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How suddenly small town councils can shift

Jan 14, 2011 8:20 am
The difficulties of small town politics and governance come up in a piece in the Register Star published January 14 about a town councilman forced to resign his position because he moved a few miles over the town border... rendering him ineligible to serve. Expressing regrets about Republican Joseph Salvatore's departure, the rest of the Stockport town council, made up of three Republicans and one Democrat, said they would start searching for a replacement immediately. Salvatore’s resignation was accepted by Supervisor Leo Pulcher, effective Jan. 31, with the councilman and board expressing regrets about his move to neighboring Greenport. A similar resignation in the Town of Catskill, which occurred late in 2010 after supervisor Peter Markou was elected Greene County Treasurer and assumed his position at the start of December, was purposefully left unfilled by the town board there, which is split two to two, Democrats to Republicans, and felt it was working well as is and didn't want any additional controversy. Former deputy supervisor Pat Walsh was named Interim Supervisor until November, when the vacant position and full-time supervisor's position will be officially filled, effective in 2012. Stockport, by the way, is the only Columbia County town that still has no website, something that Salvatore was working on at the time of his resignation.

Pulcher told the Register-Star that Salvatore was always ready to “go that extra step … He was chairman of our youth committee. He took it seriously and did a great job.” Councilwoman Kathy Hamm echoed the sentiments, saying “it was a pleasure to work with you, Joe.”

Those who would fill his shoes are now encouraged to submit an application by Jan. 28. According to Pulcher, the board will choose his successor and the field is open to anyone eligible to vote in town.

In other town news, a public hearing was set for Feb. 2 at 6:45 p.m. on a proposed 2011 Local Law #1, which would amend the lot size requirements in the Planned Development District approved for the Holmes Estates at Columbia Springs subdivision, a 121-unit development that has been in the works since 2004.

Pulcher said the project “ran into a little snag” when it became evident that the development’s townhouses “don’t go with the sizes in the district” that was approved by the town in the fall of 2009. In that approval, the lot sizes were “based on a certain limit,” Pulcher said, “so we have to amend the PDD to take that into account.”

After the hearing was set, Hamm said she was “opposed.” When Pulcher pointed out that there was no motion on the floor and asked her to clarify, she offered that she’d prefer to “sit in the audience.”

“I don’t like the way they are doing it,” she added. There was no further discussion.

That was somewhat reminiscent of the scene in October 2009, when the Planned Development District was approved. Then-Board Member Jack Mabb voted yes but “with plenty of reservations.”

Foremost among them was a concern that, despite the preservation of offsetting open space, the lot sizes would be too small. According to a press account at the time, he said he felt it could change the look of the hamlet.

Pulcher also reported progress in development of a website for the town, the only municipality in the county without a website listed in official records (www.columbiacountyny.com/town.html).

The matter has been under discussion for months if not years, and Hamm asked whether a package of historical photographs and other materials for the website developed by a resident last year were in the hands of the site’s designated developer.

“The gentleman was in the garage today,” said Pulcher at the January Town Board meeting, referring to a volunteer software developer who visited Pulcher at his place of business.

The Stockport Police Department hosts a website that appears to be frequently updated and provides contact information for every officer, each of whom is assigned to a particular neighborhood under the “Community Policing” program. More information is available at www.stockportpolice.org.