Following more than three years of inactivity, and effective dissolution after all its members’ terms expired, the Open Space Commission (OSC) of the Town of Gardiner has been reconstituted. At its April 10 meeting, the Town Board voted unanimously (with Mike Reynolds absent) to accept councilman Warren Wiegand’s nominations of five new members and two alternates.
The nominees, recruited shortly after Wiegand was returned to the Town Board in the November 2016 elections, include Rebecca Benner, Kay Hoity, Jean McGrane, Laura Rose and Laura Wong-Pan. Linda Geary and Kellie George are the alternates.
The inspiration for the creation of the OSC came from a study of open space in Gardiner conducted in 2003/04 by the consulting firm Behan & Associates. Its findings informed the creation of the town’s original Open Space Plan, adopted in 2006, when the local law was passed creating the commission.
In its heyday, the OSC scored two major successes with the permanent protection of two major tracts of Gardiner agricultural land: the Kiernan Farm, on Bruynswick Road, and the Hess Farm, on Sand Hill Road, where agreements for the purchase of development rights with the help of the Open Space Institute were finalized in 2010 and 2014 respectively. But enthusiasm waned after the conclusion of the Hess Farm negotiation, and the commission — then comprising nine members — had increasing difficulty achieving a quorum for meetings. Downsizing the body to a more manageable five members was part of Wiegand’s strategy for getting the OSC back up and running.
As constituted by law, the OSC is supposed to meet at least quarterly, but Wiegand believes that the influx of large “open space development” proposals before the Gardiner Planning Board in the past year may impel the revived group to meet monthly. Networking with farmers in the township and helping them develop strategies to diversify income streams and maintain family farming as an economically viable system of land stewardship is expected to be a primary focus of the commission’s mandate going forward. The group’s first task will be to draft a “charge” or scope of work for itself, to be presented to the Town Board for approval.
In other volunteer personnel matters before the Town Board last week, Joe Hayes was reappointed to the Gardiner Planning Board for another seven-year term, and Environmental Conservation Commission member John Sansalone was reappointed as the town’s liaison to the Ulster County Environmental Management Council.