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Complex GOP primary in Ballston

Complex GOP primary in Ballston

Two running for supervisor; three running for two Town Board seats
Complex GOP primary in Ballston
Supervisor Tim Szczepaniak.
Photographer: Erica Miller

BALLSTON -- Republican voters in Ballston will be picking between two candidates for town supervisor on Tuesday, as well as sorting among three GOP candidates for two Town Board seats.

But while the supervisor contest between incumbent Tim Szczepaniak and challenger Eric Connolly is straightforward, the Town Board race between Bill Goslin, Charles "Chuck" Curtiss and Peter Solberg is more complex. Two seats will be filled, but only Goslin has the backing of the town Republican Committee. Curtiss, who is an incumbent seeking re-election, did not get the committee's backing last winter.

Szczepaniak, 55, a project analyst at the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory, is seeking his third two-year term as supervisor, after serving eight years on the Town Board. He said he's running on a record of success.

"We still don't have a town [general] tax or a highway tax, and that comes with a lot of hard work," Szczepaniak said. "We have a $2.5 million fund balance, and Ballston and Wilton are the only towns left [in Saratoga County] without a town or highway tax."

Connolly, 48, who teaches economics and video production at Schenectady High School, said one of his big concerns is about the amount of development occurring in Ballston, which between 2010-2018 saw the highest percentage growth rate of any town in New York state -- 15 percent.

"The most important thing for the town to do is put a short-term moratorium on development," Connolly said.

A moratorium is needed, he said, to sort out changes in the town zoning law, which he said should eliminate the use of planned development districts -- project-customized zoning -- while requiring developers to put money into a transfer-of-development-rights fund, which would be used to preserve farmland.

"We are supposed to be a farms-first community, but then over the last 10 years we've been the fastest-growing town in New York state," Connolly said. "Clearly, [current town leaders] want to grow the sales tax, they think that's the answer."

Connolly has faced attacks, including a mailing this week paid for by the state Republican Committee, accusing him on various grounds of being a "phony." He's also been called a "newcomer," though Connolly noted that he grew up in Ballston Spa.

If renominated, Szczepaniak said he is also looking for the town to limit future development. "Our town is fully built out, and we really don't need any more apartments," he said.

He said the Town Board in the future plans to limit the use of planned development districts to state Route 50 and Route 67 east of Ballston Spa, and eventually phase out their use entirely. PDDs have been used to let developers increase the density of their projects, critics say. But they also require developers to preserve open space.

Szczepaniak said he and Goslin have a record of accomplishments, including development of two new town parks, the passive-recreation Anchor Diamond Park on Middle Line Road and the Fireman's Grove property in Ballston Lake.

"In the economic development arena, Hannaford is being built [south of Ballston Spa] and will be open in November. When you knock on people's doors, they want a grocery store, and we've delivered that," Szczepaniak said. "When you look at the corner of Lakehill Road and Route 50 in Burnt Hills, that's much improved."

In the Town Board race, at least one of the two challengers will win, since there are two seats at stake.

Curtiss, who is a dairy farmer, lost town Republican Committee backing after criticizing the town's pace of development, which he fears will extend housing further into the farmlands west of Middle Line Road. The committee backed Solberg instead, but he then rejected the committee's support, saying the ticket didn't reflect his concerns about limiting development and preserving farmland. He instead aligned with Connolly and Curtiss.

Smart Growth Ballston, a citizen group that helped stop a Wal-Mart from being built in town, has endorsed the Connolly-Curtiss-Solberg ticket.

Regardless of the outcome of Tuesday's primary, all the parties will have independent or other party ballot lines in the November election. Though Connolly, Curtiss and Solberg are all registered Republicans, the town's Democratic Committee has endorsed them for the November vote.

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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