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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, September 3, 2009

Charles Voss

By Saranac Hale Spencer

NEW SCOTLAND — Charles Voss, a professional planner, is running on the same issues he ran on two years ago, although they have been magnified.

“On the town-board level, you could effectively create new land-use policies to help preserve the community,” he said two years ago, when he was seeking a seat on the town board.  “Planning only works if it’s proactive, not if it’s reactive,” he said.

Soon after he was defeated, Cazenovia-based Sphere Development proposed building a Target-anchored shopping center on what has been farmland located in the town’s commercial zone.  For the year-and-a-half since then, zoning and land-use issues have dominated discussion in town.

For water, Voss said this week, he and his running-mate Douglas LaGrange have developed what he calls a two-pronged approach, which includes working aggressively with the neighboring town of Bethlehem, which owns a reservoir located in the town of New Scotland and has a line running along Route 85.  Bethlehem has been trepidatious about providing further water to New Scotland given the inconclusive future of the commercial zone — Bethlehem’s supervisor, John Cunningham, has expressed concern about the possibility of a large-scale commercial development needing water.

Getting a grip on commercial zoning in New Scotland would open the door to discussion regarding water with Bethlehem, Voss said.  Building from that, he said, New Scotland could pursue grants or federal stimulus funds to expand municipal water sources.  Because of his job, as a planner at CT Male, he is familiar with seeking out those kinds of grants, Voss said.

On the town’s comprehensive plan, Voss said, “I think various aspects are outdated,” but he went on, “the goals and strategies still apply today.”

Voss was on the Residential Planning Advisory Committee, which worked on a plan for the commercial corridor several years ago.  Since the town board hasn’t included the various surveys and updates that the RPAC recommended, Voss said one of the things he’d like to start with is incorporating those things into the plan.

Agriculture should be promoted, he said.  “We’re an agrarian based community,” Voss said, explaining that farms dictated the way New Scotland developed, with several hamlets and the village of Voorheesville as a destination for farmers to bring their goods to the railroad.

“We’ve got to try to maintain the farms we have,” he said, naming the Right-To-Farm law as “a good first step.”  Voss would like to see more farmers involved in town government, citing the effort to get Timothy Stanton on the planning board, and he praised purchase-of-development-rights programs.

“It’s a very sensitive issue with a lot of people” he said of land-use issues.  People are very passionate, he said, and, as part of what he does for a living, he holds charrettes and speaks in front of many different municipal boards, he said, and he’s found that the best way to handle public input is to be “very open and patient with people.”

Citizens must be afforded the opportunity to speak and be heard, Voss said, and added of board members, “You also have to be willing to take your punches.”

A town board member must also seek out as many opinions from constituents as he can, Voss said, hearing opinions on all sides of an issue.

Planning board members, on the other hand, he said, “Technically, they’re really not answerable to anybody.”  Which, he said, some say is by design and some see as a flaw.  The town board, an elected body, sets the parameters for land use and it is up to the planning board to uphold those standards, he said.

People often think the planning board is to act as a planner for the community, but that is actually the purview of the town board, Voss said.

Asked about his vision for the commercial zone at the corner of routes 85 and 85A, Voss said, “I still go back to that concept plan.”  He and LaGrange created a plan, at the request of former Supervisor Ed Clark, for what the town would like to see in the development of what he refers to as the “New Scotland hamlet.”  It included small-scale shops and housing with office space or light-industrial uses set back on the interior of the property.

As for the role of parties, Voss said, they are a “mechanism to get people involved.”  The way people from all parties have aligned themselves in this election, he said, has “made for strange bedfellows.”

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