Just five months after retiring as mayor, Gail Coniglio is returning to public service – this time as a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission.
The Town Council on Tuesday appointed Coniglio to the seat being vacated by Chairman Michael Ainslie, whose three-year term is expiring. Ainslie is not eligible to serve another consecutive term.
A longtime resident of the North End, Coniglio retired in April after 10 years as mayor and four years as a councilwoman. Before that she served on the Recreation Advisory and Landmarks Preservation commissions.
Coniglio is a businesswoman whose family owns and manages E.R. Bradley’s restaurant in West Palm Beach and formerly Cucina Dell’Arte and the now-defunct Nick & Johnnie’s restaurants in Palm Beach.
She said she looks forward to applying her experience and knowledge of the town to the zoning board as it spends the next few years tackling zoning code reform.
“Because I have had commercial properties, I can give a little more focus on what [it means] to be more vibrant – moving us into the future while preserving our charm,” she told the council.
Coniglio said she is no longer involved in any businesses in Palm Beach, except for ownership of the building that houses Field of Greens at 277 Royal Poinciana Way.
Mayor Danielle Moore said town boards need members who possess the kind of historical perspective that Coniglio can bring to bear.
“Your long history in this town is really sort of critical to us moving forward with code reform and the comprehensive [land-use] plan,” Moore told Coniglio. “Thank you for bringing your expertise and history to the commission and thank you for your service.”
Council President Margaret Zeidman said she was thrilled to learn Coniglio has tossed her hat in the ring. She said Coniglio’s experience, good judgment and devotion to the town’s comprehensive plan would make her an asset.
“Your outreach into the community is broad and people trust you,” Zeidman told Coniglio. “I think you would be a superb person for us to have. You were not gone for very long and thank you for that.”
Coniglio said in an interview later that the appointment “wasn’t something I was seeking out” until she was approached on Friday and asked to apply.
“I’m concerned about the overdevelopment and ‘mansionization’ in the North End,” she said. “Code reform could help with that.”
But she said it needs to be a deliberative process that includes community outreach and education.
“We need to balance progress with property rights and any implication to Bert Harris,” said Coniglio, in a reference to the Bert J. Harris Jr. Private Property Rights Protection Act. The 1995 state law provides a means for property owners to seek compensation from government when regulations inordinately burden or limit their property rights.
Coniglio was one of two appointees to the zoning board on Tuesday. Vice Chairman Richard Kleid, who is a former chairman of the commission and former member and president of the council, was re-appointed to his seat.
Former commission chairman Martin Klein was among six other candidates vying for appointment to one of the two seats.
Alternate commissioners William J. Gilbane III, Nicki McDonald and John J. Tatooles were all seeking promotion to a regular seat.
The other two candidates were local landscape architect Mario Nievera and Mary Elizabeth Speer, who said she is a realtor with a background in finance.