On Tuesday, November eighth, Gardiner goes to the polls for one of the most important elections in years. After six years of Democratic success at the polls, the last election, in 2009, saw two Republican candidates elected to the Town Board, resulting in a three/two Democratic/Republican split. All three Democratic seats are now being contested, introducing the possibility of a change in the balance of power.
Points of contention in this election are the Gardiner Master Plan and the current Zoning Law which were passed in 2004 and 2008 respectively, in response to intense development pressure in town during that period. In general, Democratic candidates have viewed these documents as important protections for the Ridge and valley areas, while Republican candidates lean toward viewing them as overstepping individual property rights.
As of press time, no face to face candidates’ debates are scheduled. In the past, these live debates have been an important part of informing the electorate and offering wider exploration of the issues and respective positions of each candidate. The Gardiner Gazette continues its policy of providing a venue for each candidate to speak directly to the voters. This brief coverage is no substitute for an open forum in which voters can ask their own questions, but the two party platforms are presented here, along the candidates’ responses to two questions posed.
The 2011 Republican Party Platform
The Republican Platform continues to remain true to the core fundamental values and principles established by the Republican Party.
The Republican platform has been, and is very much so for 2011, that we need a local government to focus on the priorities of the whole town to manage it within it means. We plan to work with the townspeople to develop the list of priorities that best benefit the town and then responsibly manage the activities and funds available to accomplish them. We plan to fairly represent the Master Plan of the town in drafting zoning laws that are not only consistent with it, but remembering that most zoning applications are by small property owners and that their rights have to be protected. In addition, we need to protect the rural character of the town from large corporate developers who are motivated solely by profit and not developing the town consistent with the measured and controlled development accomplished for years in Gardiner. We are interested in developing all types of businesses within the town to generate revenues by means other then on individual residential taxpayers. This will require efforts to develop not only the Hamlet Commercial Zone, but also by limiting restrictions on home occupations, as long as the residential nature of the community can be preserved, and work with commercial and light industrial business by making our CLI districts business friendly. We also want to leverage the recreational areas we already have to draw people to Gardiner, this will help our businesses and will spread the word about how nice this community is to live and work in or just visit.
The 2011 Democratic Party Platform
Working Together for a Better Gardiner
Maintaining Fiscal Responsibility Through Smart Planning:
• Limit town tax burden on Gardiner property owners.
• Encourage business development to increase revenue base. Maintain current committee to pursue business contacts.
• Actively seek public and private grants to lower costs of town programs. Pursue cost effective initiatives to keep program costs within budget constraints.
Preserving Open Space:
• Preserve the rural nature of Gardiner and support the goals set forth in the 2004 Comprehensive Plan.
• Enforce established policies that protect the Shawangunk Ridge as a critical natural and community resource.
• Continue to implement Gardiner’s Open Space Plan for farms and agriculture using bonding as needed.
Improving The Town:
• Develop the infrastructure of the Hamlet, including sidewalks and parking areas to ease access to businesses.
• Develop pedestrian linkages from the Hamlet center to residential areas.
• Continue to support the town library as a community asset.
• Enforce zoning requirements for businesses in industrial zones to minimize impacts on adjacent residential neighborhoods.
• Preserve and protect our water resources and aquifers with necessary modifications to the zoning laws.
Continuing Efficient Good Government:
• Enforce the laws, guidelines and processes of the Gardiner Board of Ethics.
• Continue open, inclusive government by encouraging participation by all members of the Gardiner community in town meetings and forums on issues of public concern.
• Seek volunteer professional services and advice from qualified members of the Gardiner community to work with town government as needed.
Candidates were each asked to respond to the following two questions in a maximum of 150 words for each question.
Their responses have not been edited:
#1. What do you see as the most important issue facing Gardiner, and what are your constructive ideas concerning this issue?
#2. The 2008 zoning revision has been in place for three years. What would you change and why and what do you think important to keep and why?
