don’t use,” Aguiar replied to Kent during the vote. “We opened it up for resumes. We left it open for 10 days. And that’s usually not the case. And it’s not required. So we did do that,” the supervisor said.

After the meeting, Aguiar said the position was advertised on and the town received a number of resumes. Waski was, she said, “the best person” for the job.

The other board members all praised Waski’s abilities. Hubbard said he’s known Waski for a long time and praised her “knowledge of land use and title work and her downright love of the town of Riverhead.”

Councilman Frank Beyrodt said she is a “good friend, smart lady and is going to be quite an asset to the planning board.”

Rothwell called Waski “very talented and really knowledgeable.”

After yesterday’s planning board meeting, Waski said she has been “getting up to speed watching prior meetings” and is looking forward to digging into the work.

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor and attorney. Her work has been recognized with numerous journalism awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She was also honored in 2020 with a NY State Senate Woman of Distinction Award for her trailblazing work in local online news. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.