Four vie for two seats on New Scotland Town Board

NEW SCOTLAND — The Democratic Party in New Scotland has enjoyed a structural advantage over the town’s Republicans for quite some time now, with Democrats accounting for four out of every 10 registered voters while Republicans make up about a quarter of the registered electorate

There are, in fact, more registered voters in New Scotland with no party affiliation than there are enrolled Republicans, which holds true for most of Albany County’s other municipalities as well. 

With those built-in advantages, it’s no wonder a Republican hasn’t won a seat on the town board since 2009, when now-Supervisor and current Democrat Douglas LaGrange was re-elected to the board as Republican; he had also been elected in 2005, running as a Republican. 

The suburban communities that encircle the Democratic city of Albany had for decades been run by Republicans; but today, those town boards have, for the most part, become the dominion of the Democratic Party. A decade ago, Democrats in New Scotland gained support when a persistent grassroots group of citizens formed in opposition to a proposal for a Target-anchored mall near the center of town.

In November, Republicans Timothy Stanton and Glenn Schultz will be looking to knock off incumbent Democrat William Hennessy while also trying to pick up the board seat left vacant by Democrat Patricia Snyder, who decided not to run again. Democrat Bridgit Burke, currently a member of the town’s zoning board, is also running to fill Snyder’s seat. 

In addition to questions about their relevant backgrounds and qualifications for the job, the four candidates for town board were asked the following questions:

— Why are you running for the New Scotland Town Board? 

— Sheriff Craig Apple is moving the county’s emergency medical services staff from part-time to full-time; now the towns and villages in Albany County that are served by those services, many having lost their volunteer squads, are seeing double-digit increases in their contracts with the sheriff. 

What — if anything — can or should be done about this?

— In the past couple of years, the town has passed both a master plan for the hamlet of New Scotland as well as a town-wide comprehensive plan.

 Is it possible that the town has been too conservation and preservation happy, can it go — or has it gone already — too far in trying to maintain its rural charm and character at the expense of any future growth?

— Municipal growth generally follows infrastructure. Without extensive town-wide water and sewer systems, New Scotland has remained relatively rural compared to nearby towns.

Voorheesville Mayor Robert Conway recently called sewer projects “notoriously expensive” as the estimated cost to hook up 175 homes to a public sewer system would be about $3.6 million; the village — where homes are more densely packed, which would lead to less expensive infrastructure costs in comparison with the rest of New Scotland — is currently looking for grants to offset the cost of the project.

So, for growth to occur — if you’d like to see growth — there’s a possibility that the town may have to initiate infrastructure projects. 

Do you want to see growth in the town?

What kind of growth?

In Voorheesville, the new sewer system would service existing homes; however, installing new infrastructure is one goal the village laid out in its comprehensive plan to help its Main Street businesses prosper, so, should the town be shouldering any responsibility for installing infrastructure to either spur growth or better serve current residents and businesses — as in the village?

— Name something the town board is dropping the ball on — why that is — and how it could be improved.

— Name something the town board is doing well — something that you see  little to no way of improving upon.

— In the 2017 town board election, nearly a third of the ballots cast for the the top vote-getter, Democrat Dan Leinung, were either from the Conservative or Independence line; for Democrat Adam Greenberg, small-party votes were about a quarter of his tally.

Hypothetically, had the Republican challenger Craig A. Shufelt received either one of his challengers’ small-party line votes, he would have won a spot on the town board — for example, had he received Leinung’s Conservative and Independence votes, Shufelt would have had 1,868 votes to Leinung’s 1,483 Democratic-only votes.

Admittedly, this is very hypothetical, however, it does illustrate the power that the state’s third parties can wield in electoral politics.

With that said, how important is it to receive the endorsement of third parties?

Is too much time and emphasis placed on receiving the backing of parties whose entire existence is, in effect, to extract promises and favors from the state’s two main political parties?

And isn’t that a serious problem?


 

 

Bridgit Burke

In New Scotland, Democrat Bridgit Burke said, she sees a town in transition — moving in a direction that, by and large, she agrees with. “And I wanted to be part of shoring that up,” she said, explaining her reason for running for town board. 

“I think that New Scotland is a really wonderful community; it’s a diverse community,” she said, with great resources and “tremendous” people. 

Burke, 57, is currently a member of the town’s zoning board.

She acknowledges that the spike in emergency-service costs is a serious problem, but added that she thinks she understands why Sheriff Craig Apple decided to move the county’s emergency-medical-services staff from part-time to full-time. “I think it’s important that we have quality EMS staff and he’s trying to ensure that,” she said. 

