A Recent Historical Perspective
On Tuesday, November 3rd, Gardiner goes to the polls to decide what path our town will take next. Gardiner’s recent political history can be traced back about ten years, to when a regional chain attempted to build a 24-hour-a-day convenience store and gas station in the heart of the Hamlet, with in-ground gas tanks less than 100 feet from residential wells. The proposal led to an outpouring of concern from citizens. Town meetings were suddenly packed with people who didn’t usually go to town meetings. Discussion focused on the idea that zoning laws did not adequately protect the environment, or the character of the community. When town officials voted in favor of the gas station, citizens revolted. Scraps of paper were quickly passed, addresses were collected and advocacy groups spontaneously formed. The town was sued, the proposed gas station was never built, and a “new age” of activism was born.
Many people began paying closer attention to what was happening at town hall and speaking out about a government that many felt repeatedly failed to meet the community’s needs. In 2002, when a developer set out to build some 350 luxury homes on 2,600 acres of the Shawangunk Ridge, groups again organized against the proposal. “Save The Ridge” signs sprouted up overnight. Zoning Law at the time left much room for interpretation, and while town officials maintained that they could only “follow the process,” public opinion held that their “interpretation” leaned in the direction of the developers. In the fall of 2003, in an election that broke state records for voter turn-out, new leadership was elected.
Since the democrats took office a number of changes have occurred and, as with all political change, some citizens are in support while others are not. The master plan was revised and new smart growth zoning laws imposed some restrictions on landowners, such as limiting their ability to build at higher elevations, but also resulted in the threatened 2,600 acres of the Ridge becoming public parkland. A comprehensive plan to protect farms and open space has been developed although some residents think open space should be preserved (or not) by market forces, not government. Grant money allowed Gardiner, the last town to do so, to purchase its section of the rail trail, but some raised concerns about long-term maintenance costs and potential liability issues. We have a new library and a renovated town hall though some residents objected to the use of long-term debt to partially fund these improvements. Finally, over $1.5 million in grants have been secured for sidewalks and other initiatives. Some feel that the building of sidewalks should be the responsibility of adjacent business owners, not the town, while others question whether the town should seek grants at all; grants often require that a town “match” the amount granted.
2009 REPUBLICAN PARTY PLATFORM
The Republican platform has always been that local government should focus on the priorities of the whole town, and manage the town within it means. We will continue in this direction in 2009. We plan to work with the townspeople to develop a list of priorities that best benefit the town and then responsibly manage the activities and funds available to accomplish these goals.
We plan to fairly represent the Master Plan in drafting zoning laws that are consistent with it. At the same time we will be mindful of the fact that most permit applications are from 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 and relieve the tax burden on residential taxpayers. This will require efforts to develop not only the hamlet commercial zone, but also reducing restrictions on home occupations, as long as the residential nature of the community can be preserved. We will work with commercial and light industrial businesses to make our CLI districts business-friendly. We also want to make the best possible use of the recreational areas we already have. This will draw people to Gardiner, help our businesses and spread the word that this is a nice community to live in, to work in, or just to visit.
2009 DEMOCRATIC PARTY PLATFORM:
MAINTAINING FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY THROUGH SMART PLANNING
• Limit town tax burden on Gardiner property owners.
• Encourage business development to increase revenue base.
• Maintain balance between town initiatives and budgetary constraints.
• Actively seek public and private grants to lower the cost of town programs.
PRESERVING OPEN SPACE
• Preserve the rural nature of Gardiner and support the goals set forth in the 2004 Comprehensive Plan.
• Enforce policies that protect the Shawangunk Ridge as a critical natural and community resource.
• Continue to implement Gardiner’s Open Space Plan.=
IMPROVING THE TOWN
• Develop the infrastructure of the Hamlet.
• Continue to develop pedestrian linkages from the hamlet center to residential areas and to Majestic Park.
• Seek recreational access to the Wallkill River.
• Continue to support the Library.
• Develop a balance between supporting businesses in industrial zones and controlling negative impact on adjacent residential neighborhoods, especially as regards Steves Lane.
• Support local farming and agricultural use of open land in Gardiner.
• Support creation of affordable housing which maintains a diverse community.
• Review and update emergency management plan.
