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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, May 6, 2010

Runion votes with GOP, defeating bill for stormwater districts

By Anne Hayden

GUILDERLAND — Supervisor Kenneth Runion shocked the town board on Tuesday night when he voted with the Republicans — rather than with his fellow Democrats — against a local law that he had originally proposed.

The vote was two to two, with Democrats Patricia Slavick and Paul Pastore voting for the law, and Republicans Warren Redlich and Mark Grimm voting against it, when Runion — voting last — dropped his bombshell.

Grimm joked that he thought he hadn’t heard Runion’s vote right. Runion has been at odds with the two Republicans on the board since they took office over two years ago.

The law, had it been adopted, would have established stormwater management districts for all new major subdivisions in the town. The town hired Delaware Engineering to prepare a feasibility study for the creation of such districts in subdivisions currently in the planning phase.

Runion said the catalyst behind the study was the new federal regulations for managing stormwater, which require stormwater maintenance to prevent run-off into public water systems. If the town did not have a plan in place to manage stormwater drainage, it could be fined substantially, Runion said.

The defeated bill outlined a system in which a stormwater management district in a subdivision would be a town entity, and would clarify who would maintain a retaining pond or catch basin. The developer of a new subdivision would be required to pay a fee up front, directly after the first building permit was issued. Prices of homes in subdivisions with stormwater management districts would be raised slightly to make up for the developer’s initial payment, and homeowners in the subdivision would be charged an annual fee to their tax bill.

In existing subdivisions, homeowners associations often handle the maintenance of retaining ponds and basins, according to Runion. In the past, however, when there have been problems with association-controlled stormwater systems, the town has been required to step in and pay to fix the issue, he said. The supervisor initially hoped that the establishment of stormwater management districts would eliminate the need for the town to cover repair costs, because the money provided by the developer and homeowners would be readily available.

Redlich said he was opposed to adopting the law because he felt it would add another layer to government.

“There is a popular perception that there are too many layers of government, and too much government in general. We don’t need more government,” said Redlich, reiterating a theme he has stressed in speeches across the state during his campaign for governor. Last month, the Libertarian party nominated Redlich for governor.

The arguments in favor of the drainage districts did not make sense, according to Redlich, because, in the event of a large breakdown in the system, the town would be forced to cover costs exceeding whatever money was currently in the subdivision’s drainage district account. A catastrophic problem with a stormwater system could cost millions to fix, he said.

“It would be just another tax,” said Redlich.

At the town board meeting, Runion read a letter from John Bossalini, the project executive for Amedore Homes, a company that has been planning a development on the Stutt’s Farm property, near the corner of Old State Road and Carman Road, since 2008. Bossalini expressed concern over the timing of the initial fee, stating that the practice would “discriminate against the small local builder.”

Bossalini also said he thought that the current real-estate market presented a risk for developers required to pay a substantial ahead, since homes could sit empty for a period of time.

After listening to the discussions, and hearing the votes of the four councilmembers, Runion voted to oppose the adoption of the local law. He said he did not think the problem was too many layers of government, but, rather, too many subdivisions in Guilderland.

Runion said the town is seeing an influx of developers requesting re-zones to allow greater density, based on improvements in stormwater management. Voting down the establishment of stormwater management districts would prevent higher density developments, he said.

Homeowners associations should be able to maintain basins and ponds in smaller subdivisions, Runion said. Even if the town had to step in, he said, it would only have to deal with smaller developments, and the costs wouldn’t be as great as they would be with a high-density development.

“We try to overdevelop properties. The property that is left in town to be developed is not easily developable. I’m looking at this from a fiscal planning perspective,” said Runion. He said before the public hearing he had been leaning toward voting in favor of the law, but, after the discussion, he realized it did not make much sense.

Redlich said he did not understand why Runion had voted in opposition of a local law that he himself had proposed.

“This is just another part of his erratic behavior,” said Redlich.

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