Having recently announced that he was going to put another $150,000 from his budget toward the emergency-service cost increase, Burke said, she thinks the sheriff understands how those costs are being felt by tax-capped communities.

With such a large increase in emergency-service costs, and without a county-wide solution, Burke said, the choice could come down to the politically unpopular decision to go over the tax cap or to cut services.

“The New Scotland budget is pretty lean to begin with,” Burke said, so she thinks there needs to be a discussion with the county on how to mitigate costs whether, for example, the increases can be spread out over a longer period of time or “with a better balancing of how the costs are shared.”

Burke has lived in New Scotland for 20 years; she and her husband, Lou Schick, have two adult sons. An attorney, Burke was also a clinical professor at Albany Law School between 1994 and 2014, having served as the director of the Civil Rights and Disability Law Clinic for more than a decade.

Both the recently-updated zoning in the hamlet of New Scotland and the town-wide comprehensive plan, Burke said, are “very important” and were “absolutely the right approach,” but where she did see room for improvement was around outreach and education. 

“I do think what maybe could [have been] done better is to ensure people understand the balance of that plan and how some growth is absolutely both welcomed and still possible,” Burke said. “And so, I think we can do a better job of both educating people about what growth can work and should work and how we can support that.”

Asked how she would educate people about the plans, Burke said that one thing she’d like to do is to hold a conference where people from the business community, in particular small-business leaders, who are, or potentially could be, interested in developing businesses in town. Those interested stakeholders could hear what kind of opportunities are now possible because the town — with its adoption of a comprehensive plan — has a vision for the future.

“Because I think a lot of people have misinformation” about what is and isn’t allowed under the new plans, Burke said, adding that, in addition to hearing about the town’s land-use plans, there is also the opportunity to educate potential business owners on some of the supports and services that are available through the state “so that it encourages them to do this kind of development.”

Like the other three candidates, Burke would like to see some growth in New Scotland. “Yes, I would like to see some growth — not dramatic growth, certainly not,” she said. “But I would like to see some growth.”

And, while it is possible for some small-scale development — think restaurants and small businesses — not to all occur in the exact same place, Burke said, unfortunately, what is more likely to happen is that development springs up near already-dense areas. 

“I think that one of the problems [in town] is that we have very condensed growth in Voorheesville and there’s a desire for growth into areas like Clarksville, and perhaps what we need to do is look at how to balance that,” but, she said, at the same time, there also has to be some kind of demand for a business’s product or service. 

She pointed to Indian Ladder Farms as a successful example of a local business that’s constantly had to adapt to changing consumer habits — over time, the dairy farm became an apple orchard, which has given way to a restaurant, gift shop, cidery and brewery, and events venue.

Burke was frank in her response about whether the town should be shouldering any responsibility for installing infrastructure to either spur growth or better serve current residents and businesses, saying that she’d “have to study that much further before I said, ‘Yeah, I think we should be digging up the ground and putting pipes here.’”

But Burke also praised New Scotland for its work developing, what could be considered, green infrastructure. 

“I think that, particularly in this time of a warming planet, much of that infrastructure is going to have to be geared towards thinking about what are the resources that we need to be resilient to all sorts of climate changes,” she said. 

She pointed to the board’s work developing solar arrays on separate town-owned sites — former landfills — on Upper Flatrock Road; the board recently passed a resolution directing the town’s attorney and its project partner to start lease development with General Electric solar.

 Burke also pointed to the board’s work on Community Choice Aggregation, which, in addition to lowering household electric bills, would allow for the option to buy energy generated from completely renewable-energy sources like solar or wind. 

There’s nothing the town board is explicitly dropping the ball on, Burke said, but she did say that, perhaps, there was “an emphasis shift that could happen.”

While the comprehensive plan has great ideas, which Burke supports, and some of which are already in the infancy stage of implementation, for example, Goal 11: “Use Energy Efficiently and Produce Renewable Energy,” she’s also concerned about aspects of the plan that, in her view, may be overlooked. 

“I do think that there’s this growing sort of concern about what kind of development is going to happen and [questions about] businesspeople who are reluctant to come into the community and do things,” Burke said. 

Here again, she said, education is the answer — engaging with residents who have a genuine interest in trying to foster development in New Scotland, so that the town is able to encourage the kind of growth residents feels is appropriate.

Burke said, when a town offers more services to its businesses and residents, the more economic development investment it can attract — while also creating a community that is more inclusive. 

As a public-interest attorney for her entire career, Burke said, she has spent her life representing people who live at or below the poverty line, or who are working poor. 

