You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘2006’ category.

This article was originally published on September 27, 2006

dsc_4350.jpg
Elliot Spitzer talks to the media while Kirsten Gillibrand listens.

An enthusiastic crowd of over 300 people came to Ft Edward Wednesday evening, September 20, to meet Elliot Spitzer, the Democratic Party candidate for Governor and Kirsten Gillibrand, the Democratic Party candidate for the 20th Congressional District.

The event was held at the newly opened Washington County Democratic Party Headquarters on Broadway.. The size of the crowd forced the event to overflow onto the sidewalk and into street. In a surprise, Spitzer decided to introduce Ms. Gillibrand, no doubt hoping to use his coattails to help carry her to victory in November. Spitzer gave her a rousing introduction, speaking of the need to send fresh blood to Washington.

At times speaking over the roar of traffic and train whistles, Spitzer said that across New York “we’re winning because we’re right. The public is listening and the public understands it. When we see jobs leaving our counties and our towns, people have realized that the empty rhetoric of the Republican Party simply isn’t working . . . But on November 8, when we wake up, we deal with the problems of this state. We’re going to lower our property taxes in a way that’s meaningful, generate cheap energy, get jobs here . . . and keep our kids here by providing an education . . . These are the things we believe in (and) do it in a way that shows fairness, decency, integrity in the marketplace, things that our party stands for . . . I think it’s pretty important that we win and take over the Governor’s mansion. I will make a confession. For the sake of the nation, there is something that’s more important and that is taking back the House of Representatives”.

Ms. Gillibrand, in her remarks, addressed how closely tied the Republican Party and the oil industry are, pointing out how as the mid-term elections draw closer, the price of oil lowers. “You will see by election day it (the price of gas) will be $2.50 a gallon. There can be no argument that they aren’t manipulating our gas prices”. She went on to pledge that her first order of business in Washington will be to call for a Congressional investigation of price fixing by the oil industry. In an echo of President Kennedy’s call for putting an man in the moon in ten years, Gillibrand spoke of the need to achieve energy independence in 10 years. “We make sure it’s part of our national security agenda . . . We tell Detroit we want you to increase your miles per gallon by 5% every year and we want you to be at 60 miles per gallon within 10 . . . When you give our best engineers and inventors the vision to do this, they will do it”. She spoke about how the 20th District has the hydro power, fuel cell research centers and farmland that could be used to produce bio-fuels and thus how “this District could be the alternative energy corridor”.

Gillibrand also spoke at length about how Congress has failed in it’s Constitutional duty to hold the Administration accountable for it’s actions.

dsc_4346.jpg

In comments to the press afterwards, Attorney General Spitzer spoke about the bipartisan support for the Hudson River dredging project, a project that was supported by Christie Whitman and George Pataki. He also spoke about his vision for revitalization of Upstate, by providing tax breaks for the farming community and providing tax incentives for high tech companies which will provide good paying jobs for local residents. “I’ve proposed creating a venture fund in the state pension system that will invest in new technologies and our universities”.
Also in attendance were Tim Merrick candidate for State Senate and David Carter, candidate for State Assembly.

It should be noted that the author is volunteering his services as a web designer to the Hawkins for Senate campaign, as well as to local Democrats.

Advertisements

This article was originally published on September 7, 2006

dsc_4323.jpg

Former presidential candidate and long time consumer activist Ralph Nader traveled to Albany on Tuesday, September 19 to endorse Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for Senate. Mr Nader described Howie Hawkins as “an honest and dedicated man”.

Both men spoke at a press conference at the State Capital about the need for debates between all six candidates in this year’s Senatorial race. Mr Hawkins spoke of Senator Clintons avoidance of debating Jonathon Tasini during the Democratic Primary. Mr. Hawkins believes that her refusing to debate the Iraq War with Tasini was disrepective of rank and file Democrats who oppose the war, and urged her to debate the issue so voters would be able to make an informed choice. “A debate just with John Spencer, who is also pro-war, would not be a real debate” Mr Hawkins said.

