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New Scotland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, July 24, 2008
New website adds to clamor over commercial district
By David S. Lewis
NEW SCOTLAND Another voice has joined in the town’s battle over the character for its commercial zone.
Mike Chenel launched his website, www.ns4ns.net, or New Scotlanders for New Scotland, two weeks ago with the idea of providing a neutral forum in what he says has become a “political issue.”
“It is to promote the information on both sides of the development issue,” said Chenel in a phone interview last Tuesday.
“I know New Scotlanders for Sound Economic Development has a lot of information, but I think some of their information is provided in a persuasive fashion, rather than in an informational manner,” he said. “So that is why I started my website.”
Chenel said his site would soon be equipped with a blog, which would allow anyone interested to post their views and comment on those of others, providing what he hopes will be a constructive dialogue among members of the town.
When a Cazenovie, N.Y.-based developing firm, The Sphere Group, approached town board members last February with plans to build a 750,000-square-foot retail center on the former Bender melon farm, citizens responded by urging the town board to adopt a moratorium on large-scale commercial growth in order to examine the zoning code in that area and ensure that it was in compliance with the town’s 1994 comprehensive plan. At this point, Chenel’s website has meeting minutes from the Citizens Zoning Advisory Committee, the five members of which have been charged by the town board to develop a draft code for the town’s commercial district. Chenel says that, like many other town residents whose schedules don’t permit regular attendance of the meetings, he gets much of his information on the proceedings from the minutes of various meetings.
“Part of what I am doing here is trying to sort out the important issues, as far as zoning and development, and trying to keep the politics out of it,” he said.
“I don’t think that this is a political issue; I think it affects people in the town who are not involved in politics as well, and that is why I am trying to tell both sides of the story.”
Chenel, an attorney, says that, while he does do some work for municipalities, much of his work centers around small business litigation, so, while not an expert, he says he “can recognize the issues.”
“I couldn’t tell you if it is a tax benefit or a tax burden,” said Chenel of the proposed development, which remains a hotly debated topic at the CZAC meetings. “I just think there’s an overall leaning toward NS4SED’s stance, and I think there’s more information out there. And that is the purpose of my site,” he said.
A letter to the editor in this edition implies Chenel created his website in order to confuse people looking for the NS4SED website, www.ns4sed.org. Chenel said the name was chosen carefully, but not to promote confusion.
“That is simply not the case. I didn’t intend it that way,” he said.
“Both sites have good information; I am certainly not trying to confuse anyone and I certainly would recommend anyone look at both sites and compare the information.
The two websites have similar names, but I chose it because it’s the same issues that we are both talking about here,” he said. “The reason I chose New Scotlanders for New Scotland is because that’s what I think it is for; it isn’t to argue one way or the other.”
Included on Chenel’s site under a tab titled “Resources” are links to websites for the town, the Sphere Group, NS4SED, the International Council of Shopping Centers, the United States Green Building Council, and Target’s 2007 Corporate Responsibility report.
Chenel says there is much more coming soon, and that he hopes New Scotlanders find it a helpful forum to promote discussion rather than pitting the two sides against each other.
“I am trying to present all the information from both sides without arguing either side,” he concluded.