• Preserve and protect the town’s water resources.
CONTINUING EFFICIENT GOOD GOVERNMENT
• Strengthen the laws, guidelines and processes of the Gardiner Board of Ethics.
• Continue open/inclusive government by encouraging participation from all members of the Gardiner Community through use of the website, attendance at town meetings, and forums on issues of citizen concern.
Two Republicans and two Democrats are contesting two seats on the Gardiner Town Board. Candidates were each asked to respond to the following two questions in a maximum of 150 words for each question:
1) If elected, will you support the current zoning law? If yes, why? If no, how would you seek to amend it?
2) If elected, how would you support existing businesses and encourage new business development
Their responses have not been edited.
The Democratic Candidates for Town Board:
1) I voted for the zoning law, shortly after being appointed to the Town Board, and I continue to support it. Gardiner’s rural character is best protected by zoning which: 1) encourages residential and business development in our hamlets, 2) preserves open space, 3) protects the unique ecosystem of the ridge, and 4) creates incentives for developers to build houses we can afford. The law streamlines the permit process, and makes it more efficient and cost effective for both the applicants and the Town. Despite the economy, Gardiner has recently experienced an increase in permit applications for new homes and we’ve had several great new businesses move into Town. I would amend the law in one area. I am working to redraft the driveway section to comply with state guidelines, provide protection for residents and their neighbors, and to ensure the safety of our firefighters and EMS providers.
2) As co-founder/chair of the Gardiner Business Development Committee I will work to achieve our goals of increased local jobs and lower taxes for Gardiner homeowners. We will increase the flow of patrons to all of Gardiner’s existing businesses through: improved directional signage; improvement of the Town’s website including links to a Gardiner Tourism page and links from the UC Tourism website; and the creation of a “Gardiner Junction” tourism focal point at the intersection of the rail trail and Main Street, and “satellite” points, to support all businesses – Main St. retailers, Rt. 208 farms, Steve’s Lane companies and others located throughout the town. I will explore the development of the additional commercial/industrial zone with direct access to Route 208, and the improvement of the Steve’s Lane industrial park to attract new businesses there.
Incumbent Joe Katz is running uncontested for Town Supervisor. He was not asked to respond to the questions but says, “It has been an honor to serve on the Town Board. I believe that I have the background, experience and knowledge to continue serving the people of Gardiner with a fair and open mind.”
1) I helped write, voted for, and continue to support our Zoning Law. It was drafted with great care to reflect the goals of Gardiner’s citizens embodied in the 2004 Master Plan including: open space preservation, housing diversity, water resource protection, revitalized hamlets, and streamlined permitting processes including expanded as-of-right uses in the hamlet. Zoning law transforms the poetry of Master Plan vision into the prose of land use regulation. Gardiner’s zoning law aims to balance long term community interests with the needs and plans of individual property owners, through standards and procedures responsive to both. As the national/regional economy returns to normal, we’ll have a clearer sense of how effectively our new law is working, and what components might be re-considered. (Minor revisions suggested by the Planning Board and a driveway section change for compliance with State code are currently under review.)
2) My focus is on creating synergy with existing businesses through initiatives developing Gardiner as a culinary and cultural destination:
- Marketing Gardiner’s edible bounty: Over half a million tourists flock to the Ridge annually. Gardiner is uniquely positioned to “capture” dining dollars: with award-winning wineries, the best apples, corn and tomatoes on the planet, locally-produced bourbon and vodka, and grass-fed beef of incomparable quality – all can be publicized for a gourmet dining experience in Gardiner
- Developing a Majestic Park Amphitheater: Concerts/events/theatrical productions would provide significant ticket sale revenue, create local jobs and attract customers for local businesses
- Attracting film production: significant revenue is generated by location fees, and by a film crew living, eating and shopping “on location,” along with potential for the cinematic establishment of an iconic view or structure with ongoing “draw”
- Creating a Sculpture Park at the proposed Transfer Station Town Park.