“I’m here to say that I want to debate Clinton, but also John Spencer and the other three so-called third party candidates”. Mr. Hawkins brought up the fact the Jody Rell, the Republican Governor of Connecticut who is running for reelection has stated that she won’t agree to a debate unless the Green Party candidate is included. “So the question is can Hillary Clinton meet the same democratic spirit that the Republican Governor has shown to the debates”.

Mr Nader stated “It’s bad enough that the system is so rigged that it provides only two major parties and impedes other candidates and parties from even getting on the ballot . . . but when it reduces itself to one party dominated districts or states, then there are only coronations, not elections. Here we have Hillary Clinton who is way ahead in the polls . . . and she views this election as her coronation. She does not adhere to the basic democratic processes which say to the American people no matter where you are, no matter how dominant you are, in a pre-election period, you should have a fair-enough policy to let dissenting views be aired before the public”.

dsc_4316.jpg

In endorsing Hawkins, Nader said “I urge voters in New York not to allow Senator Clinton to sweet talk them, to flatter them, to mislead them, but to turn the tables on Hillary Clinton and demand that she debate all qualified candidates for the US Senate . . . so that issues of corporate power and injustice be placed in clear and contrasting fashion between her position, Mr. Spencer’s position and the Green Party Howie Hawkins position. Howie Hawkins is not a candidate who just throws his hat into the ring for a third party. He is one of the most accomplished civic organizers, for a longer period of time, that I’ve ever met. He’s hung in there with detail, with patience, with grace, with determination, on one controversial matter after another”.

When asked if his support for Mr. Hawkins was simply a way to attack Senator Clinton, a possible opponent for President in 2008, Mr. Nader replied that he was supporting Hawkins because he believed in him and his message. As to another run for the Presidency, Nader said he would make up his mind by next summer.

When asked if he was endorsing the entire Green Party slate, Nader said “No, I only endorse those who I know”.

It should be noted that the author is volunteering his services as a web designer to the Hawkins campaign, as well as to local Democrats.

New York’s Green Party Candidate for U.S. Senate

This article was originally published on August 2, 2006

dsc_3853.jpg
The Rock Hill Bakehouse Café in Glens Falls hosted a fundraiser for Howie Hawkins, the Green Party Candidate for US Senate from New York on Saturday, July 22. Mr. Hawkins spoke at length to the packed house about the race, the war in Iraq, the growing energy crisis and the importance of supporting third party candidates.

Most years, the prospects for a third party candidate are dim, at best. However, two early polls indicate that this year may be an exception. WAMC radio in Albany ran an informal poll on May 23, asking how listeners intended to vote in this year’s Senatorial race. Mr. Hawkins came in first with 32%. On My 27, Zogby International released the results of a poll of likely November voters. The poll gave respondents three choices; Hillary Clinton, an anti-war candidate or someone else. Senator Clinton was the choice of 38%, an anti-war candidate 32%, undecided 21% and someone else 10%. Mr. Hawkins commented on the Zogby poll by stating “Anybody who tells me I might spoil the election for the Democrats I say, yeah, the only way I can spoil the election is to win the whole thing.”

“Thirty two percent of the vote for an anti-war candidate translates into about a million and a half votes . . . So those of us that want to get out of Iraq and Afghanistan and turn US foreign policy around have a real opportunity here to make a huge statement”. Expecting the Democrats to lead us out of Iraq is like expecting crack addicts to turn in their needles”. Because they’re addicted to the campaign cash they get from corporate America, as addicted as the Republicans. Corporate America wants not a defensive military but a global occupation force.” Mr. Hawkins went on to describe the ties between the Congress, corporations and the military as an “industrial-military-congressional complex”.