Candidates for Town Supervisor:
Democratic Candidate Carl Zatz
Response to question #1)
Taxes and the economy have the greatest impact on us. But claims that we’re a tax and spend community are disrespectful of the employees, volunteers and citizens who serve each day with less. Gardiner’s tax bills are divided like this: 12% Town taxes; 18% Ulster County taxes; and, a whopping 70% in School taxes. Half of our 12% town taxes go to the Highway and Fire Departments. So Republicans whining by the fire or at town meetings ignore the big picture. I’ll continue to appear in Albany before the NY State Assembly Committee on Tax Reform as I did earlier this year to amend NYS tax laws. I’ll continue supporting programs like taxnightmare.org for the sole purpose of protecting citizens from insidious tax burdens. I’ll work to bring more revenue opportunities back into Gardiner. And I’ll continue advocating for programs that make every penny the town spends worthwhile.
Response to question #2)
I will continue to support the provisions of the zoning that serve to protect our environment, our water resources, and the natural resources that breathe life into our diverse community. I will continue to support the current ridge zoning while respecting the citizens who populate the area. At the same time I will work to amend those provisions that have not stood the test of time including those that place an inappropriate amount of discretion in the hands of the Planning Board. Additionally, I’ll work to remove, amend, or make more clear those provisions that actually obstruct the very intent of the 2007 rewrite, created to encourage small business growth, establish fair land use, allow for municipal services, and enrich community life for its children, residents, and seniors.
Republican Candidate Bill Barrett
(Declined to provide a written response or a photo.
Republican Candidates For Town Board:
Republican Candidate Ron Bonagura
Response to question #1)
The most important issue facing Gardiner is how to maintain the excellent programs, (library, summer recreation, community events, parks, …) infrastructure (safe roads, water, sewer,…) paying town employees fair wages, maintaining equipment and buildings, taking care of our resources (ground water, magnificent vistas) and managing development; all with a shrinking revenue stream. The citizens of Gardiner are already overburdened with County taxes, real estate taxes and more unfunded mandates are being unloaded onto town responsibilities. I will work with the Town Board and meet with the highway superintendent, library committee, fire department executive council, Gardiner Association of Business, Gardiner Day Committee, Ulster County Executive, New Paltz Central School District School Board, and others, so that we can brainstorm and prioritize expenditures in order to maintain quality of services while being merciful to our tax payers.
Response to question #2)
The 2008 zoning revision was a very aggressive policy that I believe the citizens of Gardiner would find difficult to navigate through. There has not been much economic growth in Gardiner over the past three years and with the little that has taken place there has been a tense atmosphere. The chief architect of the zoning law himself had a difficult time maneuvering his plans for development through. As property rights of landowners come into conflict with aggressive zoning laws, there will have to be common sense reevaluations of the policy and revisions made. I like to think of the zoning law as a “living document” that can adapt and change as dictated by need, fairness and common sense. In fact, there is a review committee presently at work regarding the zoning regulations and I totally agree with this process.
Republican Candidate Mike Boylan
Response to question #1)
The most important issue facing the Town of Gardiner is the lack of a stable revenue source other than property taxes. Our Town’s other sources of money have shrunk as the economy has slowed down, lower house sales and sales tax mean less dollars for the Town. We need to keep moving forward on the cell tower. The Town has acquired over the years several parcels of land, we should create a list and see what we could do with them. One thought would be sell some of them and get them back on the tax roll. We also need to look at all services provided by the Town and ask the tough questions.
Do we need it?
Do we want it?
How do we pay for it?
Who pays for it?
Response to question #2)
After three years the first thing I would suggest is to review The Implementation Program [pages 59 thru 64] of the Master Plan and see where we stand. The current Town Board has the ZIC [Zoning Improvement Committee] in place. We could expand the scope of their committee to review this section of the Master Plan. In the last 3 years some problems with the code have been brought up [220-28, 220-11d and the use of the Planning Board’s discretion]. As the code is reviewed if there are any changes necessary, the proper step should be taken to make the changes. The Zoning Code is not ‘etched in stone’ it should reflect the goals and wishes of the people of the Town. As the Town goes through changes the Master Plan may need to be up-dated which may make changes to the zoning code.
