Up on the News
Sets A Full Slate
Nevertheless, his was the only name mentioned to run for Supervisor,
and all the other positions up for grabs in town, two town council
seats, town clerk, highway superintendent, and town justice,
had one nomination each, thus requiring no vote of any kind
to decide which names would appear under the Republican banner
on the ballot this November.
With no challengers to make a race, those nominated Tuesday
kept their remarks brief, and only spoke after there were calls
from the audience that the rank and file should at least hear
from those running.
Craig Grasier, endorsed to run for town council, described himself
as a retired State worker.
“I look forward to serving on a local board,” he
Don VanBuren, who is also endorsed to run for town council,
said “I’d like to get my feet wet in local politics.”
Running for Town Clerk, Cindy Johansen spoke cryptically about
her reasons for running.
“I’m a firm believer in keeping the books straight,”
she said.” No one should have a free ride.”
Chet Scofield, endorsed to run for Superintendent of Highways,
was pleased to have another chance at the position. He ran unsuccessfully
4 years ago.
“Thanks for giving me the opportunity to run again,”
Erin VanKleek, who will run for Town Justice, was the only candidate
to try and light a fire under the Republican Party.
“It’s time for some changes,” she said, adding
that she watches the television show “Law and order”
all the time.
Olive Democrats caucused last month and endorsed Leifeld for
Supervisor, incumbent Bruce LaMonda and former Councilwoman
Linda Burkhardt for the two town council positions, incumbent
Sylvia Rozelle for town clerk, incumbent Tim Cox for town justice,
and incumbent Jim Fugel for Superintendent of Highways.
in question had been slated for “forever wild” preservation
as a key component of a 2007 Agreement In Principal (AIP) to
concentrate proposed resort development on about 750 acres of
other company landholdings further to the west in Highmount.
Current plans for two sites there call for a $400 million, 928-room
hotel & lodging development with at least 5 times the square
footage of Kingston’s Walmart complex, all contiguous
with the state-owned Belleayre Mountain Ski Center. A state-required
review of the conjoined facilities and proposed projects is
At issue currently is a new agreement proposed by Crossroads
to create licenses for two, 100-foot wide right-of-ways over
the County-owned Ulster & Delaware railroad tracks separating
the eastern section of its landholdings from Route 28 between
Big Indian and Pine Hill. One of the two right-of-ways appears
to abut an 11-acre property owned by former county legislative
chairman Ward Todd which is shown on company maps as part of
the Crossroads landholdings, although Bucca said the property
was unaffected. The other connects the Rosenthal wells, one
of two primary water sources for the proposed resort, with the
main company landholdings.
As for why the licenses are now being sought, according to a
July 10 letter to legislative counsel Dan Heppner from David
Lenefsky, another Crossroads attorney, “Crossroads and
the state have agreed on a purchase price but the state can
only purchase at fair market value as attested by real estate
appraisers. The enhanced access provided by the licenses may
result in an increase in the appraisal estimates.”
Valuation of the property has long been contested. When the
state’s intention to acquire it was announced nearly two
years ago, its acquisition cost was placed at about $13 million
or almost $11,000 per acre, based largely on a single “comparable”
for a private parcel adjacent to Windham Mountain. When announced,
the figure immediately drew public criticism as being two to
three times higher than any other comparable land valuations
in Shandaken or the Catskill Park. State Environmental Advisor
Judith Enck who brokered the deal with Crossroads, quickly backed
off the original dollar figure, saying more appraisals were
needed. Multiple sources report such numbers are reflecting
about half the dollar value initially agreed to by the state.
Bucca was forthright in explaining that the sole reason the
company was seeking the new licenses was to increase the land
value for these appraisal purposes. “There’s no
hidden agenda,” he added, saying the purpose of the licenses
is to “enhance the opportunity for the appraisal to match
our asking price.”
