Council race among five, but none at the helm

Unopposed candidate for supervisor Douglas LaGrange, an Independent, is running on the Democratic and Conservative party lines.

NEW SCOTLAND — The Enterprise interviewed candidates for both New Scotland’s town council race and the unopposed supervisor position about issues facing local residents, and invited the candidates to share their opinions on issues of importance to them.

Also running unopposed are Democratic incumbent Diane Deschenes, for both town clerk and tax collector; Republican Judge Margaret Adkins; Democratic Judge David J. Wukitsch; and Democratic incumbent Kenneth Guyer for highway superintendent.

In New Scotland, one-third of registered voters are Democrats (2,300); a quarter are Republicans (1,517); and slightly more than a quarter (1,696) are unaffiliated with a party. The rest of the voters are enrolled in smaller parties: 373 are registered with the Independence Party; 203 are Conservatives; 24 are registered with the Green Party; 15 are registered with the Working Families Party, and 3 are Libertarians, according to 2015 figures from the Albany County Board of Elections.

Town Council

Republican Craig A. Shufelt is running for an unexpired term that ends in 2017. The seat opened when former Councilman Daniel Mackay resigned and took a job out of state. Shufelt, 44, who is also running on the Reform Party line, is a Voorheesville graduate who studied graphic design at Sage College of Albany and Rochester Institute of Technology. He runs a marketing and media firm, Shufelt Group, LLC., in Voorheesville, and is a member of the New Salem Volunteer Fire Department.

Democrat Adam Greenberg, who is also running on the Independence Party and Conservative Party lines, was appointed by the town board to fill Mackay’s seat and is now running against Shufelt to keep it. Greenberg, a Dartmouth graduate, is a farmer and lifelong town resident. He previously served as the town’s zoning board of appeals chairman. He and his wife, Kate, have three children.

Democratic incumbent William C. Hennessy, who is also running on the Independence and Conservative party lines, is seeking his second four-year term. He is a consulting engineer in New Scotland. He and his wife have four children; two have graduated from Voorheesville, and two are still in the school system, he said.

Democratic incumbent Patricia Snyder, 59, is also seeking a second four-year term. She is running on the Independence and Conservative party lines, as well. She holds a master-of-business-administration degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She and her husband, Michael, live in Voorheesville and have two grown children.

Christopher Frueh is not a registered Republican but is running on the Republican line and the Reform Party line for one of the two open four-year-term seats. His family operates Peter K. Frueh Inc., an excavation business and stone quarry. He is a native of Feura Bush and has been married to his wife, Melanie, for 31 years.

The 2014 annual salary for council members was $8,093.44.

Independent Douglas LaGrange is running unopposed for supervisor, with the retirement of Supervisor Thomas Dolin. He is on the Democratic and Conservation party lines, as well. LaGrange, a farmer, currently serves as deputy supervisor, and previously served on the planning board.

The 2014 annual salary for supervisor was $57,830.55.


New Scotland town council candidates, from left, William C. Hennessy Jr., Patricia Snyder, Adam Greenberg, Craig Shufelt, and Chris Frueh.


Transmission lines

Massive power lines that tower over rural New Scotland were slated to see upgrades under Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 2012 power expansion plan. His proposal to increase the amount of energy that travels through the state to the New York City metro area met with strong opposition throughout the Hudson Valley and in affected towns like New Scotland. New energy projects proposed downstate could eliminate the need for increased wattage, but not the need for upgrades to the aging facilities. As recently as last November, the proposed projects downstate indicated that Cuomo’s plan was outdated.

Transmission lines in New Scotland, including a large power substation with tall towers on Game Farm Road, would be part of the expansion project if the governor overcomes opposition.

“We would be concerned [with an expansion] if, one, it affects residents and, two, they need additional land,” said Democrat Patricia Snyder.

She said that the town would likely see little change resulting from an upgrade for transmission lines.

“They will not require right-of-way expansions in New Scotland,” she said, referring to the large Game Farm Road substation.

The current towers may need rewiring or new conductors, she said.

“It will be no more impactful than what we have,” Snyder said.

