Caught up in a legal battle meant to preserve one of the area's best-known historic buildings, the Friends of Stanford Home are looking to quiz candidates for local office as the upcoming town election draws near. Final details are still being added to the questionnaire, but it is expected to touch on everything from local development issues to the need for openness in town government.
The nonprofit group has spent months battling with Niskayuna over the future of the Ingersoll Home for the Aged, a longtime nursing home located on the corner of State Street and Balltown Road. By a narrow 32 vote, the town board approved construction of a shopping mall on the home's property in April but a decision has not yet been handed down on the lawsuit filed against the project. If successful, that suit could require completion of a full-blown environmental impact statement and mandate that the town board revisit whether to grant a special use permit for the project.
The Ingersoll fight has been a real eye opener," said Linda Champaign, leader of the Friends of Stanford Home. "I was absolutely shocked at the way the decision-making process operated in town government and the woeful lack of adherence to proper state and local laws."
Two candidates for town office, Joseph Landry and Scott Stevens, said they would welcome a questionnaire from the high-profile preservation group.
"Right now, the future of the Ingersoll Home is in the hands of state Supreme Court Judge Sise and we have to let the judge make that decision before we see where we are," said Landry, the Democratic candidate for town supervisor. "But we need to look at the process that's used when development issues come before the town board and the type of development that's acceptable in town."
"Answers to questions about development can be very tough to fit on three lines in a questionnaire but I'd welcome a chance to respond. Every group deserves a voice when we are making decisions in local government," Republican town board candidate Stevens said. "The town board went against the recommendations of the conservation advisory committee and the planning board when they approved construction at Ingersoll and it raises some real questions about why we have people volunteer for those boards if they are going to be ignored."