Energy
Mr Hawkins offered two specifics regarding his energy policy. “We should take 300 billion dollars a year . . . and spend it on a global public works program to re-wire the planet with renewal energy and render oil and nuclear power obsolete and unnecessary. Make friends around the world, instead of enemies, spread goodwill instead of resentment.” He also called for the creation of a National Oil Company that would lower and stabilize the price of oil. By accepting the standing offer from Venezuela to sign a long-term contract to purchase oil at $50.00 a barrel, the National Oil Company (which Mr. Hawkins referred to as a New Deal style yardstick corporation) would be able to drive down the cost of home heating oil and gasoline. He sees this future government entity as the driving force to spur the development of alternative energy sources and ease the transition to non-oil dependent economy.

Mr. Hawkins spoke of how the increased use of renewable energy will act as a catalyst for job creation, reduce our dependence on foreign oil from the Middle East which will improve our national security and “start to demilitarize our society (which) is on a permanent war footing” and help fight global warming.

One of the main goals of the New York State Green Party going into this years campaign is gain 50,000 votes for Malachy McCourt in the governor’s race. Such a result would grant the party an automatic ballot line and facilitate it’s ability to run more local candidates.

Mr. Hawkins has been active in peace and justice issues since the 1960’s. His is a former Marine, co-founded both the Clamshell Alliance and the Green Party. He is currently a member of the Green Party National Committee. Mr. Hawkins is a resident of Syracuse, where is employed in the trucking industry and is a member of the Teamsters Union.

The fundraiser, which raised $2,000.00 for the Hawkins campaign, was organized by the Adirondack Progressives. Plans are underway for a speaking engagement in the fall by Malachy McCourt, the Green Party candidate for Governor in New York.

This article was originally published on August 2, 2006.

dsc3838.jpg

Congressman John Sweeney and Fort Edward Supervisor Marilyn Pulver speaking at the press conference.

On Friday, July 21, the Town Board of Fort Edward held a press conference to deny rumors that they claimed that some community members were spreading, accusing the Town Board of attempting to delay the startup of the EPA mandated dredging project.

Reading from a Press Release, Town Supervisor Marilyn Pulver spoke of two legal proceedings that the Town Board is involved in. The Town will be arguing in Federal District Court in Utica on August 2, that the proposed Champlain Canal Dewatering Facility should not be exempt from either Site Plan Review by the Fort Edward Planning Board or “any other local permits which are required for any other industrial facility in the area”.

Additionally, the Town of Fort Edward will begin eminent domain proceedings to acquire the vacant land in the Fort Edward Industrial Park where the Dewatering Facility will be built.

Congressman John Sweeney was also in attendance at the Press Conference and spoke to the lack of specifics detailing compensation to be paid to the host communities for this project. Congressman Sweeney stated “Today is about standing with the little guy . . . whether it’s a big corporation, or a big government agency or a political demagogue, people have to stand with you . . . we have to make sure those burdens are mitigated”.
He spoke of being in negotiation with GE prior to the consent degree being signed, discussing local compensation and his disappointment at then EPA Administrator Christie Whitman for signing the degree without finalizing local compensation.

dsc_3823.jpg

“No compensation has been granted to any of the communities for any of the massive burden. So today it’s now time to call upon GE to step up to the plate, provide some compensation to the host community for Phase 1, Fort Edward. The towns’ requests are legitimate and I call on GE to act in good faith with the town of Fort Edward to provide a financial host-benefit package. The Town is pursuing all routes to address their needs. They are pursing Eminent domain proceedings . . . and I support them in their efforts, singularly and most importantly because I think it is the only opportunity that the citizens of Fort Edward will have to have someone at the table . . . to protect their interests”. “Be assured that neither the Town nor I stand here in an attempt to delay Phase 1”.

“GE is a major player in this project they have a serious responsibility to the citizens of this town. Much as I predicted in the beginning, we have not been able to rely on EPA to understand or recognize the needs and concerns of the citizens. Our goal is to secure a financial package to the town to alleviate some of the burdens associated with dredging. The burdens of the Hudson River PCB’s are only going to increase”.

Marilyn Pulver, when asked for what exactly the Town was asking for in a benefits package, refused to give any specifics. Responding to a reporter’s question about wheater or not the Town’s Eminent Domain proceedings for the Dewatering Facility would set a precedent for other properties, Ms Pulverm smiled and said “Not necessarily”.

