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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, January 7, 2010

Expected upset
Elected trio changes face of planning

By Saranac Hale Spencer

NEW SCOTLAND — Changes in appointed leadership positions were significant, but not surprising on the first day of the year.

The town board’s new three-member majority — Supervisor Thomas Dolin and councilmen Douglas LaGrange and Daniel Mackay — which won last fall’s election decisively, was sworn in on New Year’s Day and moved promptly to naming two of their supporters to places related to planning, a defining issue in the election.

Charles Voss, a planner, who has been on the planning board since 2005, having been an alternate member before that, was named chair of that board, replacing its long-time head, Robert Stapf.  During the fall election, Stapf had supported the opposing ticket, which held a laissez-faire approach to development whereas the winning ticket favors restrictions on the allowable size of retail developments.  Dolin, LaGrange, and Mackay support caps of 50,000 square feet on single stores and 100,000 square feet on shopping centers, which would bind what the planning board is able to approve.

Dolin, a retired lawyer now in his second term as supervisor, said this week that he expects to circulate a bill including those figures within the month.  The other two members of the board, Deborah Baron and Richard Reilly have favored higher size caps in the past.  The former board, which included Margaret Neri who often voted with Baron and Reilly, was unable to reach consensus on allowable sizes.

Since Cazenovia-based Sphere Development proposed building a Target-anchored shopping center about two years ago, the town has been embroiled in debate about the shape of future development.  New Scotlanders 4 Sound Economic Development, of which Mackay is a founding member, organized in opposition soon after Sphere’s plans became public — the group supports the 50,000- and 100,000-square-foot caps.

“There had been some complaints from people in the community… Various people in the community and on the board recommended that there be a change,” Dolin said when asked about the change of leadership for planning.  “I felt the same way,” he said, adding that he had recommended changing the chairman of the planning board last year, when he and LaGrange were a two-member minority on the board.

A year ago, Jeffrey Baker, a lawyer who has been active in NS4SED, submitted his name for consideration as attorney to the planning board, he said this week.  Although Louis Neri, husband of then councilwoman Margaret Neri, was appointed last year, this year, Baker was made attorney to the planning board.

In casting the lone vote against Baker’s appointment, Reilly said that he hopes he “can reach a greater comfort level” with the lawyer over the next year.  Similarly, when casting the only vote against Voss’s appointment as chair of the planning board, Reilly said, “My hope is that, in the future, I will reach a greater comfort level with Chuck as well.”  Baron was silent and voted with the new majority.

Baker has served as attorney to area boards and acted as an advising attorney to other municipalities, Dolin said.  “He is probably one of the premier land and zoning… attorneys in the area,” Dolin said of the choice.

“I was in favor of someone else a year ago,” Dolin said of replacing the chairman of the planning board.  “Mr. Stapf had been chair for long enough.”  Since Voss has been on the board for several years and works as a professional planner, “he seemed like an ideal choice,” Dolin said.

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