In a somewhat unusual move, considering that they ran on opposing tickets in the November 2015 election, Gardiner’s new town supervisor, MaryBeth Majestic, has named new Town Board member Laura Walls as her deputy supervisor, replacing Warren Wiegand, whose reelection bid failed by a handful of votes. Considering that Walls has served in the past as town supervisor herself, perhaps it’s not so surprising that Majestic has opted to draw on her past experience. The move was made official during the annual organizational meeting of the Town Board on January 5.
The discretionary appointment authorizes Walls to carry out certain executive functions in the supervisor’s absence, such as opening bids on town projects. But, in contrast with many other towns, in Gardiner the office of deputy supervisor brings with it no additional compensation. The sole dissenting vote on any of more than 40 resolutions that comprised the “organizational” part of the Town Board meeting agenda was cast by Walls: She said “Nay” to the resolution that specified the salaries of Gardiner’s elected officials.
Asked why she had opposed the resolution, Walls said that she had a problem with the $1,000-apiece reduction of the board members’ salaries, from $5,264 each in 2015 to $4,264 each in 2016. “I think it devalues the position,” she said. “There’s a plenty-good fund balance.” The town supervisor’s salary was also cut by $2,000 for 2016, from $39,614 to $37,614, as part of the effort by the outgoing board to keep the budget increase under the governor’s tax cap.
Although in Gardiner the Town Board votes separately on each provision that by law must be renewed annually at the organizational meeting — a process that can be long and tedious — last week’s meeting was completed in record time: under an hour. Among the other items on the agenda was an update on the status of a pending resolution to modify subdivision regulations to require developers to pay “a per-lot fee to be used for recreational purposes in lieu of the donation of parkland.” Majestic reported that the proposed change had been sent to both the Gardiner and Ulster County Planning Boards for review, but that their responses had not yet been received. The public hearing would therefore be extended at least until the January 12 Town Board meeting.
The intent of the change in the law is to make it impossible for developers to unload undesirable, unusable or inaccessible segments of subdivisions onto the town as “open space” instead of paying the existing $1,500-per-lot recreation fee. Under the new law, the fee would be raised to $2,500 per lot and be mandatory, except in cases where town officials saw real potential for public parkland or playgrounds to be carved out of a development as an alternative to the fee.
Gardiner realtor Laurie Willow, a former builder and developer, acknowledged that developers do indeed sometimes try to foist off “parkland” on the town because it is too steep or swampy for building sites. She urged the Town Board to create a provision in the amended law that would guarantee that the recreation fees would be put into a dedicated fund for the expansion of parkland or preservation of valuable open space. Majestic said that such considerations would be discussed during the continuation of the public hearing.