The picketers carried signs reading “we cannot afford your affordable,” and “can we bankrupt Saugerties – yes we can.” They turned up an hour before a scheduled meeting with the Town Board Tuesday to discuss their objections to a proposed “work force” housing development on Route 32 near Glasco.
More than 150 people jammed the center, nearly all opposed to the project, referred to as “Dickinson’s Keep.” They told the Town Board that an agreement with the developer, Larry Regan, allows too great a tax break for Regan, shifting the burden to residents. The town has negotiated a payment in lieu of taxes agreement that requires Regan to pay $650 per unit, or $26,000 total taxes in the first year. This would increase at 3 percent per year over 30 years to bring the taxes up to the full tax.
Organizer Gaetana Ciarlante told the people that developments such as Dickinson’s Keep are going up all over the area, and they should be willing to support residents of other areas when they protest developments they feel will ruin their neighborhoods. The issue is not just Glasco, she said.
“I don’t think this is economic development; it should have been thoroughly thought out,” Pamela Riggs, who is running for a Town Board seat, said prior to the meeting. “With the 2 percent tax cap coming, that (a reduced-tax project) will exacerbate the school issues. It’s not that I’m against helping poor and handicapped people, but this community cannot sustain this type of a project at this time.”
Other speakers stressed the need for good jobs in the community, and suggested that if the board approves tax breaks, they should be for employers who will provide them.
Facing a crowd that was overwhelmingly opposed to the project, Supervisor Greg Helsmoortel acknowledged that the favors it. He read from a letter he wrote New York State Housing Commissioner Brian Lawler in which he states the need for “a sufficient supply of adequate, safe and sanitary dwelling accommodations properly planned for individuals and families having less than or equal to 60 percent of the median income for Ulster County.”
“I don’t see how anyone could disagree with that,” he said, but many in the crowd disagreed, loudly booing.