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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, October 1, 2009

Michael Fields

By Saranac Hale Spencer

NEW SCOTLAND — Making his first run for the supervisor’s post, Michael Fields served one term on the town board about a decade ago.

“A lot of things haven’t been settled since I left in ’99,” he said of issues facing the town, like a lack of water and sewer infrastructure.

Registered as a Republican since getting the party’s nomination in July, Fields, 71, is also hoping to run on the line he created with Roselyn Robinson and Timothy Stanton, called New Scotland FIRST.

A lot of people don’t want wind turbines in town, but others want to be able to put them up, said Fields.  He’s unsure of his position on zoning for windmills and planned to learn more at a public information meeting held at town hall last night.

“You can’t have an opinion until you have all the facts,” he said.

Being able to compromise is key to working with people, said Fields, a retired manager.  What’s important is working in the best interests of the residents in town, he said.

“Town government should be town government,” he said.  “Forget all the politics of it.”

To distribute water to more areas of town, Fields suggested improving communication with the town of Bethlehem, which owns a reservoir in New Scotland.  He won’t know how discussions can be improved until he’s part of them, he said.

Some areas are just difficult to get water to, he said, citing the high costs and concluding, “There’s no easy solution.”

The lack of water will hinder development, Fields said, so anyone who builds in the town’s expansive commercial district, will need to have enough money to build infrastructure.  “If you put a cap in, you’re closing the door,” he said, referring to the contentious zoning issue that defines his stance on development.  Fields does not support the idea of including a size limit on commercial businesses.

Asked his opinion of Councilman Richard Reilly’s recently proposed law that includes a size limit larger than the one supported by the vocal citizens’ group New Scotlanders 4 Sound Economic Development, Fields said, “At least he’s compromising.”

NS4SED supports a cap of 50,000 square feet on a single retail building and 100,000 square feet on a shopping center.  After Councilman Douglas LaGrange and Supervisor Thomas Dolin introduced a bill last spring including those limits, Reilly responded with a bill topping the allowable sizes at 85,000 square feet and 250,000 square feet.

Reilly’s most recent bill includes a 68,500-square-foot cap on single retail buildings and a 200,000-square-foot cap on shopping centers.

“I, personally, like his first law,” said Fields, explaining, “It’s a little bigger.”

The town’s comprehensive plan is due for some updating, Fields said, but not wholesale change. 

“That’s the first thing I’d do,” he said of charging the planning board with reviewing the comprehensive plan and making recommendations for changes.  “I have a lot of faith in my planning board.  I know a lot of people don’t,” he said.

Farming should be promoted, but, Fields said, “You can’t say to a guy, ‘We’re going to make you be a farmer.’”  He went on, “You can’t force a person or develop a farm if someone doesn’t want it.”

He suggested holding a “farmers’ day,” or supporting a farmers’ market.  “It’s a hard day’s work,” said Fields, who worked on the Severson farm as a boy.  That land has since been developed with the Salem Hills residential development.

“It’d be lovely to have farms,” he said, citing the old Bender melon farm that has been at the center of debate since Sphere Development proposed building a Target-anchored shopping center on the land.  But, he said of keeping the land agricultural, “Who’s going to farm it?”

Keeping the tract of land designated for commercial development, including the Bender farm, is important, Fields said.  A development would be ideal and give area kids a place to work.

“Where it is, I think it’s ideal,” he said, since it’s on two major roads, routes 85 and 85A.

It’s hard to say how he would handle citizen input, Fields said, since he isn’t sitting at the dais.  Depending on how a person approaches, he said, “You can put them in their place,” if the tenor is forceful.  A supervisor needs to be in control of the meetings, he said, and that isn’t what he’s seen from Thomas Dolin.

“You’ve got to do some talking to people,” Fields said of finding the pulse of citizens regarding issues facing the town.  “You go with the majority,” he said.  “If most people want something, you go with it.”

The planning board is there to assist the town board, Fields said.  Using a hypothetical example, since Sphere never submitted a formal proposal, Fields said, if Sphere submits a proposal to the planning board, it would review the town’s laws and make a recommendation to the town board, which would then make a decision.

“My theory is, you do what’s best for the town of New Scotland,” Fields said of the role of political parties.  Of this election, he said, there are “too many cross-party situations going on here.”

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