Things were hot from the meeting’s outset, as committee
member and District 2 legislator Brian Shapiro accused chairman
Peter Loughran of Kingston of “trying to keep the issue
secret”. Loughran shot back that the committee had been
apprised of the matter for months. Majority leader David Donaldson
gave some background, saying “Crossroads came to the legislature
six years ago asking for an easement, we said no. It’s
gone back and forth, the committee said no again. Then in the
last six months the idea of these “licenses” came
Shapiro and Don Gregorius who together represent the impacted
communities in the county legislature, both expressed deep concerns
as to the sobriety of the committee’s consideration of
the request. “What are we, crazy,” said Shapiro,
“to even consider something that would inflate the purchase
price to DEC and to all the state’s taxpayers?.. I want
to make sure I understand this, “ he continued. “With
the license in place, it increases the worth of the property,
“Yes”, said Bucca.
“So (the license) is money?” said Shapiro.
“Yes,” replied Bucca. “So it’s money.
If the state doesn’t buy this land, then we’ll have
to develop it.”
Asked next by legislator Hector Rodriguez if not granting the
license was an impediment to the land sale, Bucca said “No,”
adding that “ we’d rather have it and not need it,
than need it and not have it.” Why it might be needed
apart from increasing the purchase price from the state remained
unclear, as several parties present confirmed that DEC staff
have indicated the agency has no interest in acquiring such
“It’s not the state but the developer that’s
asked for this,” said Gregorius, who also said he thought
it would constitute a gift to the developer “with potentially
unintended consequences,” and set a precedent “for
anybody who has property adjacent to county land.” Others
in the audience also questioned both the legality and the ethics
of the county granting such a gift to a private corporation,
and both Gregorius and Shapiro expressed concern about the tax
implications for local residents of establishing artificially
high valuations which could eventually impact all local landowners
with higher tax burdens.
Legislator Susan Zimmet proposed as an alternative that if and
when the land was sold to the state, and the state actually
wanted licenses, the legislature could simply pass a resolution
when it was needed.
“If you carry through on your threat,” asked Julie
McQuain of the Hardenburgh Association of Residents & Taxpayers,
“ what happens to the AIP? The whole thing will be vitiated.”
Bucca responded by saying he couldn’t answer that question.
“The protection of these 1,200 acres as "forever
wild" was a critical element for the Catskill Center for
Conservation and Development in signing the AIP," said
Lisa Rainwater, its Executive Director, when contacted the next
day. “If Crossroads chooses to retain ownership instead
of selling to the state, then a cornerstone principle under
which we signed the AIP will be null and void. Under those circumstances,
the Catskill Center would seriously reconsider its position.
We would hope the company is not seriously considering such
plans, but simply posturing to pressure the County for its financial
advantage. We do not support any strategies used now or in the
future that would inflate land values in order for a purchase
price to be reached. The concept of the Belleayre Resort was
to improve the economic conditions of residents in the Catskills
– not saddle them with higher property taxes.”
Carolyn Zolas, speaking for the Sierra Club’s Atlantic
Chapter which didn’t sign on to the AIP, was perhaps even
more blunt:, saying “If the land isn't acquired for the
forest preserve, then the AIP is dead and Crossroads is back
to square one for any development scenario. Development obstacles
such as its steep slopes, access problems, and lack of potable
water make this land extremely problematic, and therefore expensive
and unlikely to be developed. So I think in the end it's a hollow
threat and a baldfaced attempt to pressure Ulster County officials
into artificially inflating the cost of the property to New
York State taxpayers. “
Given the intensity of the debate and the apparent need to better
understand any potential impacts of granting Crossroads’
request, the committee postponed any official action and withdrew
the resolution from consideration by the full legislature at
its August 11 meeting. It is now a question whether the matter
will ever move out of committee, where any reworked resolution
would need to be passed by the full legislature.
In related news, Department of Environmental Conservation spoksman
Yancy Roy told The Phoenicia Times on Monday that with respect
to the developers long-awaited Supplemental Draft Environmental
Impact Statement based on the 2007 AIP, " we have not received
anything from Crossroads for our review." Whether such
submissions will be forthcoming in light of the unresolved land
purchase issue is unknown.