So, at first blush, while it would appear to be an extremely tough road to traverse, Burke is clear that she deeply cares about having a community that is inclusive and fair for all, and one that allows for some growth, while “at the same time, [has] homes and businesses for people to enjoy.”

Asked for examples about what she sees as the town board doing well, Burked referenced the previously-mentioned solar projects on Upper Flatrock Road. 

Burke has the backing of both the Democratic and Independence parties, and, in contrast to what is happening at the state level, where Governor Andrew Cuomo has been accused of trying to “quietly” write his “enemies out of existence,” Burke said she believes the state should have third parties: “I see it as voters communicating their wishes,” she said. “You just have two [main] parties. It can be hard for a voter to really communicate.”

For Burke, receiving a third-party endorsement is important when there are shared values between the candidate and small-line party. “So, I didn’t receive the Conservative Party’s endorsement, and I’m completely OK with that,” Burke said. “I did receive the Independence Party endorsement, and I share values with the Independence Party.”

Burke, like Hennessy, didn’t agree with the premise that small parties’ “entire existence” is to extract promises and favors from the state’s two main political parties — but concedes that there are probably some deals being cut. 

Burke has always considered herself a Democrat, she said, but has cast her vote on the Independence or Working Families ballot line, which, Burke said, can be a signal to the Democratic Party where its voters are politically and what direction they want to see party move in. 


 

 

William Hennessy

First elected in 2011, Democrat William Hennessy’s answer for why he was standing for re-election was succinct: “I enjoy working for the town and helping town residents.” 

Hennessy, 58, said that emergency-services costs should have always been borne by the county.

“We believed from the beginning — and we still do — that this should be a county expense, not an individual expense on the municipalities,” Hennessy said, adding that the cost of services should be folded into Albany County’s budget, where the impact on municipalities would be significantly less. 

To put that cost on the county, he said, a special taxing district could be set up by the state legislature that encompassed the benefit area.

Property owners in New Scotland currently pay $3.56 per $1,000 of assessed value in property taxes to Albany County; New Scotland’s property owners pay $1.45 per $1,000 of assessed value in taxes to the town.

Hennessy has lived in New Scotland for 25 years; he and his wife, Carol, have three sons and one daughter. 

“Hardly,” Hennessy answered when asked if the town had gone too far trying to maintain its rural charm and character at the expense of future growth. The comprehensive plan took into account individual surveys, recommendations, and suggestions by residents, he said, so, when the plan was being written, its authors were doing what had been asked of them by New Scotland’s residents. 

And with the hamlet zoning, he said, the plan took into account commercial development along the 85-85A corridor — as well as in the broader general area. 

“So it took into account both elements,” Hennessy said, of growth and conservation. “And that’s the important requirement of zoning and planning: To balance the needs of as many elements as possible.”

Hennessy does want to see growth in New Scotland, and, as for the type of growth, he said, a “balance” of commercial and residential.

But Hennessy also, unlike anyone else asked these questions — which included a farmer and former farmer — said that he’d like to see agricultural growth in town. Farmland continues to be lost, he said, but there are possibilities in the future for other types of agricultural ventures like organic or specialty farming. 

“We still have the opportunity in the future for agricultural growth even though it’s been a difficult road to hoe,” Hennessy lightheartedly remarked. 

Hennessy works as a consulting engineer, which he described as a sort of multi-disciplined engineer, his background is in mechanical engineering but these days, he said, he does more environmental engineering than mechanical — with a little civil engineering thrown in, too. 

Hennessy said that the town shouldn’t get involved in taking on sewer projects because New Scotland’s lack of density “doesn’t invite a sanitary sewer system very well.”

Water infrastructure, however, he said, “Is different and not as expensive in some areas.” New Scotland already has water districts in certain areas of the town, mostly the denser parts, said Hennessy, and those existing districts could be expanded to serve specific areas of town without a water supply. 

“We have several water districts in the town that would benefit from a consolidation effort to lower expenses and provide affordable service to those districts,” said Hennessy.

The town currently has nine water districts, and Hennessy said that only two of them have in-town sources (according to the town, it’s three districts: Clarksville, Kensington Woods, and Northeast). The village of Voorheesville supplies Colonie Country Club Estates, while the town’s remaining water districts are supplied by the town of Bethlehem.

“I would like to try to consolidate some of the districts to allow for the town’s water sources to better serve [residents] and save money,” Hennessy said. New Scotland residents whose water is supplied by either Bethlehem or Voorheesville pay double the rate that each respective municipality’s residents pay for water. 