Mark Shaptner legal council for the Town spoke at the end of the conference and confirmed that the Fort Edward is involved in acquiring the property where the Dewatering Facility will be built by Eminent Domain. The Town Board began proceedings following a public meeting on June 29th and, according to state law, have 90 days from that date to make their decision. The press release that was issued at the meeting spoke of the Town acquiring property, but never mentioned the words Eminent Domain.

The Cost of Unmanaged Growth

This article was originally published on May 10, 2006.

dsc_3118.jpg
James Sheldon addressing the crowd.

James Sheldon, a financial analyst and financial journalist, spoke to a crowd of 80 people in Greenwich on May 3 on the high costs of unmanaged growth in small communities and how small towns can use the legal system to successfully manage growth. Mr Sheldon writes a monthly column about local land use and related fiscal matters for “Views From Gallatin” for The Independent and The Millerton News.

Tracy Frisch, the event organizer and farm advocate, addressed the audience prior to Mr Sheldon. A long time resident of suburban Philadelphia and New Jersey, Ms Frisch stated “It’s comfortable to think suburbanization won’t happen here, but experience elsewhere shows that development often happens suddenly and quickly. Or it occurs as a slow but insidious creep, and before we realize it and take action, there is not a lot left to defend and protect, because new houses are sprinkled everywhere.”

Most of the examples cited by Mr. Sheldon in his talk were about towns in Columbia and Duchess Counties where he lives, but he stated that they are applicable to Washington and Saratoga Counties.

Many people seem to think that “development means lower taxes. That is a fraudulent notion” said Mr Sheldon. Large scale housing developments bring huge profits to developers, profits that are “subsidized by taxpayers”. The subsidies come in the form of additional road construction and maintenance, public utilities, increased school taxes to accommodate the increased school population and, should the developments be large enough, increased fire and police protection.

While some would argue that attempting to control growth would adversely affect individual property rights, Mr Sheldon argues that increased taxes devalue property values. Mr. Sheldon’s expressed his attitude towards development as “I’m not anti-growth. I’m for the right to raise my family in a small town”.

A Town Board, in conjunction with the Zoning Board, can, for fiscal reasons, decide that a proposed development “will overwhelm the town” . The Town can then set limits on growth based on what the Town can fiscally afford. “The Zoning Board must lay the groundwork for limiting large scale developments for fiscal reasons” said Mr. Sheldon. As an example, he cited Amherst Massachusetts, which in the 1990’s did a financial impact of future development and used the results to plan and manage growth. While they were sued in court by developers, because the town had a well-developed study in place before the developers arrived, they were able to consistently win in court. However, surrounding towns took a different approach. They waited until developments were proposed, then set limits without a financial impact study. When sued, the developers consistently won.

While the impact of large scale, residential development is felt most acutely in school taxes, it is extremely rare for a school board to get involved in growth issues, despite the fact that in some areas of New York State, two thirds of taxes are school taxes. School boards “have to be involved in all steps” of the planning process. Mr Sheldon addressed how a proposed 300 home development planned for Rt 197 will affect local school taxes. With an average of 1.3 students per home, the development would increase school taxes $4600 in Hudson Falls and $5500 in Ft Edward.

Fighting growth does not come without it’s own costs. A citizen group in Red Hook, Duchess County raised the issue of runaway growth with the Town Board. As a result a measure was put before the public to raise Town taxes 3.5 million dollars for payments to farmers not to develop “the prime agricultural assests of the town”. The measure passed by a margin of 4 to 1.

Some towns in Long Island are pioneering the use of a 2% transfer tax on all real estate transactions, with the proceeds going to historic preservation, public parks and purchasing development rights to preserve open space. Vermont is using a similar system to develop affordable housing.

Impact fees can also be imposed upon developers to help mitigate increased taxes.

