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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, July 2, 2009

Will force Conservative primary
Belenchia enters crowded New Scotland race

By Saranac Hale Spencer

NEW SCOTLAND — In an election crowded with candidates who are wary of commercial retail development, the number of candidates claiming to be proponents of property rights is quietly keeping pace.

Peter Belenchia, who had chaired the Republican Committee in town but changed his enrollment to Conservative in 2007, will be seeking the Conservative line in his run for town board — there are two seats open in November.

“I am against a big box,” he said, referring to the large chain retail stores that have been at the center of debate since Cazenovia-based Sphere Development proposed a Target-anchored shopping center at the corner of routes 85 and 85A.  “But I’m also leery of a size cap,” he added.  Many of the candidates who are cautious about retail development support a 50,000-square-foot limit on single retail stores in the commercial zone, an idea opposed by candidates who say they are advocating for property rights.

Belenchia would support an 80,000-square-foot Target, he said, defining it as a “medium-sized retail store.”  He’d like to see Route 85 become a commercial corridor, Belenchia said of the area that is currently used for agriculture but is zoned for commercial development.  He envisions a “green” development that might serve as an example to other municipalities, Belenchia said.

Asked why he chose to enter the race at this late stage, Belenchia said, “Because I believe that the debate needs to widen.  There are other issues at play.”

Like most other candidates, when asked what the other major issues are, Belenchia named senior services.  In a release announcing his candidacy, he listed the town’s scarce water, taxes, and “overspending in town hall” as issues.

Belenchia will be campaigning on his own, but is supporting the Republican Party’s pick for supervisor, Karen Moreau, and Republican Roz Robinson for town board — she will be forcing a primary in September since the party has endorsed incumbent Republican Doug LaGrange and planning board member Charles Voss.  LaGrange and Voss share similar views on development and support a 50,000-square-foot size cap whereas Robinson does not support a cap.  She and Morreau share similar views on development.

Both LaGrange and Voss got the county’s Conservative Party endorsement in May.  The party chose them because of their stance on development, said Richard Stack, chair of the Albany County Conservative Party.  Belenchia will force a primary.

“He hasn’t called me,” Stack said this week when asked about Belenchia’s candidacy, which was news to him.  As a member of the Conservative Party, Belenchia can circulate petitions and force a primary in September, Stack said.

“He’s a bullet vote candidate,” Stack said, asserting that Belenchia is a one-issue candidate on a small party, running as a spoiler.

Although he had once chaired the town’s Republican Party, which has 1,699 enrolled voters, Belenchia is not seeking that line.  “If they ask, I would consider it,” he said of running with the GOP.  As of now, he said, his only plans are to seek the Conservative line — that party has 174 enrolled voters in town.

The Democrats have 2,356 enrolled voters and held a caucus last week where they backed incumbent Supervisor Thomas Dolin and newcomer Daniel Mackay — both Democrats.  They also endorsed LaGrange.  All three support a 50,000-square-foot size cap.

Of Belenchia’s ambitions, Stack concluded, he “can’t fall out of the cellar.”

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