Hennessy agreed.

“It would not affect land owners,” Hennessy said.

The lines might have a lower profile than they do now, he said, and would likely not cause increased health concerns to residents on adjoining properties.

Snyder said that there have been “no new developments” about the proposed transmission line expansion.

“We would be notified if it changed,” she said.

Democrat Adam Greenberg said that the project has stalled, and focused his comments on other issues.

“If we’re providing it to downstate, is there a way to offset some of that facility usage…with funding upstate?” Shufelt asked. Monies from allowing the usage could offset costs for water lines, he said.

“In Unionville, between 70 and 80 households still don’t have water,” Shufelt said. “If the majority of electricity is going downstate, where’s the trade-off?

“I don’t think there’s a lot we can do about it,” Frueh said. “That’s progress. The only concern is that landowners that adjoin are respected. I live next to power lines, myself.”

He said that National Grid examined his property when he built his home, and said that his family would be exposed to more electrical activity from the wires in his house than from the overhead lines.

“I know people like to live in fear of things,” Frueh joked. “You’ve got to do your homework. So far, I’m still alive.”

Supervisor candidate Douglas LaGrange said that the town should not be concerned about the electric transmission lines.

“What’s been proposed goes into the same right-of-way as what’s already there,” he said. The proposal had height and easement issues, but most were resolved, he said, and found to be “less impactful on height, with no increased land needed.”

Gas pipeline expansion

Town officials, and residents, have worked to safeguard local water as Kinder Morgan and its subsidiary, Tennessee Gas Pipeline, prepare in the next two years to expand pipelines across New Scotland and parts of Albany County.

The town supported a measure proposed by Albany County Legislator L. Michael Mackey to protect local well users from damage to their water supplies caused by blasting. The Kinder Morgan project calls for blasting in areas of New Scotland that have fragile geology and little accessible or clean water.

Mackey and his colleague, Legislator Herbert Reilly, worked on a similar bill to protect municipal water supplies from blasting. (Both Mackey and Reilly are seeking re-election, as are newcomers Republican Andrew Holland and Democrat William Reinhardt. See the upcoming edition of The Enterprise for county election coverage.) 

“I am not supportive of the Kinder Morgan proposal,” Hennessy said, noting that the expansion will affect pipeline neighbors. “In some areas, they will be seeking to obtain land from existing property owners.”

“I don’t support fracking, or transmission of fracking gas, either,” he said. He spoke of both the pipeline and facilities like the compressed gas station in Rensselaer County.

“It’s not an appropriate use in our town,” Hennessy said.

“A major concern from the town’s perspective is the water supply,” said Greenberg. “Some of the blasting [proposed] is above the reservoir. The town board voted to support [the blasting laws]. I’m a big proponent of that. It’s hard to live without water.”

“Kinder Morgan has to test water beforehand,” he said about the new county blasting law, adding that the testing is done only if a homeowner wants it.

Under the new well law and the proposed municipal blasting bill, a blaster must prove that it did not contaminate water. Under the previous law, homeowners had to prove that a blaster contaminated their wells.

“It’s changing the burden of proof,” Greenberg said.

Greenberg has experience with water issues because of his time on the town’s zoning board of appeals, he said. He served as zoning board chairman for more than a decade before he reached his term limit this year.

“Well water’s huge in the town,” he said. “Every time a new well is drilled, it might affect someone else’s well. That was an issue we had to look at all the time.”

Snyder said that the pipeline expansion is a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission priority project.

“We, as a town, don’t have much say in regulatory matters,” she said. “The town can approach it in terms of protecting our residents,” and their drinking supply, she said.

About the county-wide well-protection law, Snyder said that New Scotland supported it.

“We were the first town board to do that,” she said. “It’s our duty to protect water for public health and safety.”

“The majority of our town doesn’t have natural gas,” Shufelt said. “Is there a way, from a cost-effective standpoint, to use that gas from a utility standpoint? I don’t know if all the right questions are being asked.”

“A lot of what’s happening in our town is going out of our town,” Shufelt said about the gas pipelines, electrical transmission lines, and a water reservoir in New Scotland that is used by Bethlehem. “We need to attract back into our town for long-term growth.”

