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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, October 29, 2009

Stanton runs on New Scotland FIRST line

By Saranac Hale Spencer

NEW SCOTLAND — One further candidate will appear on November’s ballot after winning a court challenge to the New Scotland FIRST party line.

Timothy Stanton, a Republican who lost his primary challenge for the GOP line, will appear on the ballot since Supreme Court Judge Thomas McNamara found that he and running mate Roselyn Robinson had gathered enough valid signatures to stay on the New Scotland FIRST line.

The ballot line will dissolve after November’s election.  It was formed this summer by Stanton, Robinson, and Michael Fields, who is running for supervisor on the Republican line but lost his place on the New Scotland FIRST line, with support from prominent Democrats, most notably Louis Neri, who is the attorney for the town’s planning board, and Cynthia Elliott, who sits on the planning board.

New Scotland FIRST formed when the two major parties endorsed candidates with similar views on the future of development in town, explained Annie Brill soon after its creation; Brill is the treasurer of New Scotland FIRST and is Robinson’s sister.  Although Fields lost his spot on the line in the court challenge, brought by citizen John Dearstyne, a Republican, he is campaigning with Robinson and Stanton.  Their platform opposes a limit on the size of retail development and takes a laissez-faire approach to development.

The issues

On Oct. 1, The Enterprise profiled candidates for November’s election asking a series of questions; this week, Stanton was asked the same questions since his name will be appearing on the ballot.  The questions were:

Wind:  The only towers visible on the Helderberg escarpment are in New Scotland.  Shell Energy backed off a plan to put turbines on the crest of the Helderbergs, but others are interested.  The town currently has a moratorium on wind-energy development while it works out legislation to govern it; candidates were asked how New Scotland should zone for wind turbines.

Reaching consensus: The town board is deeply divided and will likely be after the election.  Candidates were asked how they would move forward to accomplish something.

— Water:  New Scotland has no municipal water source and some areas of town are severely lacking in available water.  Candidates were asked what they would propose doing about it.

— Comprehensive plan:  The town’s last comprehensive land-use plan was completed in 1994.  Candidates were asked if it is outdated and if it should be updated or redone.

— Agriculture:  Candidates were asked if farming should be promoted and in what way.  The area of town designated for commercial development in the 1960s is largely made up of prime farmland and farmland of statewide importance, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.  Candidates were asked if that area should be used for development or should land closer to already developed areas be designated instead for commercial development.

— Process:  The last year and a half has been marked by controversy, which has brought many citizens to meetings where they have voiced their concerns, sometimes forcefully.  Candidates were asked how they would handle input from citizens and how best to harness residents’ interests.

Roles:  Candidates were asked about the role of town board members — should they act according to the will of the majority or seek out the minority?  How should these two groups be balanced?  They were also asked about the role of the planning board and to whom it is answerable.

— Political parties:  In an election that has candidates divided according to their vision for development rather than along party lines, candidates were asked what role political parties play.

Stanton’s views

Timothy Stanton, a long-time farmer, differentiated between commercial-scale and residential- or agricultural-scale wind turbines, saying that, with the larger commercial-grade machines, there might be problems with interference with signals from nearby antennas and Doppler systems.  It “might be a moot point,” he said.

As for wind energy on farms or for residences, the main issue would be creating proper set-back requirements, he said.  Stanton added that farms would be an ideal place for wind turbines since they aren’t in populated areas and people are rarely nearby.

Of reaching consensus, Stanton said, “The best thing you can do is compromise.”  Alluding to the debate over a limit on the size of retail development, Stanton said that people shouldn’t just stick to what they want.

“We don’t have a supply,” he said of the town’s water situation.  “We’ve got to work with what’s there,” he said, explaining that the town could drill wells and pipe the water to residents.  He cited the residential Tall Timbers project, which planned on drilling wells, as an example. 

Also, the town could continue negotiating with the neighboring town of Bethlehem, which owns a reservoir located in New Scotland, Stanton said.  Bethlehem has an agreement with New Scotland to sell water to parcels within a certain distance of its pipeline, but the decades-old infrastructure in some areas, like the hamlet of New Salem, is crumbling and neither town has been willing to take on the expense of fixing the system.

The town’s comprehensive plan doesn’t need to be redone, Stanton said, but it could be updated.

“We want to maintain the rural character,” but also encourage commercial development, he said of balancing the recommendations in the plan.  Of how he’d like to see the former Bender melon farm at the developed, Stanton said, “I almost want to say anything we can get, but I won’t say that.”

That parcel, located in the commercial zone, has been used largely as agricultural land but has been at the center of controversy since Cazenovia-based Sphere Development proposed building a Target-anchored shopping center on the land at the intersection of routes 85 and 85A.

Stanton cited Stuyvesant Plaza in Guilderland as an example of a mall that would work well in that area by creating a tax base without looking like the heavily developed Wolf Road in Colonie.  It’s a large piece of land, he said of the roughly 200-acre parcel, so a commercial development could be set back from the road.

“I would hate to limit it to just small things,” Stanton said.  He is opposed to a limit on the allowable size for retail stores in New Scotland — a defining issue among the candidates.  Stanton wanted to add this week to what he had said before the Republican primary that he does not support “big box” development, which has become a hot-button phrase in this election.

Agriculture should “definitely be promoted,” said Stanton.  He is a 12th generation American, Stanton said, and he farms his family’s land in Greenville as well as the farm he has owned with his wife, Colleen, in Feura Bush since 1985.  He graduated from Kent, a prep school in Connecticut, before going to Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

The best way to encourage agriculture is to keep it in the agriculturally zoned areas of town, he said, without eating into the commercial zone.

“We ought to stick to what we’ve got,” he said of zoning in town.  Clustering development close to areas that have already been developed, like hamlets and the village of Voorheesville, sounds good in theory, Stanton said, but he concluded, “People like to drive too much.”

As for process, Stanton said, “Input from citizens is great [but]… we’ve got to be civil about it.”  Some of the meetings in New Scotland have gotten out of hand, he said, and “that’s what you can’t let happen.”

The town board is “answerable to the entire town,” Stanton said, not just to the people who show up at meetings.  Those who have been coming to meetings since the development controversy broke, and have been vocal in their disapproval of large-scale retail developments, are an element of the town, but not the whole of it, he said.

As for the planning board, Stanton said, its job is to work on planning and make recommendations to the town board.  The planning board is “more of a committee than a board,” he said.

“Political parties should have a platform and their candidates should reflect that platform,” he said of the role of parties.

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