Saturday, October 4, 2008

Ready or not, development is coming to Richmondville

It is with some amusement that I read Cobleskill village trustee Mark Galasso’s letter to the Times-Journal defending his support for the proposed Maranatha fitness center in Richmondville. The issue that concerned Galasso was whether or not the village of Cobleskill should pursue a Restore NY grant for the Newberry Square building or whether it should back out and endorse the fitness center instead. Galasso criticizes the “us-versus-them” attitude in the village and argues th1at we all need to come together for what’s best for the region.

Believe it or not, I think Galasso makes a pretty good case for why Cobleskill village officials should support the Maranatha project. However, as a Richmondville resident who lives in the path of this recent surge of proposed development along Route 7, I’m not so sure Schoharie County ought to be using its limited Restore NY monies to encourage more sprawl.

It seems like with the Empire Zone in place, there is a rush to build up the area with very little concern for the consequences or the people in the way.

Here are some of the projects that have recently been proposed for the Route 7 corridor between Warnerville and the village of Richmondville

-$4.2 million Maranatha fitness complex next to the former Warnerville Roller Rink
-Expansion of Lancaster Development site on Podpadic Road
-Relocation of Mill Services wood finishing factory on former Sabata farm or on Podpadic Road
-New town/village highway garage on Podpadic Road
-Proposed truck stop near either Warnerville or Richmondville exit off I-88
-Car wash in Warnerville near high school (currently under construction)

It appears that the usual suspects, i.e. Makeley, Loder and Galasso have big plans for Podpadic Road. I know that the Town of Richmondville needs a new garage and that the area is starved for jobs, but is anyone asking what all this new development will mean for the existing land uses in the immediate area? This part of the town of Richmondville, which bleeds into the hamlet of Warnerville, is home to a small residential neighborhood, a few small businesses, a few remaining farms and of course the Cobleskill-Richmondville high school.

As all of this new industrial development brings increased truck traffic, how will that affect residents and high school students who walk to school? What effect will this truck traffic have on air quality? For that matter, what are the hazards associated with the processes used by Mill Services, Inc.? What will happen to the last few farms in this area? Are they just going to get squeezed out until Makeley, Loder and Galasso buy up everything and build more sprawl and industry?

Over the past year, many residents have loudly protested the building of a few wind turbines. But what’s shaping up in Richmondville’s east end and Warnerville promises to be a much more drastic change to the landscape. The scope of these changes requires a new comprehensive plan for the town conducted with maximum citizen participation.

This is necessary to ensure that Empire Zone-related development occurs in an orderly and sustainable fashion. This growth can occur in a manner that complements the area, or it can be left up to the greedy few to become a sprawling mess with unknown environmental consequences.

What this boils down to is a handful of powerful people making very big decisions about the future of this community without any consultation or participation from members of the community at large. The people deserve, and ought to demand, better.


Anonymous said...

Big Baby Galasso didnt get his water so he dont want nobody inside the village limits to get nothing.

"a handful of powerful people making very big decisions about the future of this community"
Nothing new.

Bob Nied said...

You are absolutely correct that haphazard sprawl and development at any cost is the goal of a few individuals with a vested interest in such "growth" and unfortunately those very same individuals hold seats on, or strongly influence local government bodies in Richmondville and Cobleskill. Richmondville has a Comprehensive Plan that wisely advocates for a "mixed use" approach to the Rt. 7 corridor, rather than the "Colonie-ization" of the area as a safe harbor for every quickie mart and car wash that comes to Town. Harold Loder, the Chair of the Richmondville Planning Board, Comprehensive Plan Committee and Zoning Rewrite Committee has proudly proclaimed that residential housing is "dead" along the entire stretch of RT. 7 and implied that the future is in a string of gas stations, car lots and other low-employment businesses. Not a very creative or attractive vision for the future but certainly one that is fitting for a developer who owns hundreds of acres just waiting to be paved. Until control of future growth is wrestled from the hands of developers and real estate agents, who while sitting on Planning, Town and Village boards serve their own interests, we have limited hope for a well-reasoned and balanced plan for the future. Unless our Planning Boards actually begin to "plan" rather than acting as permitting agents we will move rapidly and with little grace from an urban to suburban community lacking in character and unable to attract or retain community oriented-residents.