The long-awaited update to Princetown’s comprehensive plan has led to divisions throughout the town in rural western Schenectady County.
Some believe the revised document produced by the Comprehensive Plan Committee in 2009 should be the one that helps guide the town’s land-use policies into the 21st century. But others consider the new document overly restrictive on land owners and believe the town should adopt a less onerous comprehensive plan that borrows liberally from the one already in place.
This issue is dividing candidates running for Town Board next month. Supporters of the 2009 plan formed the Princetown Citizens for Open Government line as an independent party but will appear only on the Republican and Independence lines due to state election law.
These candidates include supervisor candidate Michael Joyce, incumbent Town Board member Louis Esposito and Town Board hopeful Joseph Jurczynski, who served as the chairman of the now-defunct Comprehensive Plan Committee. They are challenging incumbent Supervisor Melanie Whiteley, incumbent Town Board member Doug Gray and Town Board hopeful Nicholas Maura Jr., now the chairman of the Planning Board.
Whiteley, who is running on the Conservative and Democratic lines, believes the merged comprehensive plan protects the rights of land owners and also provides an adequate framework to guide new development. The draft plan produced by the ad-hoc five-member committee in June was 21 pages shorter than the 2009 document and is expected to be presented to the Town Board in the coming months.
“This is a good mix of the old and the new,” Whiteley said this week.
Joyce believes the town should adopt a plan based on the data collected by the original Comprehensive Plan Committee. But above all, he said the town needs an adequate plan to protect it from unwanted development.
“Princetown right now is prime for development,” he said. “It’s important that we have a plan to manage this growth.”
And other members of his slate agree. Jurczynski said the 2009 plan his committee produced isn’t overly restrictive, contrary to the misinformation he has occasionally heard on the campaign trail.
“It’s only a guideline for the Town Board to act on when it has the time and energy to enact these things,” he said.
Esposito said the merged plan was produced by a committee of town employees, each beholden to Whiteley’s administration. He said some members of the committee aren’t even residents of Princetown.
“I was opposed to that,” he said.
Gray, a lifelong town resident who has served five years on the board, doesn’t favor the 2009 plan because of the new restrictions it places on property owners. He said the town already has enough laws to govern development and doesn’t need any more.
“We’ve got more than enough laws to keep this town rural and the way that it is,” he said.
Maura agrees. The former supervisor and board member said the 2009 plan injected far too much new legislation and is based on strong development pressures that have never existed in the town.
“I’ve been here for 40-something years and this town hasn’t changed,” he said. “There are no development pressures here.”
Aside from the comprehensive plan, the Princetown Citizens for Open Government slate is also advocating for greater transparency in government. The candidates want to get business agendas posted online several days in advance and plan on repealing a three-minute time limit for public comment during board meetings.
Joyce said he also wants to curb unnecessary town spending. While acknowledging that Princetown doesn’t collect a town tax, he said areas of the 2011 budget show a degree of expenditure that is unwarranted.
“The skill set I really want to bring to the town is managing the budget in a businesslike manner,” he said.
Whiteley said her challenger isn’t reading her budget properly. In fact, she said the town was roughly $68,000 under budget last year.
“It is clear Mr. Joyce is not reading the budget correctly,” she said. “Our budget is as lean as it can be.”
Whiteley also touted her accomplishments during her first full term in office. This includes signing a new five-year lease to rent space to the New York State Police, successfully lobbying the state Department of Transportation to keep a lane of Pangburn Road open during a bridge replacement project and helping to consolidate youth services with neighboring Duanesburg.
“We’re in good shape right now,” she said.
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Categories: Schenectady County