Knox announces MRD re-application, high speed internet at first board meetings

Karl Pritchard and June Springer

The Enterprise — Noah Zweifel
Council members Karl Pritchard and June Springer sit at the dais during Knox's Jan. 14 town board meeting.

KNOX — At its first regular board meeting of the new year, the Knox town board, now made up entirely of members who ran with Supervisor Vasilios Lefkaditis, voted to authorize the submission of an application to the Albany County Planning Board for a Multi-use Recreational District.

The MRD has been a key issue for Lefkaditis, who argues that the rezoning of approximately 80 acres at the intersection of routes 156 and 157 in Knox will help small businesses grow and flourish.

When the Albany County Planning Board reviewed the town’s application last February, however, it ultimately disapproved, citing environmental impacts and an inconsistency with the town’s comprehensive plan, among other things.

The town board voted against the proposal in October, with Democrats Dennis Barber and Earl Barcomb preventing the vote from reaching the supermajority that’s required in absence of the county planning board’s approval.

Barcomb and Barber are no longer on the board, though, having lost their reelection bids to June Springer and Dennis Cyr, who were backed by the GOP along with Lefkaditis, who was also up for re-election.

Knox’s own planning board had twice rejected rezoning the area. In 2019, the Knox Planning Board was tied, 3 to 3, in March on not approving the MRD; in July, however, the planning board defeated the motion, 4 to 3, to not approve the MRD  — meaning the planning board approved of the MRD.

The properties of residents who objected to the rezone had been removed from the initial MRD proposal.

“A new application will be sent to the Knox and [Albany County] planning boards that will address many of the concerns addressed in those responses,” Lefkaditis told The Enterprise in an email after the meeting. 

A resident who has long been against the rezoning, Brigitte McAuliffe, asked Lefkaditis during the meeting what specific changes will be made, but Lefkaditis would not clarify.

Lefkaditis told The Enterprise that there’s “currently no plan” to add the lots that were removed back in, but did not specify other changes when asked.

“I suspect the proposal will return to the Board for consideration within the next several months but certainly not by February,” Lefkaditis told The Enterprise in his email.

 

The Enterprise — Noah Zweifel
A cell phone records the Knox town board as they prepare for their regular meeting on Jan. 14.

 

High-speed internet

Lefkaditis also announced during the meeting that high-speed internet would be live within a few weeks, following cell tower upgrades in Knox and Duanesburg. It would mark the end of an initiative Lefkaditis championed when he first ran for supervisor in 2015, ousting 42-year incumbent Michael Hammond.

“The internet feed that will feed Knox is coming from the Duanesburg tower,” Lefkaditis wrote to The Enterprise in an email, “and the work to both towers has been completed with Duanesburg’s having been completed today [Jan. 15] ironically.”

“We are just waiting on the power company to install the meters for our site in Duanesburg and Knox and we can begin servicing the region,” Hudson Valley Wireless general manager Jason Guzzo told The Enterprise.

“I can tell you we are very excited to bring this much needed service to the Town of Knox,” Lefkaditis wrote to The Enterprise.

 

Other business

In other business, the Knox town board:

  • Heard a presentation from Municipal Electric and Gas Alliance, an organization that unites municipalities and uses collective bargaining to obtain fixed energy costs from providers. The town must decide to sign up by March 1;

  • Heard from Amy Pokorny, who asked about progress on the Clean Energies Community Grant, which she had spearheaded when she served on the board, securing $130,000. Councilman Kenny Saddlemire suggested that the board hold a special meeting to discuss the best uses of the funds, and said he was concerned about the long payback period of some of the efficiency initiatives;

  • Heard from a woman who thanked McAuliffe for voicing her concerns about the MRD and various improprieties she’s alleged at meetings;

  • Heard from councilmember Cyr, a veteran himself, who said he’s meeting with Saddlemire and another to figure out ways to improve the town’s veterans’ memorial; and

  • Discussed the possibility of consolidating five part-time positions into one full-time position. The jobs eliminated would be two highway workers, two grounds workers, and one transfer station worker. Joan Adriance expressed concern that the town wasn’t using workers interested in taking on more hours for lower pay; she is married to a transfer station worker who was illegally replaced on Jan. 1 2019 and sued to get his job back. Saddlemire responded that it was not beneficial to pay several people to do piecemeal jobs and that a full time employee would be available  40 hours a week as issues come up around the town.

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    Westerlo is in the process of developing a comprehensive land-use plan and its Comprehensive Plan Committee hopes to make the process as transparent and as open to the public as possible, said chairman David Lendrum.

  • Nexamp has opened up applications for Hilltown residents, promising them discounts of up to 10 percent on their electricity costs for using energy generated by the controversial solar farms located on the old Shepard Farm resort property in Westerlo. 

  • Outrage and partisanship may have left their high-water mark in Berne, where dozens of residents attended the latest town board meeting to hammer the new council with questions and comments about the illegal removal of town employees from their positions, among other issues. Many of the residents’ remarks were met with eye rolls from the mostly GOP-backed board who, for the first time in decades, can steam ahead unimpeded by Democrats’ desires. 

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