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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, February 17, 2011

To work on hamlet plan
Old fault lines close as town chooses committee

By Saranac Hale Spencer

NEW SCOTLAND — A five-member committee chosen by the town board will join half-a-dozen representatives from various transportation and planning agencies to work on a hamlet master plan for New Scotland’s commercial zone near the intersection of routes 85 and 85A.

The Capital District Transportation Committee awarded the town a $50,000 grant to conduct the study last year — it came soon after a heated town election that turned on issues related to the development of that area.

Last week, the town board unanimously named Maura Mottolese, Jim Olsen, Katy O’Rourke, Kathy Macri, and Liz Kormos to represent New Scotland on the committee.  Mottolese is the lawyer who represents the owners of the old Bender melon farm, which is the largest single piece of land in the commercial zone, and she is the daughter of one of the owners; Olsen owns a nursery and property in the area; O’Rourke and her husband own land in the commercial zone that they plan to develop; Macri is a resident of the town with planning credentials; and Kormos is a resident who works in real estate.

Both O’Rourke and Kormos were instrumental in securing the grant and both were active in the citizens’ group called New Scotlanders 4 Sound Economic Development that formed in 2008 in response to plans from Cazenovia-based Sphere Development to build a Target-anchored shopping center on the former Bender melon farm.  NS4SED, which advocated against large-scale commercial development, played a pivotal role in the November 2009 election that brought the candidates it supported to the town board, including Daniel Mackay, who had been a founding member of the organization.

The first group of names considered by the town board at its Jan. 26 meeting included Olsen, O’Rourke, Macri, Kormos, Mackay, and Charles Voss, the planning board chairman.  During the discussion at that meeting, Mackay recommended soliciting some of the large landowners in the commercial zone to sit on the committee, and Councilman Richard Reilly suggested that Mackay and Voss, as town officials, could serve as non-voting, or ex-officio, members of the committee to free up spaces.

Several residents attended last week’s town board meeting to express concern about the method by which the town board had chosen those it would name to the committee.  Timothy Stanton, who ran on a platform calling for a laissez-faire approach to commercial development and lost his bid for a seat on the town board in the last election, was first to address the board.  He said that a study on something as controversial as land-use planning in the commercial zone should have necessarily included those who own large tracts of land in the area.  Those landowners should have been sent a letter alerting them to the process so they wouldn’t feel shut out, he said.

Roselyn Robinson, who ran in 2009 on a ticket with Stanton and also lost her bid for a seat on the town board, echoed his concern, pointing out that Supervisor Thomas Dolin and councilmen Douglas LaGrange and Mackay had run a campaign calling for transparency in government.  Robinson made clear that she had no problem with the names on the final committee list, but that it was the process for choosing them that bothered her.

“It is time for New Scotland to move forward on this issue,” Mackay said of the divisive development issue.  The work of NS4SED could easily be characterized as “a lot of work to say, ‘No,’ to something,” Mackay said, referring to the Target plans.  “The next nine months are about saying, ‘Yes,’” he said, regarding the grant to study land-use planning in the commercial zone.

He later announced that he would soon present a draft law limiting the allowable size of retail development, which was a major plank in his platform during the last election.

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