Supervisor's Report

Picture of Supervisor Harris

April 6, 2018 To my fellow Schodack Residents,

One of the core tenants of my campaign was promising residents I would work to ensure they were kept up to date on Town issues and that important information would not be withheld from them. It is for that reason I felt compelled to draft for you this letter regarding a recent proposal that has been made in Town. As many of you are now aware, Schodack has received a conceptual proposal for the construction of a distribution center. The proposed site is a commercially zoned property on Route 9 just south of the 9&20 split. While this proposal and the process surrounding its application are very much in the early stages, and as such there are still many details yet to emerge, I wanted to take this opportunity to share with all of you what I know as of now. I also want to touch upon briefly how the Town handles these proposals and some of the considerations we must make to ensure this, or any, proposal would best serve our residents.

First, here’s what we know about the project. On March 19th, Scannell Properties submitted their initial conceptual plan to our Planning Department. This project includes the building of a 1,000,000+ square foot distribution center on the above mentioned 116-acre site. Initial reports say this center would employ around 1200 people across three shifts. At this time, we do not know who the tenant would be. If the developer should submit a formal plan, at that time they would have to reveal such information.

Under Town Law, the Planning Board is authorized and empowered to grant approval to plans submitted to our Planning Department. While the members of the Planning Board are appointed by the Town Board, they work independently of it and free from any influence. The members of the Planning Board, along with the Planning Engineer, review plans and work to ensure projects comply with our codes and laws, protect the interests of the Town and its residents, and work to mitigate impacts on neighbors. Currently, the plan is showing berms and trees along property lines, positioning of parking lots and truck traffic on the site to lessen the impact on surrounding properties, and designing entrances to try and ensure a safe and non-disruptive flow of traffic into the site. In addition, the project proposes the extension of water and sewer infrastructure to the site.

Any project, especially one of this size, will present challenges and concerns that will need to be addressed and taken into consideration by the members of the Planning Board before any approval could be made. However, the opportunity for expanded economic growth, both within this project itself as well as surrounding properties and businesses is also something we must consider. Service providers in town, diners, gas stations and the like would almost certainly see an increase in business, more than likely resulting in attracting more of these service-based businesses. This would mean increased tax revenue for our town. I have heard from numerous professional planners, developers and engineers that no town will grow without people moving in or businesses being attracted or expanding. While I do not think our goal should be to base our growth around these large projects alone, as has been previously demonstrated by Hannaford, their benefit to our tax base and contributions to our fire companies, ambulances, schools, water and sewer districts, community organizations and Town residents through the availability of jobs is something we cannot dismiss without careful consideration. We owe it to all the Town’s stakeholders, both residents and businesses alike, to take these factors into consideration before any decisions are made.

What has become abundantly clear to me within my first three months of office is without expanding our infrastructure, there will be the same level of slow growth we are accustomed to. Schodack, for all the positives it offers, is 50 years behind where it should be in this regard. Working to find ways and partners to help bring water and sewer along our commercial corridors will open opportunities for further development and give surrounding neighbors the ability to connect. Such improvements are not cheap, and it has become of particular importance to me that going forward we look for any way we can to partner with developers, Rensselaer County, and the State to help fund and construct these much-needed improvements to our infrastructure.

As has been demonstrated during previous proposals in the area, there are legitimate concerns raised by residents of the neighborhoods that are near the Town’s commercial properties about the impact these developments would have on their life. I understand their concerns. My goal regarding any potential development in Town is to help stabilize our tax base to provide relief for residents and encourage business development to make best use of our commercial areas, such as Rt. 9/9&20 and Rt. 150, while taking those concerns into consideration. I have been assured by the Rensselaer County IDA, the Rensselaer Chamber of Commerce, our County Legislators, County Executive as well as various State level officials that they are supportive of Schodack in this regard.

As more information regarding this proposal becomes available, I will work to ensure residents remain up to date and aware of any developments.