About permanent gas pipeline easements in town, he said, “There should be a way to be able to bring some of that fuel into the residential areas in town.” He said a hub to store gas may bother some who prefer a not-in-my-backyard approach.

“There should be accommodation to meet everyone’s needs,” Shufelt said.

LaGrange, whose well water was affected 30 years ago when the pipelines were first installed, supports the blasting law, and said that the town has done all it can, for now.

“We’re always looking at opportunities we haven’t found yet,” he said.

“That all comes down from the federal level, the EPA, and the state DEC,” Frueh said about the Environmental Protection Agency and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. “They’re all monitored by bigger entities than the town. I would want to see that landowners aren’t disrespected.”

About expanded pipelines, he said, “I understand the need for it.” Frueh said that everyone needs to have enough energy.

“I don’t want anybody to have water issues,” he said. Frueh said that the blasting  law “hinders the process. Maybe that was the goal of it, I have no idea.”

Frueh said that the 2-mile radius of proposed blasts “seems to be pretty overdone. I think most people won’t want it.”

Frueh said that local residents are concerned that tests for water will include surveys of foundations, wells, and septic systems.

“Older homes may have systems that don’t conform. The next thing is the county tells them they need a new septic,” Frueh said. “I’ve been around a long time. Some things are over-regulated. If you hinder a process, it ends up costing more. I know these guys need to be watched — there are [official] people there watching. I’m not big on making more rules.”

Leash laws and dog parks

Recent attacks on local residents by unleashed dogs at town parks have prompted the town board to consider changing the rules for dogs. Under current town law, pets are not permitted to run off-leash, although many residents take their dogs to the two town parks.

LaGrange said that the creation of a designated off-leash dog area is in the works, but that the town is “aware of the expense implications.”

He said that recent grants for park improvements might alleviate any town expense for a dog area.

“It’s always something we’re planning to do and address, as we’re able. We’ll get something done…in a tangible way, not just talk about it,” said LaGrange.

“They need to be on a leash or in a fenced area,” Frueh said. “I’m not looking to spend people’s money, but if that’s what people want…”

Frueh said that residents who live near the rail trail have troubles with nuisance dogs that run off the trail and attack property-owners’ dogs.

“The people who live along it are concerned,” he said. “People need to respect the people long [the trail]. That’s private property.

“I try not to get my nose into that stuff too much — personal battles,” he said “People love their pets, and they love to use town parks for recreational use,” Snyder said. “It’s tricky. The town would like to try to…explore an unleashed dog zone.”

She said that the town’s Swift Road park covers 70 acres, where there may be room for the zone.

“I’m not sure if that’s the answer. It’s one way to let people pets have a little freedom outside, but to protect people from [unleashed dogs],” Snyder said. “We’re still trying to get a better grip on the land available.”

She said that, at the Swift Road park, there may be a way to use parts of the property away from the ball fields and playgrounds for an unleashed-dog field “so dogs won’t be a threat to other park owners.”

“That’s a concern of some people,” Greenberg said. “It’s a complicated issue.” He said that joggers should be able to use the parks without fear of dog attack.

“It needs a balance,” he said.

The town could offer certain hours during which people could walk their animals off-leash, he said, “assuming that your dog is under control. That may be a good compromise.”

“I don’t necessarily support a dog park,” Hennessy said.

He said that the town is pursuing separate zones for on- and off-leash dogs in the parks.

“The bottom line is, we have a leash law,” Shufelt said. “The owners have to be responsible for their pets.”

Shufelt said that he observed several enclosed dog parks in Manhattan where he lived briefly before returning to New Scotland.

“I’m for that sort of thing. The issue is going to be funding,” he said. Some parks have users pay a fee to offset costs when they purchase dog tags, he said. Parks give pet owners and their animals a place to go, Shufelt said.

There is room in both town parks to have a small dog park, he said.

“The issue is funding and maintenance,” Shufelt said.

Additionally, Shufelt said that some dogs elsewhere in town are aggressive, and make children uneasy while barking from behind fences.

