New Scotland’s size cap law was defeated at a Thursday, March 11 special meeting of the Town Board at Voorheesville High School. Due to a protest petition signed by at least half of the businesses in the commercial zone, the 3-2 vote in favor of the law was not sufficient to pass the measure, which now requires a supermajority.
The Town Board introduced the size cap law, which was officially called Local Law B of 2010, at its Wednesday, Jan. 27 meeting. The vote to introduce the law and pass it on to the Planning Board passed 4 to 1, with Councilman Rich Reilly representing the only dissenting vote.
Thursday’s meeting of the board immediately followed a public hearing that began with Town of Bethlehem Supervisor Sam Messina voicing his support for the law.
Messina said there were three reasons he supported the size-cap. Among these reasons were the traffic the size cap would bring to the area, the burden that a potential big-box store would put on the Town of Bethlehem’s water supply, and the inability of trucks to fit under the Delaware Hudson railroad bridge, thus forcing delivery vehicles to travel closer to Town of Bethlehem residents.
The principles of balance, sustainability, and quality of life are apparent [in the law]it advances the balance that should be and is the cornerstone of the town’s comprehensive plan, said Messina.
For the next two hours, a number of residents, and commercial property owners would voice either their support, concerns with, or objection to the size-cap law.
`People of this town have spoken, I think the Town Board should pass this law, why destroy a scenic area like this,` said Louis Brown, a New Scotland resident.
Bob Prentiss, former assemblyman and NS4 member, said `This is the final moment we have all been waiting for.` He also called for an end to the contention brought about by the law. He said `mud thrown is ground lost.`
Roz Robinson, a member of the town’s now disbanded Commercial Zoning Advisory Committee, which was formed specifically to deal with zoning issues in the commercial zone, said that the law could have serious ramifications on businesses in the commercial zone.
`Not one commercial owner that I spoke to thought it was a good law,` she said.
Nick Stanton, whose family owns Our Family’s Harvest in Slingerlands said `Right now I am scared for the future for our farm and business.` He said it’s not the laws intention to stop big-box development that concerned him but `all of the little stuff that comes behind it.`
After two hours of hearing comments from the public, Dolin made a motion to close the hearing amid shouts of `Vote!` emanating from the crowd.
At that time, Maura Mottolese, the attorney for the owners of the Bender-Melon farm, submitted a protest petition signed by at least 50 percent of owners from the commercial district.
Town Attorney Michael Mackey said `The protest petition was filed; it does appear it’s a valid protest petition, which would trigger the supermajority requirements.
After the petition was submitted, the board voted on the measure, Councilmen Douglas LaGrange and Daniel Mackay, and Supervisor Dolin voted `Yes` on the law without explanation.
Reilly explained his vote before eventually voting `No.` He said his is not a proponent of big-box, but he is voting against the law because it would hurt existing businesses. `All of us are committed to this community, and I am committed to existing businesses,` he said.
With the vote being 3 to 1, Councilwoman Deborah Baron cast the final, deciding vote, and without explanation said `No.`
After the meeting, Dolin spoke about the future of the size-cap law. `I am going to meeting with the Town Attorney, the Planning Board Attorney, Baron, and Reilly to see if some of their objections could be satisfied,` said Dolin.
`I think it is going to take a little more time to come up with an alternative and come up with some common ground,` said Dolin.
Dolin said it is unlikely that the town will enact another moratorium on large scale retail development in the commercial zone. `I doubt if it would be legally feasible, I am going to ask the Town Attorney to give it though,` he said. According to Dolin, the courts would find that the year and a half of moratoriums already enacted allotted the town a sufficient amount of time to address its zoning issues.
`We are going to live with what we got and hope no large retail development tries to locate here,` he said.