-Supervisor David Harris

Town of Schodack Supervisor’s Report for February 20th, 2018
Greetings and best wishes. As I write this I am currently attending the Association of Towns annual meeting in New York City. The Association of Towns is an organization whose membership is made up of Towns from across New York State. The Association provides Towns and their elected officials with training programs, research and information services, technical assistance, legal services, insurance programs and a variety of publications all to help better serve our residents. While I’m here I will be attending a number of classes ranging from supervisory training to grant writing. Being a new supervisor, I’m always happy and eager to attend these training courses and have the opportunity to network and learn from fellow supervisors from across the state in order to better serve my constituents.
On February 3rd, I, along with a standing room only crowd, had the honor to attend a service to celebrate the life of Ray Lemka. Mr. Lemka was a pillar to our town and communities. His strong belief was that for democracy to function, the active and informed participation of its residents was required. To that regard, Ray could be counted on to be a regular attendee to town meetings, lending his voice and opinion to a variety of issues with an especially keen and watchful eye on finances and spending. His efforts lead to our residents entrusting in him a position on our Town Board. I speak on behalf of myself and many others within the town when I say we will miss Ray and his passion and insight dearly. I want to extend my condolences to his family and friends, and indeed our entire community. We truly have lost one of our pillars.
One of the more pressing concerns I heard while campaigning was the need to attract new development and business to Town, while at the same time working to preserve the character and rural charm so many in our town enjoy. To this regard I have made it a priority to work with the Town Board, Planning Department, and various County and State agencies and elected officials to explore ways to find and attract businesses and development that will provide jobs and services while also helping to alleviate the tax burden on homeowners. I will work to ensure this process is open and informative so our residents are provided with as much information as possible in regard to any potential project. I’ve had a few preliminary meetings with some interested parties who are considering developing in our Town and I look forward to presenting any information I have when these become more formalized.
In an effort to explore additional opportunities and ways to work with the County and State to help develop our town I attended a variety of meetings and conferences over the past month. On February 6th I met with Rensselaer County Chamber of Commerce President Kate Manley and later in the day County Executive Steve McLaughlin. Steve has expressed his strong commitment to work with us in any way he can to help bring development to our town along our commercial corridors and I’m encouraged by the chamber’s commitment to help develop and expand business opportunities in our Town and County. On February 8th, I attended a luncheon hosted by the Chamber of Commerce that featured as speakers Assemblyman McDonald and Senator Breslin. Each spoke to efforts they’re pursuing to expand and attract growth in our county. I also met with representatives from the Rensselaer County Industrial Development Agency on February 12th on ways to promote business growth.
One of the many great resources we have is our proximity and access to the Hudson River. I had the opportunity to meet with Castleton Mayor Robert Schmidt to discuss the Local Waterfront Revitalization
Program, or LWRP. The LWRP committee is a shared committee between the Village and Town and unfortunately has been largely inactive after a previous administration was unable to come to agreement with the Mayor on a President. After meeting with the Mayor and discussing how to best go forward due to this previous issue and a number of absences that have developed on the committee due to a variety of circumstances we have decided to start fresh. I have asked Town Board members to bring nominations forward to fill the seats on the committee representing the Town and hope to present those in march.
A large part of my life has been spent in law enforcement and volunteering for fire and ambulance services. I understand firsthand the sacrifices and dedication our men and women in these emergency services have and its why I’m committed to helping them where I can and my honor to celebrate their service whenever possible. Many of our local volunteer emergency service providers held their installation banquets recently and I had the opportunity to attend a number of them including East Greenbush, Nassau Fire and East Schodack. In addition, having been a member of South Schodack Fire Department I had the great honor of serving as the installing officer at the banquet for the South Schodack, Schodack Landing and Schodack Valley fire departments on February 3rd.
I also had the opportunity to work with Chief Joe Belardo to help reopen our Town’s shooting range and make this resource available to our officers. For over 10 years, any training the department needed was outsourced to other ranges at a cost of both overtime and liability to the Town. The ability to now host our own training will save us money as well as expand opportunities for our officers to practice various situations and scenarios previously unavailable to them. I’m proud of the work Chief Belardo did to ensure surrounding residents received written notice well ahead of the first training day on February 9th and the response from our residents has been overwhelmingly positive.
And finally, I want to extend my gratitude to Highway Supervisor Ken Holmes, Chief of Police Joe Belardo and their respective crews for the work they have done to find cost savings for our town. We had a need for a new loader backhoe and police cruiser and through their efforts in sourcing these purchases we saved well over $10,000 from what we had originally budgeted to spend. Additionally, thanks to the work of Sergeant Roy we were able to provide much needed new service weapons for our police officers at a savings over what rebuilding our old weapons would have cost.
It has been a busy first two months and I look forward to continuing my work once I return home from this conference, hopefully better equipped to help provide the best possible service to all of you. I want to invite all of you who may be interested to join me March 3rd for a open house at Maple Hill High School where they will be displaying the progress they have made on their capital project. In the meantime, feel free to reach out to me with any concerns or comments you might have.