The creation of Water District 5 (WD5), designed to supply the Town of New Paltz (NP) with water during aqueduct maintenance, has been halted due to three litigious Plains Road (PR) residents. The proposal provided for the DEP to fund the creation of a water district (on a parcel on PR) to supply NP with water temporarily, with the stipulation that if needed the town would be able to tap into it. The PR community would have the option to hook into the public water and would be provided with a few years of free water from DEP funds. There was contention about this among a group within the PR community. A petition was signed with 60% + of the community supporting the project, overriding the objections. This was enough to move the project forward, until three people sued the town. Despite months of negotiations, the litigants and the municipality have been unable to agree on terms of a compromise. Seemingly, nothing will satisfy these people who gamed the system with their lawyer-friend who serves their personal interests of maintaining their unobstructed views. The named litigant has said that each of the opponents have different rationales for the suit (addressing the manner in which the water district was created), however, actual reasons have little to do with this alleged purpose. Some who own businesses (in our residential neighborhood) fear they will use more than the allotted amount of free water. Others, despite assurances from engineers, insist they are saving the aquifer. Still others fear government intrusion in their utilities.
The majority of the Plains Road community is in favor of WD5. We have watched the decline of our own water quality with the building of new homes and the renovation of previously uninhabitable ones. Many of these new and refurbished homes have apartments and outbuildings turned into rental properties, adding to the drain on our water. Residents who have lived here for 30 years note a marked difference in the water quality. Some homes have dangerous levels of toxins in their wells and all worsened with development.
The ease with which these litigants ignore the dire situation their neighbors face is distressing. One of my neighbor-friends recently said that it’s like the haves versus the have-nots….NP’s 1%, backed by its cadre of supporters, using its resources to beat out the majority. So far, this lawsuit will cost the taxpayers of NP over $50,000. Now it’s up to the judge to decide. If he decides favorably for the WD, and the litigants don’t appeal, the DEP will reimburse the town; if not, the taxpayers pay $50,000 plus.
The opponents are a small, arrogant, elitist group within our neighborhood who believe that because they have the resources it’s okay to use their power to override the majority. Withholding safe water from one’s neighbors is unconscionable to most good people. We now know which neighbors have compassion for others and which do not.
Rebecca Litchfield, Jeanne Reynolds
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