State guidance on moratoria gives precisely the reasons we have been saying for months

To the Editor:
After last week’s Guilderland Town Board Meeting, I feel compelled to call out the town supervisor, Mr. Peter Barber, and Town Attorney Mr. James Melita once again [No moratorium yet, super cites water-capacity concerns,” The Altamont Enterprise, Feb. 9, 2024].

During the public-comment period, I spoke again about enacting a local law for a moratorium on building while the town completes the comprehensive plan update. As I have stated previously, Ms. [Deputy Supervisor Christine] Napierski has already drafted a local law for this purpose.

Mr. Barber made a statement that they have to look at this (meaning the issue) and draft a local law for this purpose. You are reinventing the wheel! Why are you wasting your time!

One of your board members has already written an excellent version! In fact, this version was shared with the town board last year.

Mr. Melita made a statement that is so blatantly false, that it warrants clarification so that the community at large understands what it is that he said. Mr. Melita stated:

“I think if we start prohibiting building at this point in time, it could be considered selective zoning or spot zoning, which could open the town up to liability,” said Melita. “That’s my opinion.”

First, I would like to address his claim of selective or spot zoning. What are you talking about? There is no such thing as selective zoning. I don’t know where you get your information from, but this seems to be a made-up term.

Now let’s look at spot zoning. Spot zoning is defined as the process of singling out a small parcel of land for a use classification totally different from that of the surrounding area for the benefit of the owner of such property and to the detriment of other owners. (Think TOD [transit-oriented development district] in Westmere for the building of Costco and apartments on Western Avenue.)

How in the world do you interpret a temporary moratorium on building to be spot zoning? How does a moratorium for building translate to a land classification if you are pausing development so that you can examine what a land use currently is, and what you want it to be, and then present your findings? This makes absolutely no sense.

I felt the need to clarify as we do not want the community at large to believe these statements are true. 

As I said at the meeting, I am glad these were his personal statements and not those of an attorney; however, if you are speaking as a person sitting on the dais with the town board, how can this not be your legal opinion as you are there as the town attorney. 

That would be the same as me trying to say, “This is my opinion as a resident and not the chair of GCRG [Guilderland Coalition for Responsible Growth].”

I learned a long time ago that this does not fly, and it should not fly in your example either. How many people would actually believe that?

Second, Supervisor Peter Barber said that his primary concern is water capacity. Specifically he said, “I’ve already asked the town engineer, the water superintendent to report back to the board on whether or not there should be a prohibition or temporary ban on water.”

Currently, Barber said that the town uses 3.5 million gallons in the winter months and twice that amount in the summer months.

“Something’s got to give at some point,” said Barber, noting the town would have to either increase its water capacity or reduce demand.

If you are making a statement such as this about our infrastructure, water in particular, why are you not asking to implement a moratorium on building?

As we know, most of the projects that are coming before the town are for larger projects, not just simple subdivisions for two to three homes. For example: the cancer-treatment center on Western Avenue, the halal market with a butchery and slaughter facility on Western Avenue, and a 12-unit apartment complex on Carman Road.

How can you make a statement that you have concerns about our water and not enact a temporary moratorium on building until you have more facts about the zoning and infrastructure?

For your reading pleasure, here are several links that are worth looking at. The first is a publication from the Department of State entitled “Land Use Moratoria.” It gives you a primer on when and how a moratorium on building is used.

I suggest that Mr. Barber read it as it states precisely the reasons we have been saying for months.

Two other links are to articles regarding when Bethlehem and Vooreeheesville instituted moratoria on building during their comprehensive plan reviews. Ms. [Sandra] Dollard, please read — they are different from what you stated at the meeting.

An informed public is what we need here, and clearly there is enough unclear and inaccurate information that needs to be clarified.

Robyn Gray


Guilderland Coalition For Responsible Growth

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