Mr Sheldon briefly addressed the impact of commercial development, such as big box stores. “If a property is fully taxed, it can provide a small net gain in taxes to a town. But such stores are rarely fully taxed”. For instance, a new Hannaford Supermarket in the town of Red Hook generated enough new taxes to pay for the education of 12 students.

Mr Sheldon closed by urging those in attendance make their views know to their elected officials, to run for office or volunteer to serve on local zoning boards.

Additional information about Mr Sheldon, along with news articles and essays can be found at his web site, http://www.littletownviews.com.

This article was originally published on April 12, 2006.

dsc_2818.jpg
Wallie’s new owner, Addonis Mallios, makes his bid.

Thursday, March 30 dawned as a beautiful spring day, the type of day rarely seen this early in the season. As a crowd of 50 buyers, lawyers and spectators gathered, coffee in hand, to witness the end of Wallies, a produce truck pulled up to make a delivery. His appearance foretold the intentions of the eventual, winning bidder.

dsc_2800.jpg

Inside, the restaurant was cold, dark and lonely, but ready for business. The last shift of waitresses had collected the table accoutrements together, leaving the dining tables empty, waiting only for table clothes and patrons. The kitchen was clean and tidy, dishes stacked and pots hanging. Everything was ready for another day in business.

The auction, conducted by Randy Passonno of Collar City Auctions, was held outside in the parking lot. The bidding was brief but spirited. At the end, Addonis Mallios of New York City and Middleburgh, Schoharie County, had the winning bid of $230,000. Mr. Mallios said afterwards “I want to keep everything here the same. I have no intentions of making a million dollars, I want to serve the people of Greenwich.” He went on to say that he may find a way to mix in some of his culture.

At the conclusion of the auction, a number of spectators remarked on how low the winning bid was. Chris McCormick, the Mayor of Greenwich, summed it best when he said “For the same price you could buy a home here”. Second in bidding was Dan Cutie of Cutie Pharmaceuticals. He had no firm plans for the property should he have won.

Mr. Mallios, a contractor, when asked about the name, said “Yes, I intend to keep the name Wallies”. Thus Wallies was re-born.

This article was originally published on March 29, 2006.

dsc_2757.jpg

Over 100 local residents attended the Alternative Energy Conference on Thursday, March 23, 2006 at the Greenwich Elks Lodge. The Conference, which was sponsored by the Washington County Farm Bureau, focused on delivering information about Ethanol, Bio-Mass, Wind Power and other forms of alternative energy to an audience composed primarily of farmers.

When one thinks about who is going to lead Washington County’s economy into the 21st Century, few among us would first think of farmers. But if the optimism of the presenters at this Conference can be turned into reality, farmers it will be.

Thomas Lindberg, Assistant Commissioner of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets set the tone for the day when he spoke of the need to “bring idle agricultural land into the production of energy crops”. Mr. Lindberg was the keynote speaker and addressed an Overview of Opportunities & The Governor’s Proposals. Crops such as corn, soy or willow, can be converted into ethanol and thus become a source for renewable energy. He went on to speak of how “we have an opportunity to transform agriculture” into an agent to help break our dependence upon foreign oil. As meteorologists warn of the dangers of the next cycle of large-scale hurricanes, “the largest spike in fuel prices in thirty years was caused by one storm”. While no one is happy with current high-energy costs, those prices have now made alternative energy competitive with fossil fuels.

Mr. Lindberg spoke of how moving towards renewable energy can help New York’s economy grow. Instead of continuing reliance upon large-scale energy plants, small-scale ethanol and biomass plants and wind installations instead rely upon local contractors and engineers for construction and maintenance. Because many of these facilities are located in rural areas, the economic benefits will help the parts of the state that most need a jolt.

Among the research projects currently underway in New York is a joint project between International Paper and the State University of New York to develop a renewable fuel source for the IP plant in Ticonderoga.

