Frederick Ashworth signs the oath book in front of Town Clerk Julie Gansle (Jim Franco / Spotlight News)
COLONIE — The Town Board, on Thursday, Jan. 17, unanimously appointed Frederick Ashworth to fill a vacancy on the Planning Board.
Ashworth will serve until the end of the year, to fill the unexpired term of Kathleen Dalton, who stepped down at the end of last year. The position carries an annual stipend of $3,639.
Ashworth, a retired trooper with the State Police, served on the North Greenbush Planning Board from 2006 to 2012 and was vice president of the DeFreestville Area Neighborhood Association, a grassroots development watchdog not unlike SAVE Colonie, a Partnership for Planning.
“I’m aware of SAVE Colonie,” he said shortly after being appointed by the Town Board. “I read their pamphlet and philosophically they are not dissimilar to DANA, but with DANA we just covered a five-square mile area in Defreesville not the whole town.”
SAVE, which has an active social media community, boasts scores of members but fewer than a handful show up to Planning Board and other town meetings. They are frequent — and vocal — critics of the planning process as well as the number of projects that have been approved without, they say, due consideration to existing neighborhoods or the environment as a whole.
Asked about development in Colonie, Ashworth said he carries no “preconceived notions” so it “remains to be seen.”
He and his wife, a former supervisor who got caught up in the bare-knuckled political gamesmanship of Rensselaer County in general, and North Greenbush in particular, moved to Colonie about six years ago.
“I have experience serving on a Planning Board and I have experience in traffic safety,” Ashworth said. “I see a lot of development going on but until I get involved in it, it’s hard to have a firm opinion. It’s just too soon to say right now. I do love the way the town operates, though, it’s like a clock.”
DANA, was formed to contest big box developments near the Route 4 & 43 corridor in North Greenbush. The organization sued the town in an effort to stop developers from building retail at the busy intersection, and at one point wanted to create their own village to have better control of zoning. Though DANA favored professional office buildings, the big box stores got built and the village idea never got off the ground.
Colonie Town Board member Paul Rosano, who serves as liaison with the Planning Board, said Ashworth came to the table already certified to serve on a Planning Board, something he has never experienced before.
“I’m excited about his experience and he is truly a community oriented gentleman,” Rosano said, adding he got about a dozen resumes from people to serve on the board. “He comes in and can start right away.”
The initial nominee, Michael Bianchino, withdrew his name from consideration after SAVE wrote a letter questioning whether or not there was a conflict of interest with his job at Lansing Engineering.
Both Rosano and Mahan said there were no concrete conflicts, but he withdrew anyway.
Like Rosano and the rest of the Town Board, Mahan voted for Ashworth.
“It’s difficult to find people who have the time and who want to do something in government and the other part of it is people who go on the boards just get a small stipend for what they do. It’s nothing, really,” she said. “You want someone who has the right intentions and who is objective and who can do the right thing and represent the town with integrity and it’s not always easy to find people.”