Tyranny of the screamers
This past Thursday was the second public hearing for the proposed Water Resources Protection law, about which David Gordon wrote a clear and comprehensive explanatory piece for this paper. Only about 20 citizens came to comment on the proposal, which, like all law, would affect everyone in town. Thirteen signed up to speak. Of these, only four addressed the provisions of the law itself, offering reasoned and therefore valuable criticisms.
The rest of the people spoke without relevance to the proposal. Many were abusive, ranting about feeling restricted and deprived of their property rights by things which weren’t in the law at all. Several accused the members of the Town Board and unnamed others of seeking financial profit through it, although it offers no possibility of financial gain to anyone, except an occasional fee where a water expert is needed to determine if a proposed project endangers a water resource.
Surely more than 20 people in this town care about keeping our water clean. It is an absolute certainty that many more than 20 will complain in the future if the water is polluted or less abundant, and will be furious with the town government for not having protected it.
The purpose of public hearings on proposed laws is to allow the Town Board to hear the voice of the people. I am as guilty as anyone of not reading proposed laws in advance and not going to the public hearings about them: Laws are written in a boring way and meetings are always inconvenient. But I happen to be a member of the volunteer citizens’ committee which drafted the Water Resources Protection Law, so suddenly it has become crystal clear to me that without the participation of all of us, the Town Board hears only the screamers. One of these is the woman who thinks the word “community” is equivalent to “communism.” Saugerties is, whether she likes it or not, a community, and only with full community participation will we get a town and a town government that represents us all.
Quick to complain, quick to respond
As per my brief conversation with the town highway supervisor in regards to cleaning drainage ditches on Old Route 212, I was surprised by such a quick response. Thank you for a job well done. I would like to thank you for the necessary mailbox repair made which was above and beyond my expectations. The team of employees that the supervisor sent out worked well together, conducted themselves in a very professional manner, and efficiently got the job done. Wow, tax dollars at work.
A plan for the whole community
Gaetana Ciarlante seems to have become the point person in opposition to protection of our rural and historic resources. She is smart, committed and persuasive on the issues which most concern her. I agree that it would be nice if we were not subject to permits. I don’t feel I need stop signs, posted speed limits, driver’s license, auto registration and inspection, insurance, and police to ticket me. Why do I need a permit to fish, hunt and dump my garbage? A building permit to build a house? A septic field or a well? I accept these and much more as a price of living in an orderly society under regulations applying equally to all of us.
The draft update of the Saugerties Comprehensive Plan is designed to protect our right to an attractive, safe and healthy environment. There is much we share in common which extends beyond our individual plot of land and house if we are fortunate enough to afford one. Our landscape is unique, composed of an historic fabric of forests, farms, streams, lakes, wetlands, waterfalls, hills, cliffs, stone walls and houses, lanes and trails. No single property-owner can protect our town. We can do it only as a community acting in our common interest.
Animus to rental housing has been expressed as if everyone should live on a quarter-acre with a pool and two-car garage. I have talked recently with two friends, each of whom foresee downsizing their households because of aging or illness. “Barry, I can longer split and carry wood, mow the lawn and make house repairs with my painful back and legs.” Couples split up; singles age without marrying. Children graduate and start new lives, but cannot afford to buy houses, especially at the low wages predominating in this community.
“Over 300 households are on our waiting list,” said Alice Mumper, administrator for the Town of Saugerties Public Housing Agency. “We had to close the list to new applicants. There is no affordable housing available.” We are not talking about immigrants from Mexico or Long Island, but our own families, some of whom have been here for generations and cannot afford to own a single-family house. Who am I to say only those who can afford a single-family house, as I do, should live here? In addition, multi-family and clustered housing is more adaptable to irregular terrain, preserving woodlands, meadows, ponds, streams and trails. We need land and trails on which to roam, picnic, fly kites, ski, ride horseback , hunt and fish. We need “complete” streets on which to walk and ride bicycles as well as to drive cars. Tract houses offer few or none of these options for an enjoyable life. Finally, we are obligated to protect all the community’s natural resources, especiall your groundwater.
Saugerties is certainly a microcosm of “America the Beautiful.” The Comprehensive Plan offers one way of doing this.
Proposed water resource regulations are unnecessary
After thorough review of the proposed Water Resources Protection ordinance I am left to question why this zoning law change is needed. There already exists substantial federal and state regulatory authority with respect to wetlands, floodplains and waterways. Additionally, the town has special restrictions in place within the existing zoning law under the provisions of the Sensitive Area Overlay District, the Aquifer Protection Overlay District and the Waterfront Overlay District. This headlong rush to expand land-use restrictions beyond the scope of existing regulatory authority is a little disturbing, particularly since it seems aimed to address a non-existent problem.
The proposed addition to the zoning law will create an abundance of new land-use regulations, some of which are particularly onerous. The requirement for additional permits and reviews will add time and expense to the current application process. Permit decisions will be made by the Planning Board and/or Zoning Board based on a number of subjective criteria, creating a potential for unequal application of the law. Furthermore, the town will need to employ a water resources expert, thereby increasing municipal expenditures. There is no question the cost of private development, large or small, will rise under the terms of this ordinance. This hardly seems prudent or warranted given the present state of economic stagnation.
I commend the planning committee for the time and effort expended in drafting this proposal. I do believe it addresses some valid concerns, although I think those concerns are most likely governed by another regulatory authority or already accounted for in the current zoning law. Be that as it may, for a community presently in need of economic growth to broaden the tax base, it seems very unwise to potentially hinder development by further complicating the permitting process, increasing costs and adding another layer of government bureaucracy. As a resident landowner and taxpayer I must to urge the Town Board to reject the Water Resources Protection ordinance in its entirety.