Why were planning board members escorted by armed police?

To the Editor:

Wednesday night, the Guilderland Planning Board in a unanimous decision that took about seven minutes, accepted the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Rapp Road Apartments/Redevelopment proposal in the Pine Bush as complete, leading the way to approve the project.

This was a surprise meeting with only one item on the agenda and no public comment accepted. All meetings of the planning board (except this one) have been on the website calendar since January. This meeting suddenly appeared last week, scheduled on a day that the planning board does not usually meet.

Clearly, the planning board was in a hurry to do the bidding of Pyramid/Crossgates and could not wait two weeks for the next regularly scheduled meeting to vote on this decision.

Save the Pine Bush and Guilderland Coalition for Responsible Growth members could not let this meeting go without making our opposition to the proposed development known. In this time of pandemic, it is not safe to attend meetings, and we knew this was to be a virtual meeting.

We organized a socially distant, mask-wearing protest outside Guilderland Town Hall. About 15 people attended. We held signs expressing our opposition.

We greeted the Planning Board members with chants of “Only you can save the Pine Bush.” We stayed socially distant from the members, and were very careful not to block the front door. No one went near the front door, because we were not going to enter the building.

We waited outside while the planning board held their meeting and voted. We wanted to greet them with our signs as they left. But, guess what? The planning board, instead of exiting from the front door, had the police escort them out of the side door! Armed police! Escorted by the police!

I cannot imagine that a dozen or so mask-wearing, socially-distanced, sign-carrying citizens could possibly be seen as any kind of threat that needed the police. Especially since we were very careful to stay away from the members and not even come near them or in any way block their movements. Why were they afraid?

The only conclusion I can come to is that the planning board members needed the police to protect them from their shame. They are ashamed at what they are doing — allowing a huge corporation to destroy more Pine Bush for apartments and a Costco.

The Town of Guilderland Planning Board should do its part to protect the Pine Bush within its jurisdiction. The Pine Bush is considered by many to be the best example of an inland pine barrens in the world. The town of Guilderland should do its part to protect this rare and beautiful ecosystem.

The Pine Bush needs protection from the Guilderland Planning Board. The planning board members do not need armed police protection from the citizens.

Lynne Jackson

Save the Pine Bush

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