Many subcommittee members were in shock to see their hard work thrown out

To the Editor:

Last week, the town of Guilderland held a Comprehensive Plan Update Committee meeting on Tuesday evening. It was a long meeting and very disturbing on many levels not only for me, but for many others as well. The focus of this meeting was to present the “pared down” version of the reports that the six subcommittees submitted in October 2023.

The subcommittees, made up of residents of our town and regular Comprehensive Plan Committee members, were responsible for looking at the previous comprehensive plan’s goals and were to either revise, include, or remove and/or add new ones.

What we found is that many of the goals and objectives identified over 20 years ago had not even been discussed nor had any attempts to adhere to those goals been made throughout the planning and zoning process in our town.

I can say that, on occasion, Mr. [town planner Kenneth] Kovalchik did mention that a particular project met or did not meet what was in our comprehensive plan. This was so sporadic that it is safe to say that there was no consistency in adherence to the planning process as identified in the comprehensive plan.

The Guilderland Zoning Board of Appeals was no better, handing out variances like they were candy and making decisions with a lack of consistency in applying the guidelines in the New York State Town Law for variances and special-use permits.

So, where does this leave us now? 

The subcommittees spent at least two months each to identify what the important issues are for our town. Many had several goals and objectives and some had just a few. This is not surprising given the variety of subcommittees and issues for each one.

What was shocking was to see the slideshow put together by MJ Engineering, the consultants who are driving this process. They reduced multi-page ideas and concerns to one goal for each subcommittee. This is even less than the original plan!

Many subcommittee members were in shock to see their hard work and personal time donated to the town in an effort to create a better functioning town thrown out the window.

Did we waste our time? Why would you do this? What kind of facade are you trying to put forward?

Please note that the consultants have clearly stated that they will be making the recommendations to the town, not necessarily the committee and certainly not the subcommittees. This tells you clearly that whatever comes from the process will be driven by the supervisor and no one else.

There is now another public engagement meeting to be held on Feb. 12 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall. Supposedly, the public will look over the goals and provide feedback.

I cannot stress the importance of every single resident making an effort to attend and make their comments. If we don’t stand up and say no, this is not how we want to live, we will continue to have Western Avenue look like Central Avenue.

There will be no consideration for the residential areas in Westmere, or west as the town keeps developing commercial areas further down Western Avenue. There will be no preservation of what we have in terms of town character, the loss of which is driving people away.

We will continue to have new apartment buildings that do not meet the current population needs and an increase in large, corporate for-profit businesses. If this is what you want to see, then do not bother to attend. If you do not want this, the time to speak up is now!

One of the things that we have consistently said is that there needs to be a moratorium on certain types of building in this town, but Supervisor [Peter] Barber is resistant and keeps pushing it off.

He continues to court corporations, developers, and builders all under the guise of increased tax dollars. The town board was challenged in November to do this. A local law has already been written, yet there is no action.

Several board members have stated they are in favor of this, so why has nothing happened? As town board members, you can certainly make a motion and push a vote, so why don’t you?

Is this because you don’t want to cross the supervisor? Is it because elections are over and you don’t care? Is it because you are afraid to take a stand that your constituents want?

If town board members are elected to represent us, then they should. If they are talking to any of their constituents, they would know that a temporary moratorium on building is what they want at this point.

Robyn Gray, Chairwoman, Guilderland Coalition for Responsible Growth

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