#DanCoffey #BethlehemTownBoard #Profile #DiegoCagara #SpotlightNews
BETHLEHEM — Dan Coffey, the Democratic Town Board candidate, said that he would want to look closely into revising the town’s comprehensive plan and address the rise in development issue.
Born and raised in Plattsburgh, he earned his bachelor’s degree in Political Science at Union College in Schenectady in 1984, then a master’s in Public Administration from Columbia University and a Juris Doctor degree in Georgetown University.
Then living in Washington DC for six years, he was an intern on Capitol Hill with Congressman Gillis Long (D-Louisiana), and worked for the federal Congressional Budget Office and General Accounting Office.
He was also on an environmental law firm there for two years and finally moved back to the Capital District to start working for various law firms since 1992.
He married his wife, Eileen, whom he’d originally met at Union, in 1995, and moved from Cohoes to Delmar with their then-2-year-old eldest daughter, Sarah, in 1999. They would have another daughter, Kaitlyn a few years later.
Coffey first got involved in local law and government back in 2009, when he was appointed to the town’s Planning Board in 2009. The following year, he started a seven-year term as Chair of the Zoning Board.
He also served as president of the Albany County Bar Association in 2016, an officer for the Bethlehem Democratic Committee from 2012 to earlier this year, and has been on the town’s Comprehensive Plan Assessment Committee.
He is currently serving on the Third Judicial District’s Committee on Character and Fitness. He co-founded Bowitch & Coffey, an Albany law firm, in June 2012 where he is a trial attorney.
Coffey explained that he is running for a position on the Town Board for four main reasons:
•addressing the town’s rise in
•continue revising the comprehensive
• encouraging locals to vote and stay
engaged in what he sees now as a
divisive political landscape nationwide
•wanting to get it right this time as a
lawsuit prevented him from running on
his party line last year.
“I care a lot about our community and the challenges that we’re facing, the biggest one being a lot of development going around in town,” he said. “I go around door-to-door and the number-one thing I hear is neighbors saying that developers are trying to cram as many developments into every nook and cranny as they can find.”
He does not want the town to lose its community character which is being threatened by the rise in developments. In turn, he said he plans to address this issue by assessing which goals from the 2005 comprehensive plan have and have not been met, as a starting point to work on updating that plan. He said that the new plan should look ahead with goals set through 2035 or 2040.
Regarding development, “We’ve got to tighten up the Zoning Law; there’s some provisions in there that need to be changed and it has to reflect the character of the neighborhood,” he said. “And if some places may have been appropriate for some mixed-use hamlet style 13 years ago, maybe it’s not appropriate today, as you might want to make it just a Core Residential area.”
Believing that Bethlehem does not have a balanced tax base which the 2005 plan aimed for and that it relies too much on property taxes, he also brought up how he appreciated the recent presentation of the town’s tentative 2019 budget at recent Town Board meetings, and liked that Bethlehem has “consistently stayed under the tax cap.”
However, he said he would like to work more on expanding current businesses and bringing in new ones to try to fill areas that are zoned for businesses such as the Vista Technology Campus.
Unlike the towns of Guilderland and Colonie, he said, “Unfortunately, we do not have a Crossgates Mall or a Colonie Center, so we are lacking a lot in sales tax revenue and encouraging more businesses.”
However, while he acknowledged that people do not like many large-scale stores, he still believes places like the aforementioned Vista Technology Campus could use more businesses as it looks “mostly empty.” He even suggested downplaying the word, “Technology,” and maybe have more retail businesses there to benefit the town.
If elected, Coffey said he believes his past experiences would help inform his actions and decisions regarding the comprehensive plan and town budget.
He also feels more emboldened as his party “was very supportive of [me] running again” this year and he has made sure all the appropriate paperwork have been filled out correctly. This was to avoid a similar “snafu” as last year’s where he could not run on the Democratic ballot line, due to incorrectly-filled paperwork which resulted in a lawsuit filed by Dems. Dan Morin and George Harder. He then campaigned on the Working Families Party line but lost.
Acknowledging that last year’s events have been brought up by his opponent, James Carriero, Coffey said, “I’m asking people to not just judge me on that piece of paper but instead try to look at my entire background, experiences and lifetime of services in the private and public sectors.”
He also said he wants to use this town election as an opportunity to motivate people to get out and vote, keeping the national political climate in mind too. “There’s a lot going on nationally with the Trump administration and some of its policies which have just energized a lot of people and obviously, this is not a national election, it’s a local one,” he said. “But there’s a strong sense, that many people in town I know here and I have, that we need to do something, and we need to be engaged and we need to be active. So, if I can do something on the local level, I’d like to do something like that.”
Asked what he envisions Bethlehem to be like in the near future, Coffey said he would like to maintain its community character and individual hamlets, and continue addressing the development growth issue. He believed that such growth is happening because Bethlehem “is an attractive community. We’ve got the best schools, a great library, a tremendous town park system, the Rail Trail — which is a huge asset — and the Farmers Market, the nearby Five Rivers [Environmental Education Center], and you’re five or six miles from downtown Albany.”
He said he wants the comprehensive plan to ensure Bethlehem retains its small-town feel. He added that within the town’s park system, there’s been talk about introducing a Pop Warner football and lacrosse field and he also wanted to see about having a pavilion for summer arts. “We have a lot of creative people and I know a lot of suburban communities have summer plays and musicals, so I’d like to see if that’s feasible here,” he said.
He said he also wants to better utilize the nine miles of Hudson River frontage as a resource for industrialization in the north and recreation in the south.
Coffey concluded that he has been walking around town “almost every single night” and meeting with residents to better understand what their concerns are. “Also, my adversary [Carriero] is a worthy one and he’s been working hard. So, I’m just looking forward to meeting more people and hopefully prevailing on November 6.”