We'll keep you posted.
“Each building must, by regulation have a principal,”
she said. “Therefore the board could choose to have one
building principal for grades seven-through-twelve or keep the
middle school separate from the high school, which would require
Ford said they could also choose to hire an additional assistant
principal or “associate principal.”
She said upon speaking with members of the Middle School cabinet,
they recommended a full principal. For planning and safety reasons,
Ford added that she does not recommend eliminating a principal
The board agreed that a principal would be hired. Only Trustee
Anne MacGillicuddy disagreed, instead giving her support to
returning Onteora to its original status as a junior/senior
Ford said the search for a new Principal would include looking
at current district employees. She will make recommendations
for an interim principal soon.
In other business, the board had a lengthy conversation on large
class sizes that were creating problems at Woodstock and Phoenicia
Elementary. Board members were seeking to make changes at Phoenicia
Elementary that will reduce a fifth grade class size that may
go in excess of 28 students but the district does not have the
money budgeted for an additional teacher. School Board president
Laurie Osmond said that the district has a class size policy
without a specific cap on maximum number of students.
“What we have right now is a regulation dating September
1984 and it lists size ranges as low, desirable and high,”
she said. “It does not give specific recommendations as
to where we should be.”
Osmond mentioned a Project STAR (Student Teacher Achievement
Ratio) report published in 1996 which concluded that smaller
classroom sizes are more effective for learning. The current
district recommendation places a classroom size of 27 students
The school board has also discovered that the two grade one
classrooms at Woodstock Elementary are maxed out at 25 and two
Kindergarten classes maxed out at 23. Woodstock Principal Bobbie
Schnell said the classrooms are capped because of physical space
size, with a waiting list of students for the grade one classroom.
She is having discussions with transportation director Dave
Moraca about busing kids to other schools in the district.
Board member Donna Flayhan said that since West Hurley elementary
school closed, Woodstock Elementary has continued to have space
When Osmond asked administrators to weigh in on the discussion,
Schnell said teachers make the difference while Phoenicia Principal
Linda Sella noted that she believes a single larger classroom
will have no effect on quality of education.
MacGillicuddy noted that enrollment in the district for the
past couple of years wasabove what the demographic reports predict.
“We need to keep in mind that these projected studies
are really only accurate in the short term,” she said.
Assistant Superintendent of Business Victoria McLaren said demographic
reports consider resident live births and not people who have
moved to the district.
Flayhan, using the school board as an example noted how, “Most
of us have moved here.”
Trustee Dan Spencer disagreed with MacGillicuddy.
“The projections are really important, he said. “I
think it is the only thing we have to base our future on, as
well as how we are going to structure our school system. I don’t
want to dismiss that and I think they have proved to be consistently
correct and I don’t see enrollment as increasing. There
isn’t an overall population increase.”
“My point was these projected enrollment studies, the
numbers that they projected were lower than our actuals,”
Spencer suggested looking at redistricting as a solution to
even out class size.
Later, a safety net was put into place to avoid all possible
repeats of the recent senior souvenir given to students in the
form of a double shot glass. Ford said she and the district
treasurer have created a sign-off sheet to be used as a guide
for committee members.
The school board voted unanimously not to enact the Large Parcel
Legislation for the coming year. If invoked, the Large Parcel
law would not allow any taxes paid by New York City for its
Ashokan Reservoir property to accrue to the credit of the particular
towns (Olive and Hurley) in which the property was located.
The board had a choice to vote yes, no or do nothing on the
“I think we have an obligation and responsibility to vote
on the Large Parcel issue,” Flayhan said. “I will
vote not to enact it, just like I did last year…but I
don’t want to send the message that it’s not a school
board issue, because by law it is an issue for us.”