“We need to be respectful of other folks around us,” Shufelt said.

Hamlet zoning

A study advisory committee, which includes local residents and town board liaisons, is currently studying, with a grant from the Capital District Transportation Authority, how to create a mixed-use zoning district in the area near the intersection of Route 85 and Route 85A.  The hamlet is currently zoned commercial, and was the focus of a big-box store development controversy, which resulted in a size cap for all future businesses. The change in zoning should support a hamlet master plan that was completed in 2012, according to the advisory committee’s website.

The town’s master plan survey, however, showed that 90 percent of respondents favor keeping the town’s rural character. Additionally, several large-scale developments that had lagged in approvals due to utility issues and the economic downturn have been recently approved, adding to the number of homes that will fill previously open land.

Snyder has attended several of the advisory committee meetings in an unofficial capacity, she said.

“It’s an area I have a lot of passions about,” Snyder said.

Small-business and commercial growth are components of a thriving community, Snyder said, and should be considered in discussions of land use and development.

Snyder said that the goal of the rezone is to manage town growth in a way that protects the town’s viewsheds.

“It’s a balancing act — density with open spaces,” she said. “For that area, that new zoning is going to be a balance there. It has to be a balance there. It’s a big area. It’s about 700 acres.”

Snyder said that the reinvention of the hamlet will “be a long-term project, because of the infrastructure needs. It may not be one project. It’s likely more than one.”

“What I have in my head is Stuyvesant Plaza meets The Crossings,” Shufelt said of the hamlet development, which could link to the Albany County Rail Trail. He said that additional housing that is proposed in New Scotland will cause fire stations, like the one he volunteers with in New Salem, to cover more areas.

“We’re going to have to put in an addition for about 200 homes between Amedore homes and Tall Timbers,” he said of the New Salem firehouse. “Other builders are doing single-family homes, making our town grow. At some point, there needs to be a commercial and retail allotment and it needs to be creatively designed to attract the right businesses to offset the taxes.”

“It has to mesh together with careful planning,” LaGrange said. “You need housetops or rooftops to support commercial [development], but you don’t want destination commercial.”

LaGrange, who served on the planning board before being elected to the town council, said that planning has steered developers with zoning changes, so that “developers will have an idea of what the town wants. Commercial developers want to know what the rules are before they get started.”

“I really don’t understand why they want to stop it more — they’re creating more restrictions,” Frueh said about development in the New Scotland hamlet. “I think it’s restricting. It discourages business from ever coming here. We have a lot of rules.”

Frueh said that New Scotland needs commercial development, and has had commercial zoning for “quite a while.”

“I think we really blew it on the piece of property,” he said of the Bender melon farm area that was slated for big-box development before zoning changed to cap the size of commercial buildings in town.

“They were going to spend a lot of money here to upgrade and make that area more functional,” Frueh said. He does not favor “cluttering rural areas,” he said.

“I care because I pay a lot of taxes, particularly school taxes,” Frueh said.

Taxpayers are hoping “something will come help. If you stop companies that could help pay taxes, we’ll all pay more,” he said. “Some of us can, and some of us can’t.”

Greenberg serves on the zoning study advisory committee; he was appointed to the committee before his appointment to the town board.

“We got a grant…from the CDTA,” Greenberg said. “The town was asked to appoint representatives to come up with the specific language of the zoning district.”

He said that the committee will make its zoning recommendations to the town board in January, and a final public forum will then be held.

“The town will decide if they want to so something, or they don’t,” Greenberg said. “I would like to see mixed use and a walkable district. It can connect to the Rail Trail, which can connect it to Voorheesville. It would make Voorheesville more walkable.”

About the size cap that was enacted in the commercial zone, Greenberg said, “We’ve defined what we don’t want. We need to define what we do want.”

Hennessy serves as the town council liaison for the advisory committee.

“We’ve made great progress with study and design,” he said. “The public workshop in September was very successful. It will reflect the town’s desire for the rural character.

“That zone is important to provide commercial [development] that’s complementary to the rural and residential nature of the town,” Hennessy continued.

