Proving why it is important to have ordinary citizens as opposed to millionaires in Village government, Trustee Mark Galasso recently questioned the need for sidewalks, lighting and open space requirements as part of the sprawling condo project being constructed along Mineral Springs Road. The project will include nearly 60 condominium units and will be among the largest developments in the Village. To the Village’s credit, they did require the property to be annexed by the Village before receiving water and sewer services.
But that seems to be where the accountability ends. Village Trustee Mark Galasso, President of Lancaster Development, a major highway contractor based in Richmondville, has questioned the need to enforce requirements for sidewalks, lighting and open space. The developer of the project, Nadeau, originally balked at putting in sidewalks but has agreed to do so. As for the streetlights, Galasso argues that it would cause the Village’s electric bill to increase. Really? Is this about saving money for the Village or for Nadeau? Then there’s Galasso’s rant against mandating open space in planned unit districts. Galasso objected, calling the practice “wrong on so many levels”.
However, if anything is wrong with the Village’s zoning ordinance, it is that it is not strong enough on developers. The sidewalks, streetlights and open space are all something to build on. However, there needs to be design guidelines as well to ensure that the project is aesthetically appropriate, pedestrian-oriented and not out of character with the rest of the Village. Compactness, density, walkability, minimum setbacks, building at the lot line, requiring tree plantings; these are all things that could make the Donats Brow project more integrated with the Village. It would make the difference between having an asset to the Village and having an eyesore.
Don’t expect Galasso to hold the developers’ feet to the fire, he’s a developer himself. This is something Village residents should think about when they consider their own levels of political and civic engagement and when they vote for Village officials. Who should be leading development in Schoharie County: citizens with a stake in the community or developers with their own agenda?