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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, October 2, 2008

Biscone says he wants to hear from residents who live near the proposed big-box mall

By Jo E. Prout

NEW SCOTLAND — John Biscone, a member of the committee appointed to update New Scotland’s zoning, said this week he wants to hear public comment, but not in the format that has been proposed so far. Biscone said that he is particularly interested in hearing from residents near the site of a proposed big-box mall.

He is criticized in a letter to The Enterprise editor this week, calling attention to his business interests and saying he “was not interested in the view of town residents.”

Edie Abrams, a community activist who has supported the grassroots group New Scotlanders for Sound Economic Development, stated in her letter that Biscone had not stayed to listen to the summaries of public comment at a Sept. 17 workshop.

“I listened to most of the comments there,” Biscone told The Enterprise. “I listened to all the rooms,” he said of groups divided into different classrooms at the high school. Biscone said that he left after the fourth summary was given because he was ill. “I was having chills,” he said.

“We don’t have to hold a public input workshop. We’re doing it anyway,” he said. He pushed the town board to “have residents directly affected [by the proposed retail development] state how they feel about it, and also those adjoining the district,” Biscone said. Those directly involved and adjoining the district would include about 90 people, he said, and a forum allowing each three minutes to speak would last over three hours, he said.

Conversely, having a large group of people from the entire town attend would “inundate the thing,” he said. “That would not be beneficial to us. I wanted public input” from those specifically in the district, he said.

He noted that, at the Commercial Zoning Advisory Committee public workshop on Sept. 17, NS4SED members were soliciting money and selling cookies.

“That’s not the purpose of that type of event,” Biscone said. “The idea was to get some info for us to use. The town board has to have public hearings when they get around to forming a statute. Then everyone can speak. I’m the one who pushed the board for public input.”

Biscone said that residents who live near the proposed retail area are concerned about getting out of their driveways with the increased traffic that would result from a mall with regional draw.

The town paid $3,600 to Behan Planning Associates to run the public workshop, Biscone said.

He said of Roselyn Robinson, the chairwoman of the committee, “Ms. Robinson could have handled it herself with just the landowners” in the district, Biscone said. “It would have been nice to hear what they have to say. This is their backyard. This is them. Clarksville is a long way from [routes] 85 and 85A.”

Biscone also said that he had asked Behan Planning to circulate the powerpoint presentation shown at the workshop. “I want that on the website,” he said. The presentation described “where we are, to date, and where we are heading, to date,” Biscone said. He did receive a copy of it for himself, he said.

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