Sometimes, for the greater good, a community needs to look beyond its own borders, and residents have to consider more than their wallets.
The city of Albany in recent years wanted to make ends meet without huge tax hikes and so invited outside companies — not just the municipalities that were part of a longstanding consortium — to dump at its Rapp Road landfill. The advantage for city residents was short-lived. And the decision caused a hardship for the region.
A mountain of garbage is the landmark we all see as we drive Washington Avenue Extension, and residents in our towns have to live with the stench. Worse than that, the landfill will soon reach capacity, much sooner since the outside garbage was brought in, and there will be no place to take our own.
A better solution would have been to reduce the waste stream with more composting and less disposable trash. Everyone, even city of Albany residents, suffer the consequences. The brief easing of taxes isn’t worth the degradation of the environment.
The village of Altamont is currently at a crossroads as it considers changing its water policy. We commend Trustee Christine Marshall for requesting more information before agreeing to a resolution to increase the amount of water the village could make available to new developments within and outside the village.
The board, in tabling the resolution, has given residents, both inside the village and outside of it in rural western Guilderland, a chance to make their views known. And the pause gives village board members a chance to reflect.
We understand the motivation of the water committee — made up of the superintendent of Public Works, Timothy McIntyre; trustee Kerry Dineen; and engineer Richard Straut: They want to keep taxes in check for village residents.
“We should safeguard our resources,” Marshall told the village board.
She’s right. Before 2005, when Altamont bought land with productive wells on Brandle Road, its fading reservoirs barely met village needs.
The water committee is confident — and reviewed data to show as much — that, with the new wells, the village could easily supply the 40 buildable lots left within Altamont and still have water to spare.
Increasing water production and selling it to new users, McIntyre said, is “a way to keep people here now from being water- and sewer-taxed to death.” He correctly points out that needed upgrades to aging infrastructure will be costly.
Here and now often takes precedence in people’s minds. But what happens next can be more important.
The village was foresighted enough to develop a vision statement in 2006, meant to project 10 to 15 years into the future, stating that Altamont wants to maintain its “country village design and character.”
Dineen told the board that residents like the village the way it is but that fees go up every few years. She said that, if every lot in the village, including at the fairgrounds, were built up, there would still be water to spare.
“Wouldn’t it be nice to have some help?” she asked.
We would ask: At what cost? The village won’t stay the way it is, the way residents like it, if water is sold to developments on its outer perimeters.
It’s a truism in planning that development follows water. In 2004, when the Guilderland Town Board planned a moratorium on development in western Guilderland, over 200 residents turned out for a workshop with the majority sentiment being against changing agricultural zones and opposing development of open space.
The reason western Guilderland has remained largely rural while eastern Guilderland is heavily developed is because eastern Guilderland has municipal water. (Look at the map on page 8.)
As we’ve frequently written on this page, open space and agricultural land not only keep municipal taxes down, they are good for the environment, not only maintaining scenic vistas and a country feel, but also preventing traffic congestion and an overburdening of municipal services. The best of modern planning now urges smart growth with clusters of residential and business areas intermixed, exactly like Altamont, surrounded by areas of open space and agricultural lands. The old is new again as walkable communities — with amenities like stores and churches, banks and libraries being built near dwellings — are the latest trend in a world concerned about preserving the environment.
The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority has published an in-depth 600-page report with the goal of creating “a more climate resilient” state. Based on three years of scientific research, the ClimAID report looks closely at the state’s seven regions, modeling weather patterns well into this century.
As we’ve stressed repeatedly over the years, sprawl diminishes the quality of life, now and for future generations. Walkable clustered communities that preserve open space are better for both personal health and environmental well-being; they decrease our carbon footprint.
The ClimAID report recommends, for ecosystems, controlling sprawl and other habitat destruction, and providing dispersal corridors to allow species range shifts in response to climate change.
A ring of suburban sprawl around the village is not in keeping with its vision statement and it is not good for its citizens, or the environment, in the long run.
You have to pay for what you value.