Seneca said: “To the person who does not know where he wants to go, there is no favorable wind.” The same goes for a town. Policies, laws and actions by local government, agencies and appointed bodies should all work toward common goals. That’s the philosophy behind a comprehensive plan, also known as a master plan, and Saugerties recently unveiled the first draft of a new one.
The last such plan was passed in 1999. Material from the plan has helped to inform town and village zoning laws, ordinances and budgets ever since. But times change, and the town and village need a new plan to cope with new circumstances. On Thursday, Nov. 15, the committee that spent the last two years working on the new plan presented it at a meeting that drew about 70 people. Many commented, and those comments will be incorporated into subsequent drafts. There will be many more public hearings.
The plan includes a summary of local trends, and lists 13 categories of goals: quality of life; education; town and village government; recreation and public open space; history and small-town character; land-use and development policies with a subgroup of dealing with large parcels; housing; natural resource protection; diversification of the economic base; utilities; traffic planning; harbor and waterfront development and tourism.
Concern about over-regulation
Joan Reinmuth said she “loves the word collective,” and that “individually we have much less power and much less ability – the ability to make an assessment is the ability to plan. Making an assessment is really not the word for control; you will have to show me an area that has no planning and that’s working out – where people are safe and the environment is safe.”
But two other speakers bristled at the mention of “collective” and “control.”
Mark Knaust said the plan, while it has many positive aspects, contains too much regulation. “You have to be aware of imposing burdens on property owners in this town.”
He also questioned the plan’s support for “all types of housing,” noting that this could encourage low-income apartments subsidized by the government — proposals which have not been popular with some residents, particularly neighbors.
Gaetana Ciarlante followed up on Knaust’s comments, noting that the 1999 plan contained 21 pages, while the new plan contains 60 pages, which, she said, means more regulations. “Not that I don’t appreciate your work, but we are so over-regulated as it is. This comprehensive plan talks about how the planners kind of put Saugerties together: I want to propose to you that it was explorers, it was inventors, it was businessmen and industrialists who put this community together also, not professional planners.”
Citing the statement that the plan seeks to “guide market forces so that development opportunities and land-use goals will be compatible,” Ciarlante asserted that the plan “is about control, not protection. There is a difference between protection and control.
“This is all about redistribution of land,” Ciarlante said, and “on page 21 it refers to the right of the greater community; this is Agenda 21 language. Agenda 21 is all about the redistribution of wealth, and this is about redistribution of land.”
(Agenda 21, developed at a UN conference in Brazil in 1992, discusses the problems associated with great inequality of income, atmospheric damage, resources and similar topics, and discusses how nations can voluntarily develop ways to help alleviate these dangers.)
Susan Rosenberg praised the plan, and suggested that it contain some reference to regulation of hydrofracking, a type of drilling for natural gas.
Planner Dan Shuster said that while fracking is not specifically covered in the plan, “the board has asked me to prepare a statement for them to consider and evaluate, and they intend to take a position to include in the plan regarding fracking.”
Resident James Uhl didn’t think that would be a good use of time. He said energy companies have not approached Saugerties for drilling permits because “we are not on the Marcellus shale, and on the edge of the Utica shale plate. [Natural gas] is not here. It is a smokescreen; they are not going to drill for gas here.”