In the Clarksville Water District, an in-town source, in 2018 for example, users had a minimum annual payment of $97.50; then the user paid $6.50 for every thousand gallons used up to 15,000 gallons, according to the town, with the price per gallon increasing as use increased.

The Feura Bush Water District is supplied by the town of Bethlehem.

In 2018, according to New Scotland, Feura Bush customers had a minimum annual payment of $235.50; users then paid $15.70 for every thousand gallons used up to 15,000 gallons. 

From the hydrogeological reports provided to him, it’s Hennessy’s opinion that New Scotland has enough water to supply the town’s districts currently receiving their water from either Bethlehem or Voorheesville. 

He added, “But it would require further study, which we are pursuing right now.”  

When asked to name something the town board is dropping the ball on, why that is, and how it could be improved, Hennessy said that the board isn’t “dropping the ball” on it, but he said that the pursuit of water-district consolidation “could be improved” by authorizing a study to determine if the districts could actually be consolidated, which could provide a more affordable service to residents. 

Hennessy said that the town board has done well with its improvements to the town’s zoning and planning, and with the adoption of the comprehensive plan, New Scotland is now, having retained a professional planner, “deep in the process” of taking those recommendations made by the plan and incorporating them into the town’s zoning code. 

He also said that the town board has done a good job on solar power and energy initiatives, citing the solar farms slated for two separate sites on Upper Flatrock Road; at its October meeting, the board passed a resolution directing the town’s attorney and Solomon Energy to being a lease development with General Electric solar, a deal that will generate revenue for the town.

And, should the town choose to move forward by formally enrolling in the program, with Community Choice Aggregation, the electric bills of New Scotland’s residents could go down quite a bit — there is also the option to choose where the power comes from, for example, renewable-energy sources such as wind and solar. 

While he said he doesn’t consider it vital to capture the third-party lines for November, Hennessy does consider it helpful because it demonstrates a candidate’s flexibility in dealing with issues of importance to the small-line parties. He sees the endorsements as more important for candidates seeking statewide or national office. 

Hennessy will appear on the Democratic, Conservative, and Independence lines on the November ballot. 

Asked if candidates spend too much time and too much emphasis is placed on receiving the backing of parties whose entire existence is, in effect, to extract promises and favors from the state’s two main political parties, Hennessy doesn’t accept the premise of the question.

“I don’t think that’s their main goal,” Hennessy said. Small parties’ reason for existence isn’t to extract promises and favors from the Democratic and Republican parties, he said. Rather, he said, small parties offer voters an alternative; further, not a lot of time is expended in pursuit of the endorsement.


 

 

 

Glenn Schultz

Glenn Schultz has been involved in New Scotland party politics for a very long time, having served as the head of the town’s Republican committee; his father had been both a town judge and the mayor of Voorheesville.

But, when it came to his own electoral aspirations, Schultz said, he was never in a place — because of work and family obligations — where he felt could seriously dedicate the time to run for office. At 64, he still works full-time but his daughters are now grown.

As for what spurred him to run, Schultz said, he didn’t like seeing the amount of time and effort spent on some of the projects in town, for example, the Hilton Barn.

“I truly did not like to see the spending of the money there,” Schultz said, when other areas of town — Clarksville and Feura Bush, for instance — were being ignored. “So I just wanted to get more involved,” he said. 

Schultz also pointed to the town’s water-supply issues as another reason for running. New Scotland doesn’t have a “true water supply,” Schultz said, while there are areas of town that do have wells, “we rely an awful lot on the town of Bethlehem.”

Then there’s also the issue that only some parts of town have access to public sewers. “We should have our own,” Schultz said of the town’s water and sewer services. “We’re reliant on too many other municipalities.” 

Schultz is a lifelong resident of Voorheesville; he and his wife, Suzanne, have four daughters. A graduate of Utica College, Schultz is the national director of sales and marketing for Wyatt Flow Equipment, a Rhode Island-based parts manufacturer.

On the increases to emergency-services costs and what can be done, Schultz said he’d have to examine the issue more before offering his answer.

When asked if the town had been too conservation and preservation happy, Schultz answered, “To a great extent, yes.” 

In the hamlet of New Scotland, he said, it’s now “virtually impossible” for new development to occur. He said that the hamlet’s properties are required to be so far apart that the lot sizes will allow only large expensive homes.  

It was pointed out to Schultz that the hamlet’s zoning, in fact, allows for dense housing, with the example cited to illustrate this point being a proposal that had become a contentious issue at a public hearing in February 2018 on the proposed hamlet plan: To achieve smaller lot sizes, the hamlet’s zoning would permit the use of common septic fields.