He said that the town has hamlet zoning in place for New Scotland, New Salem, Clarksville, and Feura Bush.

“How do we implement appropriate Smart Growth techniques that will not expand suburban sprawl? We can encourage appropriate development in the right areas,” Hennessy said. 


New Scotland has both wealth and poverty, with expensive neighborhoods within and outside the village of Voorheesville, and economically depressed hamlets like New Salem, Clarksville, and New Scotland; the cost of housing is generally high. Recent letters to The Enterprise have complained that area natives are unable to return here to live after college because they have been priced out of their hometown.

Greenberg said, “The town should absolutely be thinking about that, and having some diversity in town.”

He referred to ways to address the New Scotland hamlet area.

“One of the meeting topics [of the committee] is having a mixed-use area — apartments or low-income housing mixed with a town center,” Greenberg said. Creating a walkable neighborhood would allow residents access to businesses, he said.

Greenberg agreed that there are not enough affordable apartments in the town.

The town has also worked to get grants to improve sidewalks in Clarksville, Greenberg said.

“People could walk safely,” he said. “There are a lot of little things going on. Most of the town wouldn’t even know about it.”

“I actually wrote that [grant application], myself,” Hennessy said. He said that improved sidewalks would allow Clarksville residents to walk to the post office safely and efficiently.

“With the sheriff there, it’s also more safe for residents,” Hennessy said. “Cars have to leave quickly. It’s safer for residents to be on sidewalks.”

“We need to make sure there’s rental property available,” Frueh said. “I know we have trailers in town — they’re not popular with a lot of people.”

Frueh said that he needed more information on the issue to fully comment, but added, “These people have a right to live here. A lot of people can have hard times.”

 “We have quite a bit of housing stock, particularly in Voorheesville,” Snyder said.

“In the town of New Scotland, we all love it for its beauty, rural character, and proximity to the Heldebergs,” she said. “There are no town-wide water or sewer services.”

When developments are proposed, infrastructure must be built from scratch, she said.

“That makes it expensive. Houses that sell for more are favored [by developers] as they can help pay for infrastructure requirements,” Snyder said.

The town should focus on land use and development to bring in the next generation of homeowners, she said. Within the hamlet of New Scotland, she said, “There is an opportunity to build affordable housing, because you can, perhaps, adjust the density.”

Shufelt said that retirees tell him that they are not able to afford to stay in New Scotland.

“That’s a bad day for our town,” he said. Shufelt said that the town’s zoning and planning departments and boards, which are made up of five or six people, completely decide all development in town. He would prefer that an economic development committee be established to encourage small business.

“There has to be an area to promote this,” Shufelt said. “There are two banks in our town. They have limited hours.” He said that the number of restaurants is also limited.

For young adults to come back, Greenberg said, “The taxes need to be affordable. The town board has done a great job of keeping taxes as low as they can. Town taxes are different than school taxes. Town taxes have nothing to do with school taxes.”

“Our hope is, when you get into developing an area of mixed use, the commercial will help with the tax base,” LaGrange said. “Our efforts have been focused on pro-active planning. Those things just don’t happen overnight.”

He said that affordable homes become available as people either move into senior settings or more affluent developments.

“It just doesn’t happen all at once,” LaGrange said. Near the upcoming Kensington Woods development, he said, “affordable” homes may be on one side of the street while more expensive homes are proposed for the other.

“What’s affordable? That’s a very subjective thing,” LaGrange said. “They’re not exclusive to New Scotland, these issues.”

Other issues

Frueh said that he is running so that he knows more of what is going on in town.

“When you’re in the seat, you’ll see it and hear it and speak out for the people who want you,” he said. “I am a land-rights guy. When you don’t have a vested interest, you don’t care as much as you should,” Frueh said.

He said that selling development rights is fine for some farmers, but not for all.

“A lot of farmers look at land as their investment. I understand what a farmer thinks,” Frueh said. “The last thing he wants is to be run out of town. People that have been here a long time, they should be able to hold onto it and do what they want with it, as long as it meets the zoning and the codes.

