Monday, August 4, 2008

Bemusement Park

Before Schoharie County residents start stripping down to their bathing suits and heading up to the new water park at Howe Caverns, I would like to "dampen" people's enthusiasm with some very serious and unfun environmental and land use questions.

I’m certainly not opposed to the idea of a water park near Howe Caverns. What I am concerned about is the eagerness to please displayed by county officials when dealing with these unknown entities that blow into town with big ideas and a list of demands.

Over the past few years we’ve seen it again and again. In Sharon Springs, billionaire Korean investors want to buy up and renovate historic hotels with taxpayer’s money. But there has been little legitimate discussion of what such massive investments would mean for the current residents of the village. Then, an unnamed mystery company comes to county officials with plans for a new factory in Shad Point. Cobleskill town officials promptly get their marching orders: an expedited planning and permitting process and a shovel-ready site. All before anyone even knows what the hell is gonna be built there!

Now, a former VP for Six Flags wants to break ground on a hotel and water park in 2009 and have it built a year later. He also wants the towns of Cobleskill and Schoharie to relocate over a mile of Sagendorf Corners Road. I don’t have a problem with re-zoning some land or re-locating a portion of a road. But to expect these things without serious community input is sheer arrogance.

Is anyone concerned about the extra traffic this will generate? How about all the trucks that will be needed to provide the park with its water supply? Will there be a real environmental review process or will that be one more ‘procedure’ for the town to expedite? How will Sagendorf Corners Road be re-located, and will it require the use of eminent domain? How do the developers plan on meeting the water and sewer needs of the proposed 250-room hotel? Since this project will be getting Empire Zone benefits, does anyone care to insure that they make good on their job creation promises?

People have a right to ask these questions and they have a right to serious answers. Such a project would have a huge impact, and I’d hate to see people ignore the negatives because they’re blinded by the potential benefits.


Bob Nied said...

Sean, you are right on target with your concerns. Schoharie County officials, particularly County Planning and Development Director Alicia Terry, tend to view any speculator that comes to town as the answer to their economic development prayers, regardless of the social, cultural or environmental impacts that may be associated with a proposed project (never mind the fact that many of these proposals ultimatly generate few if any local jobs). In fact, Ms. Terry's office is supposed to provide guidance to towns and villages on the application of zoning and environmental regulations in order to protect the property values and quality of life of County residents. Instead she functions as an advocate for every car wash, quickie mart and big box store that see Schoharie County officials as push overs and the concerns of residents as only a mild annoyance to be dismissed out of hand. Given that Schoharie County already pays the salary of an Economic Developer I find it difficult to understand why they pay Ms. Terry to do the same things while she ignores her actual charge. The water park may be fine but you can bet that, as always, the proposal will be given only cursory review and the complex issues of impact will not be considered in any diligent way.

Anonymous said...

If there is no "serious community input," it is because the community is lacking citizens who wish to be involved in the process of development in the county. All to often, people are ready to complain about an issue, but ask those people if they were at a town board meeting, a planning board meeting, or even wrote a letter to their town Supervisor. Of course not. It's easy to complain about the work other people have done, especially if they sat back and didn't get involved.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a well packaged scam. The economy is plumetting, fuel is at a premium, almost as savy as the agway expanssion if in fact real.

Anonymous said...

It seems like a "well packaged scam"?!
How do you figure?

Rita said...

We need to stop expanding and worry about what we got that is turning in to empty spaces it the town. Rita

Anonymous said...

Has anybody looked closely at the roots and ownership of the development company?

Anonymous said...

I think people here are right. The people of Howe Caverns have not told you that residents of schoharie county or others locally cannot just go to this water park, you need to rent a room for 300.00 plus dollars for you and you family to visit this water park. Cobleskill Stones Howes cave quarry was having trouble with howe cave rd. They said it would not be cost effective to tunnel under road right? 14 million if I remember right, but if the road were to be straightned an intersection can be made. That was shot down I believe from the county. But hey look now this "Water Park" wants the road straightned. Looks like the greedy Csp owner Emil G. is not a dummy. What a distraction huh! Oh yeah and the atricle in the tj reported Bob Holt Gm of howe said that this "water Park" would bring 300 local jobs and 80 percent were going to be full time, when Howe only employs 150 maybe for there 140,000 people a year and only 20 or so are full time so who is on who's side. Maybe people should stick up for theselves instead of being a follower. Thanks and hope this county get's this right