Schultz conceded that the hamlet’s zoning did allow for denser housing.

“But on the other hand, there’s no [infrastructure] systems that they’re planning on having,” Schultz said; for example, when Salem Hills in Voorheesville was developed, there was an agreement that the area would be serviced by municipal sewer.

Over the years, Voorheesville Trustee Richard Straut told The Enterprise in September, the Salem Hills Sewer District has been extended to more homes along Maple Avenue.

“And with the support of the town,” Schultz said, it’s possible that the sewer district could be extended further down Route 85A. “I don’t feel as though [the town] is thinking much about the future,” he said. 

Shultz, like his opponents, said he wants to see growth in New Scotland, “in the form of both housing and in small business.” And, Schultz added, “I’m not as afraid of growth,” as others appear to be, and, while he’d like to attract small businesses to the area, he’s not opposed to trying to attract larger businesses to town too. 

Having worked for 30 years at Atlas Copco, which is located in Voorheesville, Schultz said that it’s one of the few in-town taxpaying employers. The company pays taxes to both the town and village as well as to the school district, he said.

“They sent taxes in but they didn’t put anybody through that school,” he said.

Schultz said that, when he joined Atlas Copco — an international industrial tool and equipment maker that employs 37,000 around the world — the Voorheesville location was an $18 million division. By the time he left the company, he said, it had become a $250 million division.

“We were able to make it grow and become more a part of the community,” Schultz said. “It wasn’t always the size that it is now.”

In 2018, Atlas Copco paid about $76,000 in taxes to the Voorheesville Central School District; to New Scotland, the company paid about $5,300 in taxes; and to Voorheesville, in 2019, the company paid about $4,600 in taxes. 

On the town’s installing sewer infrastructure to either spur growth or better serve current residents and businesses — as Voorheesville is proposing — Schultz said that, in the town, the work should be more collaborative, citing as an example one of New Scotland’s major housing developments: Kensington Woods, with a hybrid sewer system, for which the town will eventually take complete responsibility.  

Each home in the Kensington Woods development has a septic tank, but in the hybrid system, the effluent that would normally dissipate into a leach field instead is sent through underground piping to a treatment facility where it is filtered and discharged into a creek.

Asked about something the town board is doing well, Schultz said, “The town is a beautiful town,” and it’s been that way since the town board was controlled by Republicans. The current Democrat-dominated board has been able to maintain that, he said, adding “So, I’ve got to give them credit for not ruining it.”

Schultz, like his Republican counterpart, Timothy Stanton, said that a small-party party endorsement is “very important,” and, while he said he had spoken with some small parties, the only ballot line he holds in the fall is the Republican line. 

The problem Schultz encountered courting small-party backing was that, when he was invited to speak with the Libertarian Party about an endorsement, he was asked to switch parties, he said. 

“I told them, ‘You have to realize that I’ve been married for 43 years. What makes you think I’m going to all of a sudden change from Republican to a Libertarian?’ So, that didn’t work out so well,” he quipped. 

Although it won’t appear on any ballot line, Schultz points out that he is the only candidate in the race who lives in Voorheesville, which, he said, represents 40 percent of the town’s tax base. 

Schultz makes it clear that in no way is his campaign concentrating on the village, but, he added, “The fact remains, I am the only candidate from the village,” which, he said, of village residents, “I think they would realize the value of that.”


 

 

 

Timothy Stanton

Republican Timothy Stanton is running for town board, he said, for the same reason that he usually runs for office: To give voters a choice. 

Stanton, 57, has been unsuccessful in two previous runs for the town board; he’s also come up short in two attempts to win a seat in the county legislature. 

The choice Stanton offers voters is his viewpoint — primarily, that he is a business-oriented candidate — which, he said, is different than that of most of the current town board. And that business-oriented view, Stanton said, “goes two ways,” by which he meant that he thinks the town should be run more like a business and that it should be more favorable to businesses.

Offering an example of how New Scotland should be run more like a business, Stanton said, in business, there is want and there is need; just because he wants to buy a new tractor for his farm, that doesn’t mean he should. 

“I mean, I think everybody in the town wanted to save that Hilton Barn, but I don’t think anybody in the town wanted to spend a million dollars to save it,” he said. That’s the direction the town is heading in — it’s governing by emotion, he said.

It’s never a good thing when a board or committee is made up of members whose viewpoints have little variation, Stanton said. “You need some opposing viewpoints, even if it’s just for discussion.” And now that the town board is made up of all Democrats, Stanton said, there’s never any disagreement — votes are almost always unanimous. “That can’t be good,” he added. 

