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.