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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, June 4, 2009

Moreau runs for super
Planks split

By Saranac Hale Spencer

NEW SCOTLAND — The top of the Republican ticket this fall may not share a platform with the bottom.

The proposal for a large-scale shopping center that has shaped debate in town for the past year also divides the GOP ticket.

The party has picked Karen Moreau, a local lawyer who is president of PRIDE of New Scotland, to run as supervisor.  The group has strongly favored commercial development in town.

Incumbent board member Douglas LaGrange will seek re-election along with planning board member Charles Voss, who is running for the other open town board seat.  The pair ran together on the Republican line two years ago on a platform primarily focused on updating the town’s zoning code.  They have supported revamping the town’s zoning to follow the mater plan, which eschews regionally drawing retail centers.

Last month, the Conservative Party endorsed Republicans LaGrange and Voss and Democratic Supervisor Tom Dolin, who is seeking re-election. The Albany County Conservative Party had endorsed all three candidates in past elections, said chairman Richard Stack, and decided to do so again because of their shared stance on development in New Scotland.

“The issue of whether or not we permit big-box development is going to be central to the campaign and I’m prepared to support anybody who has a similar view as I do, which is — I’m against big box commercial zoning,” Dolin, a retired lawyer and former town justice, said yesterday.

“That’s what makes it tough,” LaGrange said this week when asked if he had considered campaigning with Dolin — the two have worked together closely over the last year.  “I would have considered it, and embraced it, if Karen hadn’t decided to run,” he said of Moreau.

Since her nomination is new, Moreau said that she isn’t sure how the party will reconcile her position on development with that of Voss and LaGrange.

“I certainly am someone who’s in favor of what NS4 calls sound economic development,” she said, referring to the vocal citizens’ group called New Scotlanders 4 Sound Economic Development.  “I may have some differences with them on how to go about that.”

Planning and development has dominated discussion in town since March of 2008 when Cazenovia-based Sphere Development made public plans to build a Target-anchored shopping center at the intersection of routes 85 and 85A — NS4SED formed soon after, in opposition to large-scale retail development, and has been a major contributor to the debate. 

Moreau’s group, PRIDE, formally incorporated in February of this year and focused on opposing Local Law I, which had been drafted by the remaining two members of the formerly five-member Commercial Zone Advisory Committee, appointed by the town board to advise it on bringing the town’s zoning code into line with its comprehensive plan.  The law was supported by NS4SED; LaGrange and Dolin introduced a revised version of it that included a 50,000-square-foot size limit on individual retail stores in the commercial zone and a 100,000-square-foot limit on shopping centers.

The bill died in favor of a different revision of Local Law I, written by Democratic Councilman Richard Reilly, that included a size cap of 85,000 square feet for a single building and 250,000 square feet for a shopping center.  Councilwomen Peg Neri and Deborah Baron supported Reilly’s bill, which was recently disapproved by the Albany County Planning Board.  Neri’s seat is up this November and she plans to defend it.

Since she and Dolin have often expressed different opinions on development, the Democratic party may be faced with the same dilemma as the Republicans — vastly differing planks on their platforms.

Last month, Dan Mackay, a founding member of NS4SED who works for the Preservation League of New York, announced that he would seek the Democratic line in the fall election for a seat on the town board, to which Neri, a lawyer, responded in a written statement to the Enterprise, “Dan Mackay is a fine gentleman.  However, he is a one-issue candidate representing a special interest group.” 

She went on to outline several things outside of development that face the town and said of that issue, “No member of the town board supports large-scale retail.  Not one of us wants the commercial corridor to look like Wolf Road or Glenmont’s Plaza.”

In addition to the development debate itself, Mackay said last month, there are important related issues, like restraining tax growth and examining how the town spends money.  If development is too big, he said, it will increase residential tax bills.  “I think the other big piece… is an open and inviting local government,” he said.

Dolin, the one-term Democratic supervisor, has defined the terms of his campaign and his stance on the issue of development in no uncertain terms.  He does not want zoning that would permit a large-scale shopping center with big-box stores in the commercial zone.

“I think there’s a real possibility that that will be the slate,” said New Scotland’s Democratic committee chairman, Michael Mackey, yesterday when asked if Dolin, Neri, and Mackay might make up the Democrats’ ticket.  The party will caucus on June 23 at Voorheesville’s high school.

According to the Albany County Board of Elections, 2,356 voters in New Scotland are enrolled as Democrats, and the Republican party has 1,699 enrolled voters.  There are 174 enrolled Conservatives in the town.

A lawyer with a background in agriculture practicing in Feura Bush, Moreau said that she will offer voters a choice and she is “generally going to be focusing on ways to improve the public process in Town Hall.”  Moreau is making her first run for office.  She also identified the development of the commercial zone as a central issue, citing the desire to increase the tax base and develop infrastructure.

Voss, a professional planner who serves on the planning board, said that the central issues in this election are similar to those in the last one — land use and planning.  He ran unsuccessfully two years ago, defeated by Democratic incumbents Reilly and Baron.  This time around, since Sphere’s proposal, Voss said, more people are aware of the importance of land use and planning.  He, too, cited economic growth and infrastructure as issues of related importance, but said that, as a planner, he is aware of grants available for the development of water and sewer infrastructure, which is sorely lacking in some parts of town.

“This isn’t a one-issue campaign,” said LaGrange, a life-long farmer, referring to development.  He emphasized the importance of updating the town’s zoning code to reflect the 1994 comprehensive plan, a project on which he has been working for years.  “It’s a bit of a fragmented campaign when it comes to the party,” he said when asked about how the GOP would unify its ticket.

“My thing is to have candidates on the ballot,” said Joseph Defronzo, the town’s Republican committee chairman, when asked about its selection of Moreau for supervisor.  “She wanted to run.  We needed a candidate.  And she was it,” he said.

“It’s going to be very interesting,” he concluded.

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