A Republican hasn’t won a seat on the town board since 2009, when now-supervisor and current Democrat Douglas LaGrange, was the top vote-getter. The town’s other elected positions — highway superintendent, town clerk, town justice — are all Democrats who are rarely challenged in the general election. 

So, with almost a decade of single-party governance in New Scotland, there’s clearly enough of a sample size for voters to draw on for information when they enter the voting booth; doesn’t that tell Stanton all he needs to know about the town’s residents’ voting preferences?

“Except that I would say that earlier on, like say, between 2009 and [about 2015],” although the town board was made up of all Democrats, there were different points of view on the board, Stanton said, pointing specifically to former board members Richard Reilly and Margaret Neri as examples.

“And even Dan Mackay, when he was on the board, oftentimes questioned things,” Stanton said. “But since then, basically no one ever questions anything — they basically just rubber stamp it.”

Stanton, a farmer, has lived in New Scotland since 1985; he and his wife, Colleen, have six children. He has a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University.

About Sheriff Craig Apple’s plan to move the county’s emergency medical services staff from part-time to full-time, Stanton said, “I don’t have any earth-shattering answers on that one; I think it’s one of the things you’ve got to do.”

Stanton said that the town has gone too far with its conservation and preservation efforts as evidenced by “the lack of anything coming to our town.”

In the last few years, Stanton said, he’s been told by people who have opened businesses in town, had they known how hard it was to open in New Scotland, they never would have moved to town. 

“That’s wrong; that’s not what you want to hear from businesses,” he said. 

Although the Stewart’s lawsuit is happening in the village of Voorheesville and not the town, which Stanton is the first to acknowledge, he said that the comparison is apt because Voorheeville exhibits much of the same anti-business animus that is seen New Scotland.

Stanton said it was the first time in company history that Stewart’s sued a municipality for preventing it from building a shop. “They’ve got 300-and-some stores and we’re the only that they can’t come to terms with to build a store?” Stanton said. “I do realize that it’s in the village but it’s the same mentality in the town.”

At the heart of the Stewart’s lawsuit is the company’s request to have the village’s new zoning code, adopted in May, declared null and void “on the grounds that it fails to conform to a properly promulgated comprehensive plan.”

The town, Stanton said, should be working with businesses — not against them, which is accomplished through compromise, “not edicts, not mandates.”

Asked for an example of New Scotland’s inability to work with businesses, Stanton pointed to the sign scrap between Track 32 Italian Pub and New Scotland’s town, zoning, and planning boards in fall 2017. 

Joseph Salvino, the owner of Track 32, originally wanted to place a digital message-board sign outside his Feura Bush restaurant. 

At the time, the town’s zoning code did not allow for flashing signs; however, there was no concrete definition of flashing. There had been ambiguity in the code; whether it was on purpose or overlooked was not known. This allowed for case-by-case interpretations by the building inspector, as individual applications for signs came into the town.

In the case of Track 32, after making an adjustment to the sign, the building inspector did not consider the sign to be flashing, and the application was allowed to move forward to the planning board, which challenged the inspector’s determination and asked the zoning board to weigh in because, at the time, the sign’s new technology was unfamiliar to the town. 

After each of the town’s three boards spent time with the sign as an item on their meeting agendas, the town board eventually added definitions for a flashing sign and for a digital sign to the already-existing law.

“They were a proven entity,” Stanton said of the owners of Track 32. “They’d had restaurants in other towns,” he said, successful restaurants. “They came here and it took them two years to get a sign.”

The restaurant’s first variance request for a sign was in October 2016; however, according to planning-board meeting minutes, the application was postponed. April 2017 is the next time the application appears on the planning board’s agenda, but, again, the application was pulled. It wasn’t until September 2017 that the planning board sent the application to the zoning board for its input — by October 2017, the new law was in place. 

The planning board approved a special-use permit for “an illuminated sign and changeable message board” for Track 32 in April 2018

“That is what I’m talking about as far as working with business,” Stanton said. “And the sign [Track 32] ended up getting is 20 times worse than the sign that they wanted.”

Like the three other candidates for town board, Stanton would like to see growth in town, so long as it’s done “in the right way,” he said. “The main thing I would like to see is some business growth in the town since there isn’t any.” 

And while he favors growth, Stanton is also leary about the type of growth New Scotland is currently experiencing, pointing to housing stock that has come online recently, which has been almost exclusively high-end homes.

“I mean, we’re becoming an elitist town,” he said. “I haven’t seen a house built in the last few years that isn’t over $500,000.”

