Berne 2005 in Review

BERNE—Another contentious year in Berne was capped by the reelection of the town supervisor.

After over a year of planning, a major revision to the town’s zoning ordinance was passed in January, over the vocal opposition of a group of residents. The town board voted, 3 to 2, to rezone the hamlet of Berne from largely residential to traditional neighborhood mixed use.

The Berne Hamlet Neighborhood Association, which opposed the plan primarily because it allows gas stations in part of the hamlet, was not able to assemble a petition that represented the owners of half of the land in the hamlet. If the association had, state law would have required a supermajority, or four out of five, of the town board members to pass the revision.

Supervisor Kevin Crosier strongly supported the plan and, throughout the year, many of his actions were met with criticism from the same group who opposed the plan. Democratic Councilman James Hamilton was one of the two who voted against it and later ran unsuccessfully against Crosier for supervisor.

Crosier, a registered Democrat running on the Republican ticket, won, 655 to 546. Democrat Joseph Golden, who also supporte the plan, was reelected to another term.


The hamlet rezone had its first test in April.

The Stewart’s Corporation applied to the Berne Planning Board to build a convenience store and gas station in the hamlet. The company purchased two properties, pending the planning board’s approval of the store. One was a house at 1707 Helderberg Trail, owned by Tom and Barbara Smith and the other was a two-acre vacant lot next door owned by Richard and Naome Collier.

At the time, Tom Lewis, of Stewart’s, told The Enterprise the company had every intention of meeting the strict regulations required by the new zoning. According to the revised ordinance, new buildings in the hamlet must meet certain specifications intended to make them blend in with the historic hamlet.
Many hamlet residents strongly opposed Stewart’s’ proposal. Signs reading, "Why Stewart’s" Why now"" appeared on lawns. Many accused Crosier and his father, planning board Chairman John Crosier, of courting Stewart’s and changing the zoning just to allow the store, which the Crosiers denied.
"If I wanted to be next to a Stewart’s, I would move to Albany," said Kenneth Bunzey, a town justice and lifelong Berne resident who lives next door to the proposed site. "I’ve got my life invested in this town. I feel like my town leaders have let me down."

All the controversy came to naught, however. Stewart’s withdrew its application in June, citing the strict zoning.
"The ordinance that was passed requires restrictions that we believe limits our ability to successfully operate our business," Lewis said.

For example, Lewis said, restrictions on hours of operation would be bad for business. Also, the company prefers having parking lots in front of its stores rather than to the side or behind, as the zoning dictates.
"These design standards worked exactly the way they were supposed to work," Crosier said.

Crosier submitted a complaint about Bunzey, a Democrat, to the state’s Judicial Ethics Committee. It’s unethical for a town judge to tell lies in public, Crosier said.
"He has accused me of colluding with Stewart’s. He has no actual proof of that," Crosier said.

Bunzey maintained that he was only repeating what Lewis told him. Lewis denied saying any such thing.


Despite the criticism of his administration, Crosier accepted the Republican nomination to run for a second four-year term as supervisor. The Democrats nominated Hamilton, a Hudson Valley Community College teacher in the midst of his first elected term on the town board. Hamilton said he wanted to bring the town back together.
"This is a wonderful town and I hate to see people arguing with each other," Hamilton said.

Crosier ran on a platform of preserving open space and maintaining a rural economy.
"We need to have an agriculture and rural-based economy. That is the key to the next four years," Crosier said, "preserving the things that I had when I was a kid growing up here."

When the county executive asked towns in the summer to contribute to a fund for promoting Tech Valley, Crosier was cautious.
"We should commit to this only if we use it in a way that will promote economic development and open-space protection," he said. "I’m not interested in investing in something that’s going to sprawl a rural community."

Besides Crosier, no other Republicans won in the fall election. Democrats outnumber Republicans in the town, two to one. For two seats on the town board, incumbent Joseph Golden and newcomer Wayne Emory easily defeated Rudolph Stempel and Mary Overbaugh.
"It’s very important for a representative that they represent all the people honestly and openly," Emory said in an interview before the election. "If the taxpayer puts you there, it’s a very high priority."

Space crunch

The Berne Town Board spent time in 2005 working on projects that began in years before, including the formation of a sewer district for the hamlet and a major improvement project on the town’s transfer station, now nearing completion.

One project looming for the town is dealing with the tight quarters shared by the town hall, the library, and the Berne museum.
The crunch in the library has gotten so bad that, as the library gets new books, magazines, CD’s, DVD’s, or videos, old ones, still in circulation, have to be taken off the shelf and stored or thrown out. On busy days, patrons have to squeeze by each other in the tight spaces between the shelves, "doing the dance," said Jeannette Miller, president of the Friends of the Town of Berne Free Library, in May.

The town or the library will either have to find a new home or expand the current building.

During his campaign, Councilman Golden, who serves as the town board’s liaison to the library board, said he thinks the library will probably be able to move out of the town hall to a larger space elsewhere on its own, allowing the town government to expand into the whole building.
"I don’t think anybody’s opposed to the library," he said.

"Dog intelligence"

This fall was another busy hunting season in Berne for John and Jolanta Jeanneny and their wirehaired dachshunds. The couple are America’s leading breeders of the dogs used for tracking wounded deer.

Interviewed in November, Mr. Jeanneny said he and his most-trusted dog, Sabina, had already taken 25 calls from hunters. The Jeannenys train their dachshunds to find a deer carcass 30 hours or more after it’s shot.
"Dog intelligence is very different from ours," Mr. Jeanneny said. "They surpass us in different ways. But they can’t count; three is kind of the limit."

The dogs work with their noses to the ground and at the end of a 30-foot leash. Sometimes, Mr. Jeanneny will stay out for 11 or 12 hours with Sabina searching for a deer.
"Basically, even though it’s a hobby, during hunting season, it basically takes over," Mrs. Jeanneny said.
"My retirement was not as calm as I thought it would be," said her husband.

More Hilltowns News

The Altamont Enterprise is focused on hyper-local, high-quality journalism. We produce free election guides, curate readers' opinion pieces, and engage with important local issues. Subscriptions open full access to our work and make it possible.