“I’m a good listener,” he added, “because I listen what people have to say. I’m a businessman and I’m used to making decisions all day, every day. I feel I have a lot of common sense and wisdom to make decisions in a timely fashion.

Frueh said that other business owners in town have complained about delays by the town’s governing boards — delays he has experienced, also.

“That’s why I want to be involved — to help others. I encourage people to do things. If it’s something they’re zoned for and meets code, and enhances the community, I’m all for it,” Frueh said.

“Some of my goals are to continue to address recreational space and use in the town,” Snyder said about upgrading town parks. “It’s important for our youth.” Snyder noted that students who live in New Scotland attend several school districts and all need recreational space.

LaGrange said that the town’s residents attend six different school districts. The majority of students attend Voorheesville, Bethlehem, and Guilderland schools.

Greenberg credited Hennessy with obtaining grants for park upgrades.

“Repaving is a yearly project, and it’s an expensive project,” Snyder said. “We have eight water districts, all with individual requirements.”

She spoke of the $3 million New Salem water district expansion for 140 parcels.

“That’s a big project for our town,” she said, “bringing water to a part of town that needed…water. It was many years in the making and involved our predecessors and the current board. It’s a credit to everybody’s work.

“It’s a big deal for us,” she continued. “I think most people are thrilled that they have a reliable, clean, safe water source.”

“It was quite a successful project,” Hennessy agreed. The New Salem water project tied together old and new users and solved problems of water quality and quantity, he said.

“There are a number of areas in the town where public water could be extended,” Greenberg said. “I would put water under an umbrella of utilities. You still are relying on utilities. Water is an issue if you have money or if you have no money. So is high-speed Internet.”

Snyder is proud of the size cap law that stopped the big-box development, she said.

LaGrange said that, after stopping the big-box store, the town has aligned its zoning with the town’s comprehensive plan, and has brought back taxpayers’ money in the form of grants for improvements.

“We’ve stopped the bleeding, and now we’re doing the plastic surgery on the code to finish it off,” LaGrange said.

“I believe that the town is moving in the right direction. We work really well as a team,” Snyder said. “It’s an achievement to provide the essential services the town residents have come to expect.”

She said that the current board has members who live in different parts of town.

“We don’t all make decisions in lockstep,” she said. “We work hard, and I think we accomplish a lot.”

“I’d like to see the rail trail completed and upgraded, and be a well-used trail in town as a connection to Albany,” Greenberg said. “I’d like to see the Hilton barn moved near the rail trail.”

“I hope people get out and vote,” Greenberg said. “Local politics are really important. They affect people more on a day-to-day scale than the federal or state level.”

LaGrange said that he led the creation of a salary scale for town employees, but particularly for the large highway department, a few years ago after employees came to the town board to ask for pay similar to other municipalities.

Previously, employees petitioned, without guidelines, for improved salaries each budget year, he said.

“Salaries were just such an arduous process,” he said. The scale now identifies each position and its corresponding pay.

“It’s made it easier,” LaGrange said. “They do a tremendous job. You have to strike a balance to properly compensate employees, and realize that residents have to pay this and they are under tough times, too.”

“We’re always conscious of the needs of the community,” LaGrange said. “We know what needs to be done, but we can’t just raise taxes. It slows things down, but it’s necessary.

“We’ve put great people in these [council] jobs,” he continued. “They all have incredible expertise they bring to the board. They save money with their expertise, too. You just continually try to do what’s best for the community. I hope people are quick to call me with questions, if there are any.”

“I pride myself on heart,” Shufelt said. “It is personal. I take my livelihood and my business very personally.

He said that, other than Stewart’s Shop, which may expand in Voorheesville, “our town has little commercial dent, if any.”

Shufelt said that New Scotland could develop its commercial area and keep its rural feel, somewhat like the Four Corners area in Delmar.

“We have the opportunity now in the next five to 10 years to lay the groundwork for the next 50,” he said.

For the town council, Shufelt said, “There needs to be balance. There needs to be someone who is an open book and can plan for our future with common sense, someone who has been in our community and has a vested interest in staying in the community.”

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