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EDITORIAL: Town code change government at its best

It’s something special when the oft-repeated saying that government is there to do the work of the people actually plays out.

That would be the situation in the Town of Colonie, where the Town Board unanimously made an amendment to the town code last week to make neighbor notification a requirement for developers.

Now, anyone looking to build anything large enough will have to let the neighbors of that project know their plans. The change makes Colonie one of the few towns in the state to supersede New York’s 200-foot requirement with more stringent rules of its own. And what’s even better, the process started with the citizenry.

A number of concerned homeowners petitioned the town to make what must be for many considered a rather dull adjustment. About 10 people spoke about the proposal at the first of two public hearings. At a second, about half a dozen made their opinions known.

That might not be a groundswell, the type of fervor that would put a discussion about a landfill to shame, but it’s nonetheless an example of citizens getting involved in their government. And that is to be applauded.

Similarly, the town is to be given a hearty nod for being responsive to its citizens. Residents had valid and thoughtful concerns, and over the course of several months vetted the idea, came up with a proposal and got it adopted. It might not have been fast as lightning, but far simpler proposals have died on the vine from lack of follow through.

Of course, this particular change would likely not have even come about had it not been for the Loudon House debacle. Neighbors of that project were stung by a lack of notification, and that spurred change. That’s how it’s supposed to work.

We think the expanded notification requirement is of great benefit to the town. Rarely is greater access to and use of public information a bad thing. And although developers might say otherwise, the cost of sending out a wave of letters is infinitesimal when compared to the other charges that must be borne during the approval process, from engineering work to traffic studies. Complaining about a notification law as a burden is a bit like bemoaning an uncomfortable chair while a pit bull gnaws on your leg. It’s but a minor nuisance, all things considered.

That’s why we hope the town — and its residents — consider how this new requirement works out, because the door is always open to expand it, as was the request of several residents. We’ll be doing the same.

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