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New Scotland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, October 1, 2009
By Saranac Hale Spencer
NEW SCOTLAND Republican Douglas LaGrange, an incumbent councilman, is seeking a second two-year term on the town board.
The eighth-generation farmer will be on both the Democratic and Republican lines, but he’ll be campaigning with a slate called Team New Scotland, with Democrats Thomas Dolin and Daniel Mackay the trio share a similar vision for development in town, which is this election’s defining issue.
“I separate individual, private, turbines from wind farms,” LaGrange said when asked about wind energy zoning, adding that he’s supportive of individuals’ being able to erect their own wind turbines. But, he said, “When it comes to wind farms, I’m still learning.”
The size of set-back requirements still need to be determined, he said, and he’s still gathering information. “The more I learn,” he said, “the more questions I have.”
Asked about consensus, LaGrange expressed frustration at the three-member majority of the town board that often votes as a bloc. They have a different stance on the major issues around development than LaGrange and Supervisor Dolin, who is seeking re-election.
The water issue is complicated, LaGrange said, since the neighboring town of Bethlehem, which owns a reservoir in New Scotland, is hesitant to supply more water while commercial zoning is undecided. Beyond that, he said, the town is unsure of how much water is under the land for the Kensington Woods development.
“The fact is,” he said, “it’s close to $1 million a mile to get water to people.” The town should go after grant money and federal stimulus funds, he said.
It’s easy to promise water, LaGrange said, but in reality, he concluded, “It’s a tough issue.”
The comprehensive land-use plan needs to be updated, he said, adding that the vision of the plan isn’t outdated. LaGrange sits on a committee to review the plan and he also served on the Residential Planning Advisory Committee, which examined the town’s commercial corridor several years ago.
Statistical elements should be updated, he said, but the whole of the plan is solid.
“We need to do all we can to lessen the unnecessary burdens on agriculture,” said LaGrange. He cited the Right-To-Farm Law, which he pushed for, as progress and said, “People move into our town because it’s rural.” It’s rural because there are farms, which often produce smells and noise not wanted by residential development, he said, and the farms that are here need protection.
Taxes are another major strain on agriculture, he said, explaining that his farm alone pays about $30,000 annually in school and town taxes. Asked if encouraging more farms in the area might affect the tax base in the same way as commercial development, LaGrange said that there is a finite amount of acreage zoned for agriculture in town, so there is a finite amount that could be collected in taxes from farms. The commercial zone, which has been used largely for agriculture, should remain open for commercial development, he said.
LaGrange loves having citizens at town board meetings, budget meetings, any meeting, he said. Boards become unaccountable when people don’t pay attention, he said.
People should also be able to express their thoughts to the board, he said, adding that some may be more “excitable” than others.
“We’re an elected republic,” LaGrange said, and a board member has to take in all the information given to him. The town holds public hearings to find out what the public has to say, he said. Of managing the opinions expressed, he said, “It’s a balancing act.”
Regarding the role of political parties, LaGrange said, “I’m there to do what’s right for New Scotland. Period.” For his first two years on the board, there was a Republican supervisor, Ed Clark, and LaGrange worked equally hard for his second two years with Democratic Supervisor Thomas Dolin, he said.
“It’s regardless of party,” he said. “It’s what’s right for the town.”