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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, January 28, 2010

Size-cap bill moves
Trio delivers on campaign promise

By Saranac Hale Spencer

NEW SCOTLAND — A year after its first incarnation, a bill including a cap of 50,000 square feet for single retail stores and 100,000 square feet for shopping centers has been sent to the town and county planning boards for review.

The first bill stalled after it went through several machinations, which ultimately resulted in larger cap sizes, and then met with disapproval from the county’s planning board because it did not address the density of retail development that could be built in the town’s sizeable commercial zone.

Soon after the county’s opinion was released, campaigning in an election that centered on land-use issues took center stage.  The election yielded a new town board majority, which had campaigned on a platform of regulated retail growth in the commercial zone and caps of 50,000 square feet on retail stores and 100,000 square feet on shopping centers.

“It’s a step the public wants,” Daniel Mackay said last night of the bill, “It’s a step I was elected to deliver.”  Mackay, a founding member of the citizens’ group New Scotlanders 4 Sound Economic Development that lobbied for the size caps, was elected to a seat on the town board in November’s election.

“I realize it’s a stop-gap proposal,” Supervisor Thomas Dolin said as he opened discussion on the bill at a special town board meeting last night, but “the moratorium expires in four days.”

In May of 2008, the town board enacted a moratorium on large-scale development following a proposal from an out-of-town developer that planned to build a Target-anchored shopping center on the former Bender melon farm.

Councilman Richard Reilly, who had been a member of the board’s former majority before the election, expressed concern that the commercial zone could “die by a thousand cuts,” meaning that capping the size of retail development and allowing for residential development could create a “reverse incentive” to use the town’s commercial zone for housing developments.

“The three of you can choose to do that,” he said to Dolin, Mackay, and Councilman Douglas LaGrange of moving the bill on to the town and county planning boards for review.  Reilly voted against the motion since he did not want it forwarded to the county for review yet.

The fifth town board member, Deborah Baron, who has often voted with Reilly, voted with the majority after getting assurance that the vote would not enact a law, but only move the bill forward for review.

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