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Letter to the Editor: Wright Councilmen Conspire to Alter Comprehensive Plan

Written By Cicero on 4/1/15 | 4/1/15

Dear Editor,

Three Men in a Room in Albany proved to be bad politics and bad policy.  Three Men government is just as bad in the Town of Wright.

Three men in the Town of Wright have decided that they know better than anyone else what the taxpayers and residents think and need.  Councilmen Ed Thornton, Tom Aulita and George Karlewicz feel they are best equipped to revise the town Comprehensive Plan and, unless the taxpayers and voters speak, the 3-councilmen-in-a-room majority will set a course that will take years to undo.  And it’s an unnecessary course because the Plan that was drafted in 2013 had already been through Town Board and community workshops, public hearings, and County Planning Board Review and approval.  What don’t they like?  Are they hoping to remake the town in their image?

Read their 2015 Comprehensive Plan Draft and see for yourself. 

Three councilmen are not a committee.  Three councilmen are the Town Board.  Three is a majority and when a majority of the Board works together to craft a plan, then the normal, routine components of “public input” are a sham, a joke.  Three councilmen who come to agreement are not going to be swayed or influenced by a last minute public hearing.  Three men working this closely have their minds made up.  A 3-man committee made entirely of councilmen is completely inappropriate.  It might even be ethically improper. 

Working without the benefit of a summary town survey (2007) or current survey information, they place their own voices over the town as a whole.  The summary town survey from 2007 is deleted and lacks prominence as a guide to their draft document. It is present only in an appendix, as an afterthought.  This is especially ironic because they previously stated that the ’07 survey did not reflect enough input.  They’re talking out of both sides of their mouths.

Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats facing the Town and voiced by residents over 20 years of planning (properly included in the 2013 document) are now somehow unimportant in their new draft and are deleted.  The original Comp plan, the revision currently in place and the 2013 draft shared the same goals for reasons residents hold dear.  The newest draft being proposed seeks to change all that.  Why is that appropriate? 

According to the new Plan, appointed boards serving the town (Planning Board, ZBA, for example) are not worthy of using the Comprehensive Plan. “The Comprehensive Plan is not intended to be…used by the Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals or any other town board to enforce zoning.”  (Remember: Wright has no zoning whatsoever so there is no enforcement possible.)  But the bigger point is their specific intent to keep the Planning Board from considering the Comprehensive plan in their deliberations.  Planning Board deliberations of a proposed subdivision may not take into account the most fundamental and broad document plan of the town.  How can such a thought be justified?  I guess only 3 men know but it looks like a blatant power play to strip the Planning Board of any real role in our town.

There aren’t nearly enough column inches to detail the absurd changes Thornton, Aulita and Karlewicz want to force on the taxpayers of Wright.  A few, however, really need to be mentioned.

  1. The Vision Statement has been removed.  Their proposed Comprehensive Plan specifically removes a statement of vision.  Unbelievable.  But true.  I guess the Town of Wright doesn’t really need any vision to the future.
  2. Their Goals as drafted will no longer “ensure development is consistent with our rural community and environment.”  Those words are deleted.
  3. They are willing to preserve the essentially agricultural character of the town but they will no longer promote active working farms. The words “promote active” are deleted.   This ignores the town’s adopted Ag plan.
  4. Despite the number of residents unable to access high speed Internet, the 3 men remove references to improving telecommunications and broadband from their goals.  They are unwilling to pressure Time Warner to act in the best interests of our residents and they ignore the crucial role telecommunications play in the development of all potential small businesses in town.  How does this pretend to speak for our common good? 
  5. They remove the words “improve road conditions.”  Why?  What are they thinking?  Our roads do not need improvement?
  6. Despite encouraging the utilization of contemporary development strategies, they strike language suggesting that the town’s subdivision law be amended to allow conservation subdivision and cluster design.  They appear to contradict themselves.
  7. The 3 men strike all language directing attention to the needs of senior citizens.  Our population is aging and we’re not exactly seeing a flood of young people moving in.  Don’t senior citizens merit a mention?
  8. They delete this language from the plan: “Prevent incompatible industrial uses.“   Why?  Isn’t a major function of local government to prevent incompatible industrial use?  Why would anyone delete such specific language?
  9. All language specifically prohibiting heavy industry is deleted.  If heavy industry is not prohibited, then it is permitted.  Removing the prohibition on heavy industry opens a door that cannot be shut.  This is an almost unimaginable change in direction for our town and is in direct opposition to strong public consensus against heavy industry development.  Why promote heavy industry by removing the very language that prohibits it?  Does the proposed draft promote industry over agriculture?  Read it and decide.  I think it does.
  10. Almost all language referencing energy efficiency and green initiatives is deleted.  For many of us, that speaks volumes.

It takes a lot of time to read the 2013 Draft and the 2015 3 Men Draft and flesh out the differences but Councilmen Thornton, Aulita and Karlewicz are walking a slippery path. 

Contact them and Supervisor Bleau.  Tell them to cease and desist with their current plan draft.  Tell them to approve without delay the 2013 Plan they have had in their hands for two years.  There is no reason to waste more time.  The public has given them the plan it supports.  Their job is to approve it.

- Jean Burton
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Unknown said...

It is interesting that they are choosing to remove language discouraging heavy industrial development at the same time that a massive expansion of the Wright Compressor Station (already a source of high air pollution emissions) is being proposed to facilitate the Constitution and NED pipelines. Interesting that the proposed compressed Natural Gas (CNG) plant that was run out of Duanesburg by outraged residents is rumored to be looking for a new site near the Wright Compressor station. Is it possible that Iroquois Gas, Cabot Oil and Kinder-Morgan have been whispering in the ears of Councilmen? Just asking.

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