Due to efforts in his first two-year term, said Shandaken supervisor Rob Stanley, “we have groundwork laid for a lot of projects in town that I hope to implement,” now that he has been reelected. Stanley, a Republican, defeated Democrat Kathy Nolan, 681-360, in the November 8 election, for a second term in office. He outlined his vision for the next two years, based on the many efforts already underway.
The supervisor doesn’t expect the change in composition of the town council to affect the conduct of town business, although Democrat Tim Malloy will be succeeded by the Republican-endorsed Alfie Higley. “Alfie will fit nicely into Tim’s spot,” said Stanley. “I’m sad to see him go — he was a good councilman, and we worked well together.”
If issues about farm stand regulations are under consideration, will Higley, who runs the controversial Hanover Farms with his father, recuse himself from voting? “If it’s specific to his farm stand, absolutely,” said Stanley.
Following a year’s study of sewer systems by Lamont Engineering in contract with the Catskill Watershed Corporation (CWC), the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has approved the type of system Lamont selected as most the cost-efficient for Phoenicia. “Now the battle is to have the city increase the block grant to pay for the entire sewer system. It’ll take sitting down, a lot of talking and banging of fists on tables, and a lot of letters back and forth.” Stanley expects to be part of the dialogue, along with town council member and deputy supervisor Vin Bernstein and representatives from the CWC and County Executive’s office.
“It will be ultimately left to the people of Phoenicia to decide if they want a sewer system,” Stanley said. “Obviously there’s an environmental benefit, and there are logistical benefits for property owners, since it alleviates a portion of their property from having to maintain a septic and leach field, which can be used for additions to houses.”
Over the next two years, Stanley hopes to work on the town’s relationship with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). He has problems with the department’s management of the state-owned Belleayre Ski Center, where staff and benefits were recently cut. The ski area’s operation is critical to Shandaken’s economy, and the lodges were used for emergency shelter and supplies during the recent hurricane. “The DEC is an environmental conservation agency that’s in business of running a ski mountain, which is more of a parks and recreation activity,” observed Stanley. “From the DEC’s perspective, it seems that Bellayre is on the back burner to more pertinent environmental concerns throughout state. I’d like to see them make a decision to give Belleayre a more solid footing.”
In conversations at regional meetings, it’s been proposed that DEC coordinate activities throughout the entire Catskill Park, rather than lumping Shandaken in with the rest of Region 3, which includes New Paltz, Kingston, and Sullivan and Orange Counties. “It’s hard when we’re working on high mountain streams that are very different from low valley streams,” Stanley noted. “Why is Shandaken forced to apply to Region 3 for stream modification, when Margaretville has done the same kinds of studies to justify their work? It would be better if the Catskill Park could be treated as a whole entity, and we could refer back to similar applications and not have to repeat the argument. Are we really going to rely on boundaries created by Mr. Hardenburg in the 1700s for our environmental outlines?”
Another issue is flood recovery. “We still have homes that were damaged, and concerns about assessment. Even with the zero percent tax increase, with some [damaged] properties [now] assessed at a lower rate, properties not affected will have to cover remaining cost,” Stanley warned — and thus some homeowners will see their taxes go up this January.
Regarding flood prevention, Stanley has been participating in an initiative to improve strategies for stream maintenance townwide, through the efforts of Shandaken Area Flood Assessment and Remediation Initiative (SAFARI), which is funded by DEP.
Shandaken has obtained an $83,000 Smart Growth Grant from the DEC to make improvements in the town. A contract has already been awarded to Kurt Boyer Design for creation of handsome new welcome signs at all entrance roads to Shandaken.
Another Smart Growth project has been put out to bid for repairs to the Glenbrook Park pavilion. “The posts are rotting away, and it needs repair desperately,” said Stanley. “It’s used a great deal, for political events, fire department chicken dinners, birthday parties, showers.”
Also part of the grant is the construction of four informational kiosks to be placed on the Main Streets of Phoenicia and Pine Hill, on Route 42 in Shandaken, and at the Big Indian Park. Similar to the kiosk already in place at the site of the intended Catskills Interpretive Center (a.k.a. The Bridge to Nowhere), they will display maps and information about recreational assets in the vicinity of each hamlet.
“We will try to continue to improve all the hamlets of the of town, without focusing too much on one hamlet over the others,” said Stanley. The annual Shandaken Day will focus on Pine Hill and Highmount next August, with the fair held in Pine Hill and a Belleayre Conservatory concert scheduled that night at the ski center in Highmount.
Other projects for Pine Hill include an extension of the hamlet’s sewer to 30 more households, at no cost to the town, and a stormwater retrofit project, which has been in discussion for three years. “We’re looking to increase stormwater conveyance, while allowing for more parking on the street,” noted Stanley.
When asked what he likes about his job, the supervisor replied, “Giving back to my community, knowing I can make some kind of impact in a positive way. I try to help people understand that communication is the key. Just because we may have adversarial views doesn’t mean we don’t all care about the community. I’ve kept it fair and quiet at board meetings — everyone’s got a voice.”
Formerly employed in his family’s plumbing business, Stanley now works full-time as supervisor. To unwind, he teaches skiing at Belleayre, and in summer he goes hiking and tubing.
How long will he stay in the job? He shrugged. “At some point, I’ll need to take a sabbatical,” he said, but for now, he’s committed to governing Shandaken.++