The volunteers who prepared the natural resources inventory for the town and village of New Paltz would like to see its use required by law, but that’s not going to happen anytime soon. The inventory draws together data from a wide variety of studies that have been commissioned over the years, making it easier to access of that information through a printed report and interactive online tool. It’s likely to be very useful for any sort of planning purposes, as well as for reviewing applications before the community’s planning boards. Ironically, planning board members do not engage in planning; their role is to ensure that development complies with plans that are already in place.
Mayor Tim Rogers pressed the question of what would be gained by passing a law requiring that the inventory be used. The short answer is that it would provide a few more points in the state’s climate-smart communities program. Under this scheme, the incentive of state aid is used to encourage jumping through hoops that are designed to reduce environmental impacts in the community. Governor Cuomo has structured most aid to be competitive, and a higher climate-smart score can increase the standing of a particular application for aid.
While the mayor is fond of making it easier to get state money, this was a tougher sell for Rogers, because it wasn’t very clear how the community would benefit. It’s possible that the mayor was recognizing that passing a law itself costs money, because hearings must be held and advertised, and code books updated. In New Paltz, elected officials also tend to hire attorneys to write laws, which create another expense, albeit an optional one.
Supervisor Neil Bettez suggested that in light of the questions, that officials could “continue the conversation” about passing a law; Julie Seyfert-Lillis wanted to be clear who would be involved in that conversation. Bettez suggested that if this tool is used willingly by volunteer planning board members, then a law might not be necessary. Such a law was passed in Poughkeepsie a couple of years ago; reaching out to the city planner there was also suggested. In the meantime, the inventory was accepted by resolution, earning some points for each municipality.