A number of the speakers, including Mr. Lindberg, spoke of how the Alternative Energy field has been energized by both Governor Pataki’s State of the State speech when he mentioned the need to create ethanol refineries and by President Bush when he spoke in his State of the Nation address of ” . . . producing ethanol, not just from corn, but from wood chips and stalks, or switch grass. Our goal is to make this new kind of ethanol practical and competitive within six years”. Both statements, along with the Congressional mandate to double our nations capacity of renewable fuels by 2012, are helping drive interest and investment.

Ann Peck, Project Coordinator for Empire Biofuels of Newark, New York, spoke of her company’s efforts to develop the first large scale Ethanol refinery in New York State, tentatively scheduled for construction in Seneca Falls. There are currently 95 ethanol refineries in the United States, mostly located in the Mid-West, with another 29 plants under construction. Eleven percent of the US corn crop is devoted to ethanol production. Each Ethanol refinery averages creating 35 on-site well paying new jobs and an additional 30 new jobs for existing businesses. Each plant contributes two million dollars to its local tax base. Because of Washington County’s proximity to the Port of Albany and existing rail lines, this area could easily become an exporter of refined Ethanol beyond the local market.

Ms. Peck said, “Currently 10% of all gasoline contains ethanol as a fuel additive that helps meet clean air standards”. “Ethanol works”.

Jeff DeWeese of NextGen Fuel, Inc. then addressed the conference on Biodiesel Opportunities for Farmers. When we think of the diesel engine today, many of us associate it with belching smoke from the big rigs that travel our nation’s highways. But “. . . Rudolph Diesel developed his engine to run on peanut oil”. As alternative fuels are being grown and refined into biodiesel, the diesel engine has come full cycle.

One of the big advantages of bio-diesel, is its small scale. For instance NextGen Fuel manufactures a 5 million gallon plant that ” . . . would fit inside this room”. They are in the process of building their first plant in Fulton, NY, along side a new Ethanol facility. NextGen is also in exploratory talks with the Port of Albany about placing a facility there as well.

The growth of bio-diesel has been explosive. US production in 1999 was half a million gallons. Last year it was 75 million gallons. The average refining cost for a gallon of biodiesel today is $2.00. There are currently 53 biodiesel plants operating in the United States. Mr DeWeese spoke of the three opportunities for farmers to take advantage of biodiesel. They can grow it (he mentioned that New York State currently estimates that there are 244,000 acres of idle agricultural land in the state); crush it to extract the needed oils for refining or to process it.

Kevin Schulte, a Senior Vice President of Sustainable Energy Developments of Ontario, New York spoke about Wind In Your Community. There are currently 4 wind farms in New York State, the largest of which is located on the Tug Hill Plateau, to the east of Lake Ontario. There are 3 basic types of Wind facilities; wind farms which sell energy directly to the grid; individual facilities which are used to supplement the grid for individuals and farms, and medium sized installations which are primarily found in educational and industrial settings.

New York, being the 17th windiest state, is ideally situated to become a leader in this field. Mr. Schulte’s firm is currently developing plans for municipally owned Wind Farms for Albany, Sullivan and Wayne Counties.

While the cost of an individual 10k wind installation might seem high ($54,000), 50 percent of the money is refundable through the Program Opportunity Notice 792 program of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. Local school officials should take note of the fact that they are eligible for a 70% reimbursement.

Also addressed at the conference were Manure Digestion and Willow, Grasses, Wood and Corn as Biomass fuels.

Other than a brief appearance by Assemblyman Roy McDonald, it was disappointing that the local political leadership chose to ignore this event. There was much to be learned, from how the need will arise for small-scale industrial plants to facilitate future alternative energy (which will create local jobs and tax revenues) to the leading role that Albany County officials are playing.

Interest during the daylong conference was high. It will exciting to see which energy paths our neighbor farmers lead us down in the years to come.

This reporter could not help but notice that a number of speakers spoke of the advantages of small-scale energy production, whether it be Bio-Mass, Wind or Pellet. Their arguments, such as helping local economies, sounded similar to the arguments put forth by Mao Tse-Tung a generation ago when he argued for small-scale steel plants scattered across the Chinese countryside. It goes to show that a good idea is not bound by ideologies, we can learn even from those whom we consider enemies.