The Republican Candidates for Town Board:
1) Yes, I will support the current zoning law. Gardiner began its zoning in the 1970s, was updated in the 1980s, the 1990s, 2006, and again in 2008. It’s a process, along with the Master Plan, that is reviewed on a regular basis. While I have voiced my disagreement with some aspects of the law, I recognize that it has to be evaluated over time, to see how it advances the vision set forth in the Master Plan. The latest revision of the law has been on the books for about a year & a half, and with the current state of the economy, new development will most likely proceed slowly. This will present us with an excellent opportunity to see how developers & the planning board interpret, and put into action, the new code.
2) Personally I support our existing business by shopping locally, and we need to encourage all residents to do likewise. Whether it be retail, wholesale, agricultural, farm markets, cultural, medical/alternative medicine, industry (in our CLI zones), services, supplies, groceries, recreational (I’ll pass on the skydiving), hospitality, education, the arts, or our many excellent restaurants, our town’s businesses offer us many choices. And then there are the manufacturers too, that supply local jobs and ship their products around the globe. The town board currently has a business outreach committee that I will join. I will also solicit input from the Gardiner Area Business association about their concerns & listen to their suggestions. Lastly, we need to make sure our laws concerning business are equitably enforced, so all business enjoy opportunity and a level playing field.
1) I will support all the current laws. Since the current zoning law is so new and untested, it is really unclear if anything needs to be changed. Any concerns that I, or the public, have should follow the proper process of zoning review which starts with a review of the master plan. As the sentiments of the town change, the Master Plan should change with them, and zoning laws should be enacted to support it. While on the Planning Board, I learned the value of a thoughtful and deliberate process when addressing zoning issues. We should use that process to assure a reasoned and effective code.
2) I would reach out to the Ulster County and New York Economic Development Associations to ask them to help get the word out about Gardiner to help attract new business and work with them and applicants for development funds for both new and existing businesses. I would meet regularly with local business owners to get their feedback on how the town could help them and collect best practices from other similar towns and work with the town board and business owners to implement them here in Gardiner. I would work with the town and recreation committee or attract or develop more events to be held at Majestic Park. In addition to better utilizing a great town asset, the resulting traffic could benefit businesses both in the hamlet and around Ireland Corners and introduce more folks to the business side of Gardiner.
The Ulster County Legislature
Five candidates (3 Republicans and 2 Democrats) are contesting three seats on the Ulster County Legislature, District 8. Candidates were asked to submit a party response to the following question in a maximum of 200 words: What are the most pressing issues currently facing Ulster County?
Republicans Ken Ronk, Cathy Terrizzi and Jack Hayes respond: “Ulster County is in the midst of an economic emergency. The County Executive is projecting a four million dollar deficit for the 2009 budget. The current path we are on is unsustainable. As Ulster County Legislators we must recognize the need for cost cutting measures and becoming proactive in trying to accomplish the goal of smaller more efficient government. That is why we must be vigilant in controlling and reducing the property tax burden shouldered by Ulster County residents. Along with feeling financially secure, we must make sure that residents feel physically safe as well. Previously, there have been discussions on the county level about closing the Sheriff’s substation in Wallkill. The single greatest way to protect the residents of District 8 is to keep that substation up and running. The full cooperation of the Executive and the Legislature is essential for the economic health of the county and this is at best a strained relationship. The Executive and Legislature have to redefine each other’s role for the good of the people.”
Democratics Tracey Bartels and Carl Zatz respond:“Taxes, taxes, taxes. The devastating economic recession is felt in every home in Ulster County. The county budget office is projecting an $8 million decline in sales tax revenue. NY State faces an unprecedented budget deficit, raising concern that costs may be shifted to local governments. But who among us can afford higher property taxes? Countywide, we must look to cut expenses. Every program must be evaluated in terms of efficiency and measured results. Currently, the County is considering several large Capital building projects. Meanwhile, we are still paying $6 million annually for bad decisions and poor oversight on the County Jail project – a “Jail Tax” you’ll be saddled with for years to come. Taxpayers deserve better. We see this financial crisis as an opportunity to affect real change by implementing cost-saving measures while cutting waste and duplication. For example, clean energy engineering: manufacturing and installation are a promising new industry. We should leverage its financial and environmental benefits. Like a household managing its budget, Ulster County faces difficult decisions. We need leaders with strong resolve who are unafraid to challenge the status quo. Demand accountability and proven leadership and you’ll find it in Tracey Bartels and Carl Zatz.”