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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, December 11, 2008

Mayor promises
Village will replace cut trees

By Philippa Stasiuk

ALTAMONT — One tree too many for George Sands was cut down on Grand Street. He issued the village board a challenge at its December meeting: Create a tree preservation plan in thirty days. 

Sands, who spoke at the microphone and referred to extensive notes, took 20 minutes to describe the fate, by his count, of the 19th tree on his street to be needlessly cut down and not replaced by the village. 

Sands’s sugar maple came to the attention of village authorities when, several months ago, a limb estimated to be between 10 and 12 inches wide fell from the tree into the street. Village authorities subsequently deemed the tree a liability but, in a concession to Sands who believed the tree only needed trimming and cabling, Mayor James Gaughan agreed to send an arborist to assess the sugar maple’s health. 

Fred Breglia, a certified arborist with the International Society of Arboriculture and head of horticulture at the Landis Arboretum, examined the tree and concluded that it should be “removed immediately by a qualified tree service,” according to a Nov. 19 letter that Breglia wrote to Gaughan.

Last week, the tree was felled. However, according to Sands, the exposed trunk revealed a tree that was in better health than the arborist had declared.

“When they took it down,” Sands said, “I saw that there was some death at the top, but the split at the Y was nonexistent and the main part of trunk wasn’t hollow like they said. The notion was that the tree was in imminent danger but it wasn’t the case.”

Using his felled maple as an example, Sands said he would like to see the village focus on prudent pruning and replacing old and or dying trees that must come down instead of just removing them.

“It’s not just so much this tree in front of my house and what it did for the value of my house and shading it in summer, but I’ve been on that street for a very long time. Since I’ve been there, 19 trees have been cut down. Every time it happens, I think, ‘Isn’t there a tree management program?’” 

Mayor Gaughan responded at the Dec. 2 meeting by saying that he had researched village law in responding to Sands’s complaints and discovered that the current law of the village allows authorities to “remove the trees with indemnity.” But Gaughan said he will change the ordinance and “commit to replacing the trees on the side streets.”

In speaking to Sands, Gaughan added, “Your points bring value in addition to what we’ve done to address side streets. So that’s my commitment to you. We will build upon what we’ve started. Our budget is coming up in a couple of months to address greenery of village.” 

Mayor Gaughan said he hoped that Sands would agree to be a part of the board’s effort to change the ordinance. 

Altamont Business Forum

Trustee Kerry Dineen gave an update on the Altamont Business Forum meeting on Nov. 17 at Hungerford Market. The purpose of the meeting was for interested Altamont business owners to meet and discuss ways in which to further local business interests.

Dineen said that the group decided to make a welcome brochure for new residents of the village that would include advertising for local businesses. The brochure would have maps, streets, vendors, and store names and would be available at the library, the Stone Inn, and other retail places around town. The group is also looking into sharing advertising space and coupons.

Mayor Gaughan said by phone that it was likely the village would subsidize some of the cost of the business association’s endeavors.

Dineen described the first meeting as a success and said it was a “great opportunity to talk with business owners, whether it was concerns, things that were going well, issues with special-use permits when there are events in village, and traffic patterns.

During the public comment portion of board meeting, Harvey Vlahos, a former village trustee who manages the Altamont Manor and runs a marketing communications firm, asked Dineen how she had decided whom to invite to the meeting. Vlahos said he had received calls from John Donato and Jeff Thomas, neither of whom had been invited.

Donato owns Altamont’s bowling alley and rents apartments, and Thomas owns an apartment building, leases out several stores, and, just outside the village line, has built a senior housing complex and is now building a SEFCU branch. Vlahos said that Thomas, as the owner of the Altamont Corners plaza, “would have great input into who he rents space to, which would go into the welfare of the business community, and there would be fewer empty buildings.” 

Dineen replied by saying she thought she had invited Donato and, in a nod to Thomas, said she would include landlords in future invitations to meetings.

Thomas could not be reached for comment this week. 

When Vlahos was asked, by phone, why he did not bring up his concerns during the Nov. 17 business meeting, which he had attended, he replied that he “didn’t think it was the appropriate time and place” and that he “didn’t want to disrupt the positive energy of the meeting.”

“I didn’t want to jump all over Kerry [Dineen] and ask, ‘Why haven’t you done your homework?’”

At the Dec. 2 village meeting, Vlahos also mentioned the website NYCOM for the New York State Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officials, a website available to public officials with information about improving the administration of public affairs. He asked whether anyone was using the NYCOM website, which is available only to public officials, to help ensure the success of the fledgling business forum. 

Mayor Gaughan replied “Not to my knowledge but we certainly will.”

Vlahos also told The Enterprise that he has not decided whether or not to run for public office this spring.

Other business

In other business, the board:

— Approved and filed a resolution declaring the village of Altamont the lead agency for environmental review of modifications to the village’s solid waste management plan. In accordance with the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) process, the board issued a negative declaration, meaning there will not be significant environmental impact;

— Approved an agreement with Albany to support the Capital Region Solid Waste Management Partnership Planning Unit Recycling Coordinator. (See in-depth coverage online at www.altamontenterprise.com under Guilderland archives for Nov. 20: “New recycling regs to lengthen landfill life);  

— Approved the application from Peter Wachtel for a  two-lot sub-division of 2.6 acres, creating a new building lot behind 3-5 Marian Court;

— Approved a request for village sewer service from Anne Saile, at 251 Brandle Road; and 

— Approved holding the December Library Lights Holiday Fund-raiser to support the building fund of the new Altamont Free Library at the gazebo in Orsini Park. 

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