Additional information can be found at the following websites:
Sustainable Energy Developments – http://www.sed-net.com/
NextGen Fuel, Inc – http://www.nextgenfuel.com/
National Corn Growers Association – http://www.ncga.com/
New York State Energy Research and Development Authority – http://www.nyserda.org/
New York Farm Bureau – http://www.nyfb.org/
Washington County Farm Bureau – http://www.nyfb.org/washington/index.html

This article was first published on March 15, 2006

The Greenwich Zoning Commission held two informational meetings on Tuesday, February 28th, reporting progress made to date on the proposed Zoning Plan and to accept public input.

The meetings were chaired by Bill Tompkins, chair of the Zoning Commission and Stuart Mesinger of the Chazen Companies, who was contracted by the Town Board to guide the Commission in its work. One of the major recommendations of the Comprehensive Plan, adopted by the Town Board in 2005, was the establishment of a zoning ordinance. Hence the Zoning Commission.

Mr. Mesinger stated that the Zoning Commission expects to present a draft plan to the Town by the summer, which will then be up for pubic review sometime around Labor Day. The contract between the Town and The Chazen Companies is up at the end of the year, and Mr. Mesinger fully expects the final plan to be presented to the Town Board before then.

Once the final plan is presented to the Town Board, it is up to the Board to approve it. According to State Law, only Town Boards can approve, disapprove or amend Zoning Plans.

When the final Zoning Plan is presented, the Town Board can reject the plan; vote to accept the plan; make what changes they deem necessary and then approve or disapprove the amended plan. Should the recommended changes be substantial, another public hearing would be held prior to a vote.

Once the Zoning Plan is accepted, the Town Board can amend the plan in the future as needs dictate.

Should the Zoning Plan be accepted, then the Zoning Commission will dissolve and a Zoning Review Board will be appointed by the Town Board. The Zoning Review Board will be responsible for hearing appeals for variances. Enforcement of the Plan will be up to the Town Code Enforcement Officer. Should disputes arise between the Code Officer and a property owner, the matter will be taken to the Zoning Review Board and if need be, to Town Court and then to State Court.

During the evening meeting held in the Middle School Cafeteria, Don Wilber, Town Supervisor, pointed out that in the 1960’s the Town Board appointed a Zoning Commission, which drafted a plan but the Town Board ultimately decided not to accept it.

A map showing the tentative zoning districts was on display. Mr. Tompkins explained that the Zoning Commission has been guided by the Comprehensive Plan, as well as by input from town residents.

The tentative plan is calling for 5 types of Zoning Districts; Rural / Agricultural, Industrial, Commercial, Residential and Hamlet / Mixed Use.

The Rural / Agricultural District would comprise most of the town and would include the areas designated as Agricultural by Washington County. At present the Board is expecting to enact no restrictions on farming.

The Industrial District is not one specific location, but a number of areas of the Town that already host industry, or are adjacent to such areas. These areas include the Peckham facility on Rt 29, and areas to the North and East of it and Paper Mills located in Middle Falls and on Rt 29. Mr Mesinger also noted that Adult Entertainment must be allowed in the town. Rather than try and prohibit it and end up in lengthy court proceedings, it has been his experience that the best way to prevent it’s emergence is to allow such establishments only in Industrial Districts. Such locations are for the most part out of public view and thus, not prime locations for such venue.

During the meeting at the day session, one member of the public mentioned the hardship that would be imposed on he and his neighbors if the final plan were to include an approved industrial designation on the east side of Rt 49, which is immediately to the north of their homes. After discussion amongst themselves during their March meeting a few days later, the Commission tentatively decided to remove the industrial designation from that location.

