Campaign signs are sprouting all over Shandaken, as the candidates gear up for the November election. A debate has been set for October 30, to be mediated by a representative of the local news website watershedpost.com.
Over the next few weeks, we will present interviews with the candidates, beginning with Republican supervisor Rob Stanley and Democratic challenger Kathy Nolan. Next week, we’ll talk to the town council hopefuls, Democrats Peter DiSclafani and Michael Koegel and Republicans Vincent Bernstein and Alfie Higley. Finally we’ll interview town clerk Laurilyn Frasier, a Republican, and Democratic candidate Joyce Grant, as well as highway superintendent Eric Hofmeister, running on Democratic and Republican tickets, and Keith Johnson, who’s been endorsed by the Conservatives.
Dr. Kathy Nolan is a Shandaken resident who has been deeply involved in civic matters in the town for over two decades. Trained in both medicine and law, she came to the Catskills after a career as a researcher and educator focused on the ethics of medical practice. She has worked as an administrator in non-profit organizations, a job she said employs similar skills to those needed by a town supervisor. She served on Shandaken’s Zoning Board of Appeals for five years and currently works for Catskill Mountainkeeper. In addition to volunteering for numerous non-profits over the years, she has taught martial arts at Onteora High School’s afterschool program.
Nolan feels the town needs both short- and long-term strategies for handling flooding. “We must return to the system where local people can handle the gravel and cobble in the streams alongside their properties. There are also areas that need stream management programs to prevent banks from eroding into the streams. This requires cooperation with the DEC and DEP. I would also press for more funds from the DEP.”
With respect to flood damage and property values, she commented, “Shandaken has been conducting a reval [a revaluation of property in the town, for tax purposes] on a gradual basis for the past several years and is in a good position to do a formal reval if we choose to do that. It’s most important for the state legislature to pass a law to reassess flooded properties. A Federal law has already been passed, but a state law is required for it to apply for this year.”
She sees reassessment as important for owners of damaged property. “It will spread the tax burden across all property owners. You don’t ask people who are injured to carry the same weight as others, and it will keep them from being taxed for something they no longer have.”
Nolan opposes rezoning that would make Route 28 into a commercial strip. “It’s important that we maintain the natural beauty that draws people to this area.” She said there are several options for encouraging farmstands that will operate in harmony with neighbors, noting that several applications have recently been made to the planning board for farmstands at other sites besides the Hanover Farms location. “People in the town desire to have access to produce and garden supplies, and we have to find a way to do it. Having a well-drafted farmstand law is the most logical way.” She also has ideas involving discussion with the individuals involved.
“People are independent in Shandaken,” she remarked. “There is a tolerance for bending the rules, but we need some predictability for how the rules are applied. We need to get back to a common view of what zoning law means.”
At the same time, Nolan said, “Shandaken needs to have an economic revival, based on our natural assets, and we’re poised to do that,” citing such initiatives as Ulster County’s Main Street program and the Scenic Byway designation application currently in process, as well as interest in developing off-road hiking and biking trails. “We should support these small-scale, locally oriented business initiatives, while continuing to oppose large-scale, terrain-altering mega-developments. The community may have to deal with the prospect of that down the road, with the review of the Crossroads Ventures project.”
She is concerned about the impact if the Phoenicia Elementary School closes. “It’s an important element of community life. I favor plans that strengthen the relationship between the hamlet and the schools,” such as a joint community garden and integration of the school into Main Street initiatives. She suggested seeking other sources of funding for some of the school’s basic expenses.
As for voting on a tax cap override, she said, “If the option is to close the school, it’s a matter of whatever the community wants to invest. A vote would be the way to find out how important the school is for the community.”
Whether to build a Phoenicia sewer system is also, Nolan feels, “a matter for the hamlet to decide. My hope is that information provided to the residents is clear and complete and includes consideration of the cost to the community to own and operate. My sympathies lie with those who feel New York City should own and manage the system itself, if the hamlet goes in that direction. I believe modern, alternative systems are available that are more reasonable for handling waste management needs of a small hamlet at an affordable price.”
Nolan’s goals for the next few years include “preserving the features of Shandaken that draw people to come here and live here, while keeping the town budget at a level the people can afford.” She cited again the small-scale development initiatives that “can be done without a major cost to the town.”
As supervisor, she would “promote the notion that we can work together harmoniously to find solutions that allow people to do what they want to do without injuring those around them.” She added that the town should have “a full and unobtrusive cell phone service. It may take some additional effort beyond what we’ve seen so far. If carriers don’t come into town voluntarily, we can use existing laws to force service providers to fulfill their legal responsibility to provide services to rural communities.”
Nolan’s campaign website can be found at www.kathyforsupervisor.com.