She promised to vote not to enact the bill, but said she supported
board members in 2004 that voted in favor. This caused a dramatic
tax increase in the town of Olive. Flayhan said, “It was
the only way we got equity and it’s still not equal, but
much better that it was.”
She commended the town of Olive for conducting a property re-evaluation
that brought equity between taxpayers closer.
No one attended Tuesday night’s meeting with Large Parcel
concerns this year.
The school board approved food bids contracting Gillette ice
cream, Coca-cola and Pepsi. When someone asked about buying
soda and ice cream, McLaren replied that the district uses Pepsi
for buying water, while Coca Cola is used for buying Snapple
juices, “and the ice cream is low fat.”
MacGillicuddy said the district has a wellness policy that forbids
foods with high sugar content and certain color dyes. She suggested
turning the matter over to the health and wellness committee
to review the contracts. McLaren replied that food director
Christine Downs already works closely with the health and wellness
Trustee Tony Fletcher who is vegan, said he reviewed the bids
and noticed that Downs had been ordering conscientiously.
John Nargi of Triton Construction and Scott Hillje of KSQ architects
gave an update report on the auditorium. Providing there are
no unintended problems, it looks like it’s completion
will occur sometime in October.
Rain Go Away...
A YouTube video of Harry Jameson’s Romer Mountain campground
outside of Phoenicia show folks mudsliding and hanging out by
the raging Esopus, obviously having a blast. Even if they can’t
always participate in Jameson’s other business, Town Tinker
Tube Rentals, because of the dangers higher creek levels bring
with them… or the lowered numbers taking advantage of
tubing fun because of the rain and generally lower temperatures
of the past two months.
“June was terrible, what can I say?” comments John
at Landau Grill in Woodstock, talking about days when everyone
had to abandon his eatery’s grand Mill Hill Road porch
because “the rain started coming in sideways.” “But
July’s been good and August… we’re hoping
for a major drought right through into the fall.”
Nice sentiment… but how does one convey it to a three
year old like my son, Milo, who steps out into the yard Sunday
and bursts into tears when it predictably begins to drizzle.
“Why won’t it go away,” he sobs. “I’ve
sung the songs about the old man snoring and ‘Go away.’”
At the recently completed 2009 Ulster County Fair, outside New
Paltz, attendance figures were down by over 20 percent for its
five-day run, partly as a result of flooded, muddied parking
“It was our wettest June on record, with only five days
having no trace of rain, while July was well above average,
as well, for rain,” notes John Thompson, Natural Resources
Director at the Mohonk Preserve’s Daniel Smiley Research
Center, which started taking records in 1896. “Is it tracking
above normal? That’s a good question but statistically,
one we can’t answer yet.”
He pointed out that while temperatures had definitely been rising,
year to year, in the past decades (albeit not this summer, he
added), the “signal for precipitation isn’t as clear…
It has to do with possible jet stream changes that haven’t
evened out from their latest pattern for several months now.
Who knows, it could be several years before they change…”
The Albany airport had July down as their wettest since 1871
Searching the Web for news and opinions about changing patterns
and future weather and rain predictions for the Northeast, a
host of material comes up fast and scary that likens the future
of our region to what we’ve come to expect for the Pacific
Northwest… just as that region becomes dryer and hotter,
sort of like what we once were.
At a July 21-23 symposium of the American Society for Enology
and Viticulture on “Wines & Vines in a Changing Climate,”
held in Ohio, Dr. Alan Lakso, professor in the Department of
Horticultural Sciences at Cornell University, talked about weather
patterns he’s been charting over a 1970-200 period. He
pointed out that, on a regional basis, average annual rainfall
had increased by 3 inches since 1950, with the number of extreme
precipitation events of 2-plus inches of rain in 48 hours going
up significantly, as well.