While Stanton, for the most part, agrees with the premise that housing prices are dictated by the market, he makes that assertion with one exception: If you’re dealing with large-lot zoning, which, he said, is one of the primary culprits driving up the cost of the town’s new housing stock. 

“If that’s the case,” he said, “that means you have to have a bigger house on that large lot to make it pay.”

In Colonie Country Club Estates, the 40-lot residential cluster development that runs alongside Route 85A just outside the village, lots under 30,000 square feet are few are far between. In August 2014, the first home in the development sold for $526,500.

For what will eventually be the nearly 170 homes that will make up the Kensington Woods development off of Hilton Road, those parcels will have minimum lot sizes of 22,000 square feet, and the homes, depending on their features, start in the low $400,000s and go up to $689,900.

For example, in the development’s “New Scotland Collections,” there are 14 models of homes from which to choose — all under $500,00; the lowest-priced home starts at $420,000. Ten of the homes are priced above $444,900; the eight model homes of the development’s “Estate Collection” range in price from $521,400 to $689,900.

Again, the previous homes were examples of new construction, but it would also appear that, when it comes to purchasing and putting existing homes on the market, there is a tale of two sales in New Scotland.  

As of Saturday, Oct. 12, according to the online real estate site Redfin, in New Scotland (which includes the village of Voorheesville) in the previous month, 12 homes were sold at an average sale price of $268,000 — which is up 21 percent over the same time last year. 

Also on Saturday, there were 47 single-family homes listed for sale: 29 in New Scotland outside of the village, and 18 in Voorheesville. The listings had a median for sale price of $349,900 — meaning half of the homes listed for sale cost more than $349,900; the other half cost less. In New Scotland, the 29 listings had a median listing price of $349,900; in Voorheesville, it was $345,000.

Asked if the answer to reducing the cost of newly-built homes is to dictate to developers the types of housing that should be built, Stanton said, “No, I’m not for dictating anything.”

Rather, he said, if there were zoning that offered developers the opportunity — should they so choose — to build smaller homes on smaller lots where, for example, three homes priced at $200,000 each could be built on a parcel of land instead of one home for $600,000

“And our town doesn’t allow that without jumping through a lot of hoops,” he said. 

New Scotland has for some time been working to address the issues of which Stanton speaks, in general, with the adoption of the town’s comprehensive plan in September 2018, and, in particular, with the adoption of new zoning in the hamlet of New Scotland in May 2018, which was based on recommendations made in the town’s previously-adopted hamlet master plan. 

Comprehensive plans, generally speaking, are broad in stroke and short on detail: The document lays out a lofty set of goals that are meant to achieve a “vision” for the town that is set by its residents. Comprehensive plans have been described as “provid[ing] the backbone” to local zoning codes.

So, for example, addressing Stanton’s idea of being able to build three smaller homes on a parcel of land for which current zoning would allow only one large house to be built, New Scotland’s Comprehensive Plan recommends enacting “land-use laws to produce a greater mix of housing types and lot size; require comparable housing pricing for new construction; and require that a prescribed percentage of units in new developments be set aside as affordable.”

New Scotland is currently in the process of updating its zoning code based on recommendations laid out comprehensive plan.

The town’s comprehensive plan also recommends residential developments set aside and designate a percentage of housing as affordable “targeted towards first time homebuyers and seniors.”

In May 2018, the town board rezoned the New Scotland hamlet at the corner of routes 85 and 85A; the new law took approximately 455 acres of land and rezoned it into three sub-districts: a concentrated hamlet center, a hamlet expansion area, and a development area. 

Under the new law, and depending on the sub-district, there are about half-a-dozen allowable lot sizes in the hamlet, which range from a 2,500-square-foot unit in an attached single-family dwelling all the way up to 30,000 square feet for a detached single-family dwelling. 

When the hamlet zoning was still just a proposal before the town board,  Councilman Adam Greenberg told The Enterprise in February 2018 that the proposed zoning took into account affordable housing, which is why the plan allowed for smaller lot sizes. The hope was — and is — that the variety in allowable lot sizes will create housing density and diversity, which, in turn, can create affordability.

To be clear, at 455 acres, the New Scotland hamlet makes up about 1 percent of the town’s 58 square miles. 

Asked about something on which he thought the town was “dropping the ball,” Stanton said, “Well, I sound like a broken record,” but the board could be making New Scotland attractive for businesses.

Something the town board is doing well is getting “a lot of things done because there’s not much opposition,” said Stanton, adding, “That’s kind of a cop-out, but that’s the best I can do.” 