Democratic Candidates For Town Board:
Democratic Candidate Warren Weigand
Response to question #1)
Keeping taxes low and maintaining adequate financial resources to protect Gardiner in the event of another serious financial downturn are the most critical issues. The Town has suffered a sharp drop in revenues, even as Albany and Washington have shifted some of their expenses, like pensions and healthcare, to us. In response, we maintained essential expenditures like road upkeep, cut non-essential spending, like lawyers’ and consultants’ fees, and convinced Gardiner’s employees to forgo raises in 2010 and 2011. The result: tax increases have been small and the Town has maintained adequate financial reserves. According to many of Ulster County’s leaders, Gardiner’s finances are among the strongest in the Hudson Valley.
My plan is to keep property taxes low by keeping wages, health insurance and pensions under control, maintaining vital spending on infrastructure yet avoiding non-essential capital projects and lobbying legislators to STOP forcing Gardiner to pay unsustainable increases in mandates.
Response to question #2)
The goals of the 2008 zoning law were to:
• Protect The Ridge from over development.
• Encourage more development in the Hamlet.
• Streamline the Planning Board’s approval process.
First, the zoning law has been very successful in protecting The Ridge from haphazard development. Property owners can still build on their land, but must carefully follow the rules to protect the environmentally sensitive land. Second, the shifting of population density to the Hamlet also has been quite successful, changing the downtown from an eyesore to an attractive, vibrant village. Finally, we must fix the approval process for new buildings. Applicants often wait two or more years and pay hundreds or thousands of dollars to get the necessary approvals for straightforward projects. A special task force has not significantly improved the process. Let’s disband it and appoint a group of Gardiner residents that have appeared before the Planning Board as applicants to make recommendations ASAP.
Democratic Candidate Mike Reynolds
Response to question #1:
One of the most important issues facing the Town of Gardiner is the financial instability that plagues everyone in this country. I feel it would be extremely important to make sure that any decisions implemented by the local government are financially cognizant of any spending that would occur. This will insure that the residents of Gardiner are not handed any future financial burdens resulting from poor judgment and decision making. This should be accomplished through the collective development of creative solutions that utilize all resources available.
Response to question #2:
The zoning laws that were established are only a piece of the total solution. These laws attempt to preserve the open space and control land development in the Town of Gardiner. I believe that these rules are a work in progress and we should take into consideration all of the data that has been collected since they were put in place. Without getting into details, I would carefully evaluate the findings over the last three years and work to make sure that any changes made would reflect the collective views of not only the governing body, but also be mindful of the land owners themselves, many of whom have owned and held the land for generations.
The Ulster County Legislature
Gardiner previously had three representatives in the Legislature, though these representatives could have been residents of other towns. New, single-member districts (Gardiner is District 16) mean we now have one representative, but that person is a resident of Gardiner. In the up-coming election one Republican and one Democrat will contest the available seat. The candidates were asked the following question and given 150 words in which to reply. Their responses were not editied:
What are the most pressing issues currently facing Ulster County?
Democratic Candidate Tracey Bartels
We are in the midst of economic crisis. Property taxes are forcing our neighbors out of their homes. Who can afford to live in Ulster County? With rising costs and declining revenues, the years ahead will bring difficult decisions. We need leaders who are unafraid to roll up their sleeves and challenge the status quo. In my previous terms in the Legislature I suggested millions of dollars in real cuts. If elected, I will continue to work to find and demand savings. Every county program must be evaluated based on efficiency and efficacy. I will also use my position in the legislature to put pressure on Albany to do the same. New York State mandates make up nearly 90% of our county tax levy. Taxpayers deserve relief.
Republican Candidate Jack Hayes
The major issue facing Ulster County in 2011 is the economy. We are in a time period of economic emergency. There has been enormous progress on the part of the Legislature and the County Executive’s Office with regard to reforming Ulster County government. The past two years have been a time of consolidation and restructuring of county departments and agencies to obtain efficiencies while maintaining effective county services. The County has aggressively solicited the cooperation of state and local government to initiate Shared Services to create savings for all jurisdictions. Private industry has been instrumental in efforts to encourage growth and development in our county and has partnered with Ulster County to attract new business and retain existing businesses. Ulster County’s economy drives our level of Quality of Life. County government must continue to make Ulster County an attractive place to live, work and pursue educational goals. I am committed to efforts that support good effective, efficient governance.