“If these changes in temperature and precipitation continue,
the climate in Boston will become more like that of Baltimore,
and the Finger Lakes will have a climate like that of Virginia
or even North Carolina,” he stated, as reported on the
A month earlier, on June 16, researchers representing 13 U.S.
government science agencies, major universities and research
institutes produced a report entitled “Global Climate
Change Impacts in the United States” From the U.S. Global
Change Research Program.
“The trends are expected to result in warmer winters and
longer and hotter summertime conditions,” it noted, in
a section on the Northeast. “Coastal regions and winter
minimum temperatures are projected to undergo the greatest change,
with warming from 4F to as much as 10F by 2100. Projections
of changes in precipitation are less certain, with models estimating
from 10 - 30% increases, primarily during the summer in New
England and Eastern New York. Changes elsewhere are generally
uncertain although most results indicate a larger percentage
of precipitation is likely to come in heavy downpours.”
Their findings have been echoed, quite loudly and regularly,
by The Union of Concerned Scientists, which started 40 years
ago as a collaboration between students and faculty members
at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is now an alliance
of more than 250,000 citizens and scientists.
Even the U.S. Department of Defense is worrying now that climate
change will pose “profound strategic challenges to the
United States in coming decades, raising the prospect of military
intervention to deal with the effects of violent storms, drought,
mass migration and pandemics,” according to a new report.
“These trends are projected to continue, with more dramatic
changes under higher emissions scenarios compared to lower emissions
scenarios,” is how another, more public government report
puts it (www.globalchange.gov). “Some of the extensive
climate-related changes projected for the region could significantly
alter the region’s economy, landscape, character, and
quality of life.”
Then again, our own state DEC has reported people still camping,
just as local businesses have noted people still doing whatever
in the rain.
New Genesis in West Shokan, putting on its season’s end
productions of teen-played Shakespeare out-of-doors, simply
shifted from Sunday to Monday evening.
“I’ve enjoyed watching the trees and plants flourishing.
I like the cooler temperatures. It’s been great sleeping
weather,” concluded Susan Goldman, longtime community
organizer and a former Onteora school board member. “You
adapt… This is the weather, after all, one of the things
we don’t have control over.”
A Jar Of Olives...
We used to think we were “COOL BEANS” when we had
an eight-track and a CB unit in our car. (Did you ever notice
how many gadgets only have initials rather than full words?)
Now we travel with an ipod, an ipod charger, a cell phone with
its car charger as opposed to its home charger which is packed
in a suitcase, a GPS system, an EZ Pass and a laptop. In the
good old days I just had to pick up the mail and answer the
phone. Now I have voicemail, answering machines, e-mail, Facebook
messages, fax messages, and Caller ID to check. Leaving for
four restful days at the Lake means one day of catch-up at home.
I actually unpacked and did laundry before I was able to check
on all my social networking.
Jack Molloy and I had this conversation at the fundraiser for
Maureen Odenwald last Sunday. We lamented that with all this
“secondary communication,” we are losing that essential
“face-to-face” primary communication. We seem to
be, like the reality shows, experiencing life second-hand. The
hand-written letter or note has become the rarity. All of our
communication becomes fleeting and dumped into our electronic
trash bin. Where will be the love letters to savor in our old
age when we only get “Tweets” that are idle thoughts
We are so “plugged in” these days that a summer
storm knocking out electricity could leave a whole generation
wondering what to do. Imagine, no Internet or thousand channels
of un-watchable television. I have rejected the Tivo concept.
Besides being TI, Technology Impaired, I know I won’t
have time to watch something I’ve missed because I am,
in Real Time, being bombarded with hundreds of choices of current
shows and programs.
I have also rejected the new electronic reader for the heft
of a book in my hand. I think that the writer in me loves paper.
I delight in bookmarks and colorful book jackets, and think
every coffee table is not complete without a stack of books
and magazines promising untold hours of future delight.
It is an interesting society that walks on a treadmill at a
gym with a costly membership and communicates with some electronic
device in our hands. We might walk on a quaint country road
over to a friend’s house to share a cup of coffee (without
the help of the Food Channel) and just talk.