Speaking from prior experience, Stanton said, receiving third-party backing is “very important.”

In November, he will appear on the Republican and Conservative lines,

In his previous runs for office — twice for town board (in 2009 and 2011) and twice for county legislature (in 2015 and 2017, when he did have the backing of the Conservative Party) — Stanton said that there had been a couple of close elections that, had he had third-party backing, “I would have won with it — so, that just shows you it’s important.”

In the 2015 race for District 38 of the county legislature, for example, Democrat Michael Mackey beat Stanton, 981 to 782 — Mackey had the backing of the Conservative and Independence parties while Stanton was on the Reform line. 

Mackey’s small-party lines totaled 228 votes, which, hypothetically, had Stanton had those lines and received those votes, he would have won the election, 1,010 to 753.

And in 2011, when he ran for town board, hypothetically, had Stanton received the Conservative and Independence lines along with the ballots that were cast for those parties, he would have won a spot on the town board by beating out Hennessy and the retiring Patricia Snyder. 

About the time and emphasis placed on receiving the backing of parties and whether or not that’s a problem, Stanton said, “It isn’t the best system but it’s the system we’ve got.”


 

 

 

Douglas LaGrange

First voted into the supervisor’s office in 2015, Democrat Douglas LaGrange is facing his third straight election without an opponent; he had lost his first bid for the office — running as a Republican — by just 30 votes, in 2007

Asked why he thought he’d never faced an opponent for supervisor, LaGrange pointed to the position’s precarious permanence — it’s a full-time post that, should a candidate win the election, would require the victor to leave a probably stable job for a position that depends on re-election every two years.

As for why he’s running for re-election, LaGrange, a life-long resident of New Scotland, said that it’s because he wants to continue the good work of the town board, adding, “We’ve accomplished so much,” but there’s more to be done. 

On Sheriff Craig Apple’s decision to move the county’s emergency medical services staff from part-time to full-time, LaGrange said, “I see the definite need for the direction he’s taking; [the county’s] EMS providers should be compensated as well as others in the area.”

An Albany County paramedic currently makes $22 per hour while a paramedic working in Guilderland earns about $28 per hour. Guilderland emergency medical technicians earn $20 an hour while county EMTs earn $14.50.

As for paying for the services, LaGrange said, a plan needs to be put in place so that the emergency-service costs — which, over the next three years, could increase by as much as 45 percent — aren’t breaking municipalities’ budgets. 

In New Scotland, for example, the town’s combined ambulance and EMT costs have gone from about $429,000 this year to an anticipated $479,00 next year, up $50,000, a roughly 11.5-percent increase; with costs anticipated to increase another 5 percent in 2021 and by as much as 30 percent in 2022.

One proposal LaGrange had was to allow for a more gradual increase in emergency-service costs — to spread out the cost increase over more years. 

“Otherwise,” LaGrange said, “in my opinion, one of the best opportunities we have is to go through the county budget [to pay for the services],” which would require an act of the state legislature to set up a special taxing district that would encompass the municipalities receiving the benefit of the sheriff’s EMS.

“Every single election that I’ve been involved in or had any kind of familiarity with, almost everybody said they wanted to preserve our rural character,” LaGrange said when asked if the town has been too conservation and preservation happy.

One of the goals of land-use plans, he said, is to balance the availability of both commercial and open space. And with the master plan for the hamlet of New Scotland and the subsequent adoption of zoning based on recommendations laid out in the plan, he said, “We put together [a plan] for the Bender farm area that encourages open space but also allowed for a lot of great development.”

He concluded, “So, in my opinion, no, we haven’t gone overboard [with planning].” 

When asked if he wants to see growth in town, LaGrange answered, “That’s a loaded question.” Because, he said, neither he nor his fellow board members want to stop growth from occurring, but, at the same time, he said, “We want to be very careful in how we plan for growth.” 

And that plan, he said, is expressed in the recently-adopted update to the town’s comprehensive plan, which will then be reflected in an update to New Scotland’s zoning code.

But, if a developer were to come knocking, LaGrange said, he’d like to see a similar solution to the one taken in Kensington Woods, where the developer drilled its own wells and installed a hybrid sewer system that is self-contained within the development.

“I don’t feel the town board is dropping the ball on anything,” LaGrange said, but there are things on which the board could act more quickly, for example, consolidating the town’s water districts.

“One of the things the board does well,” LaGrange said, is that it works “together to find solutions.” Additionally, he said, “One of the best things we do — almost to a fault — is we’re very conscientious and conservative with our budget.”

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