The Commercial District is concentrated in one location, the junction of Rts. 40 and 29. Both Mr. Tompkins and Mr. Mesinger noted that the size of the Commercial District was one of the decisions that the Zoning Commission has had the hardest time grappling with. At this point, the Commission is proposing that the Commercial District extend northwards along Rt 40 to Galesville Road. Some Commission members believe that the proposed Commercial District is too large while others feel it needs to extend further up Rt 40. Town Councilman Don Wilber noted that the proposed Zoning Plan from the 1960’s envisioned the Zone extending northwards to Spraguetown Road.

The Residential Districts are envisioned as being composed of existing single family homes, such as those that border on the Village, as well as the Battenkill Pines on Rt 29. The proposed Zoning would not allow for commercial development within these districts. However, in accordance with state law, churchs and schools would be allowed.

The Hamlet / Mixed Use Districts consist of the population clusters in the town, but outside the Village. Mixed Use areas include Clarks Mills, Thompson, Cossayuna, Battenville and East Greenwich. The mixed use designation means that some commercial activity would be allowed, so long as it did not adverse affect the quality of life for neighboring residents.

One of the biggest concerns raised during the public presentations regarded the potential of ‘big-box’ stores moving in. Both Mr Tompkins and Mr. Mesinger emphasized that the work to date on the Zoning Plan has taken this concern into account. At the normal monthly meeting of the Zoning Commission on March 2, the Commission tentatively picked an acceptable square footage for future commercial development of 60,000 square feet. Mr. Mesinger pointed out that most major corporations won’t consider building at sizes less than 100,000 square feet. By setting the limit at 60,000, Hannaford and K-Mart would have room for future expansion. Mr. Mesinger pointed out during the monthly meeting that a Town does not have to justify why a certain square footage number has been arrived at.

Another major concern raised at the public meetings was the spectre of large scale housing developments. Many residents were concerned and confused by the lack of minimal lot size in the plan and expressed their fears of farmland morphing into Levittown-style developments. Mr. Mesinger pointed out that if the final Zoning Plan were to have specific minimal lot size requirements, than a builder could design to those specs and then come to the Town saying, hey, I’ve met your requirements, you can’t turn me down. Because most of the Town will be zoned Rural / Agricultural, with most of it within the County designated Agricultural area, all residential sub-divisions would have to undergo a Environmental Impact Statement and fall within the scrutiny of the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR http://www.dec-state.us/website/dcs/seqr/). The Zoning Commission is still actively debating the size of allowable sub-divisions. Mr. Mesinger could not cite specific Zoning Plans that followed this sequence.

For the past few years, Greenwich has averaged 40 building permits a year, half of those for homes, the rest for sheds and other out buildings. 2004 saw the number of home permits rise to 28.

Other issues of concern raised during the public meetings included the fact that the proposed Site Plan Review and Special Use Permit would allow for small-scale commercial or industrial development in the Rural / Agricultural District. It was pointed out that currently there is no zoning and that anyone could build anything almost anywhere. The Phantom Labs building on Rt 29 was pointed out as an ideal type of development, one that brings jobs into the town, while leaving a small environmental footprint.

Finally, all existing non-conforming uses would be grandfathered in, with certain restrictions. For instance should a non-conforming use wish to expand, the expansions would be subject to a life-time cap of probably 25 percent (the commission has yet to set a specific number). Also, should a non-conforming use cease to operate for a given period of time (again the Commission has yet to specificy a number but it would probably be either one or two years), then the use would lose it’s exemption.

During both public meetings, Mr Mesinger, Mr. Tompkins and other members of the Zoning Commission spoke of their desire to direct future growth of the Town to small and medium scale commercial and industrial development, and not to large scale housing developments. Going down this path would encourage tax growth for the Town, and discourage expansion of needed services (roads, utilities, schools) that inevitably follow large scale residential development.

The Zoning Commission meets the First Thursday of each month at 7:00 pm in the Town Building on Academy Street. It’s meetings are open to the public. Public comments can be sent to Bill Tomkins, 2 Academy Street, Greenwich or to Stuart Mesinger of the Chazen Companies at 812-0513 or smesinger@chazencompanies.com.

Pages

Advertisements