Pictured above: The site of the Amedore Homes proposal—700 apartments and a big box mall on Route 9H, just south of Route 66.
Growth, even in our bucolic 648 square mile back yard, is not necessarily bad. There is, in fact, Good Growth (Yes, it’s a thing), sometimes known as Smart Growth.
Smart Growth is the sensitive siting and design of development to preserve community character (in this case, rural, not suburban), conserve energy and resources, and protect air, water and soil. Stupid growth is the opposite. And if you want an example, let’s take the proposal by Amedore Homes for the land on both sides of Route 9H, just south of the intersection with Route 66 in Claverack.
On the west side of 9H, a big box mall. On the east, a 700-unit apartment complex. And in case, you can’t envision the scale of such an eyesore, just think huge. By far the biggest development Amedore Homes has ever attempted and by even farther, the biggest development in Columbia County.
And it’s Columbia County, not just Claverack, that will be affected by it. Wherever good soil is lost or contaminated, agriculture loses. Wherever, beautiful views and open land are lost, tourism loses.
It is by now a given that our economy and its future is rooted in tourism, agriculture, culture, and the second home market. Stupid growth affects all of the above. Rich soils, rolling hills, meadows, fields, creeks, ponds, historic houses, modern houses, art, music, theater, film. This is our currency. This is why people come to visit and to live. They come for nature and culture and food fresh from the fields and pastures. They come for Olana and Art Omi and The School and Lindenwald. They come for Basilica Hudson and Hudson Opera House and Time and Space Ltd. and the Crandell. They come for the farm stores and farmers markets and CSAs. They don’t come for Wal-mart and Peebles, the likes of which have already taken over Fairview Avenue.
Columbia County doesn’t need another Fairview Avenue. (I’d argue that it doesn’t need Fairview Avenue itself, but there it is.) And Claverack, ten minutes or less from Fairview, needs it even less than the rest of the county.
Big box stores are dying. Even smaller shopping malls are dying. In fact, retail shopping itself is in trouble, and we can either blame or thank the Internet, a/k/a Amazon. (Case in point: Ulster County’s Hudson Valley Mall is full of empty stores and about to lose 90% of its property value.)
That’s actually good news for Main Street, Chatham; Main Street, Valatie; Main Street, Philmont; Main Street, USA, and the longest main street in these parts—Warren Street, Hudson.
Hope for the survival of shopping in actual stores is local. IMBY, by the way, was founded on the credo of localism. We’re passionate about supporting the mom-and/or-pop or mom-and-mom or pop-and-pop shopping and eating establishments that populate our revitalized city and our revitalizing villages. And of course, our beautiful, bountiful farms.
There’s a place for more of that.
There’s also a place for more housing, including affordable housing. But not in poorly designed, shoddily built structures. See Amedore Homes’ Facebook page for comments on the quality of their construction, eg “fascia falling off the house”, “incorrectly installed”, “refuses to fix”, “untrustworthy”, “unethical labor practices”. In contrast, see the unfortunately named, but nicely designed Valtucket Cottages on Chatham Street in Valatie for a better example.
There’s no place, and no market for the utter stupidity of plopping down an ugly (Trust me; it will be ugly. See amedorehomes.com) 700-unit apartment complex and a big box mall in the countryside. It will stop our true economic growth engines in their tracks before they have a chance to pick up speed.
The late Timothy Lundquist had to jump through hoops to get approval for a smart growth conservation development called the Stewardship on Millbrook Road some years ago. (See http://ourtownonline.org/issue5/index.html, page 22). It was never fully built for financial reasons and now belongs to Triform, but the plan was 49 simple, well-designed, clustered houses and a community supported farm. 49 families and now we’re talking 700. (On the Facebook group about this issue, recently started by Koethi Zan, Sam Pratt points out that it’s an old developer trick. Start by asking for the moon, and then, when you scale back your proposal to what you wanted in the first place, you can say you compromised. Note that Pratt and Zan live in Taghkanic and Ghent respectively.) Like I said, you don’t have to live in Claverack to care.
I do live in Claverack and I know how hard and how long our Comprehensive Plan Committee, our rezoning committee, and much of our community worked on our Comprehensive Plan and revised Zoning Law. This proposal flies in the face of both and is an insult to all of us. It’s not permitted in the zoning code and it’s not recommended in the comp plan. Why was all that work done if it can be so easily and eagerly undone by a Town Board jonesing for … what exactly? Some misguided illusionary idea of prosperity?
Amedore is trying to make this happen by proposing we add a PUD (Planned Unit Development) or PDD (Planned Development District) clause to our zoning code. (A PUD or PDD allows development not already permitted in a town’s zoning law, but it’s a way of dealing with applications now considered outdated.) They’re not only proposing it, they’re writing it. This is how they get to bypass the Planning and Zoning Boards and usurp the power of the town to require environmental review and exercise some control over development.
Please don’t tell me not to jump to conclusions, because we don’t know the details. (We don’t know them because Amedore is waiting for the PUD to be adopted, before they show and tell.)
I’ve seen enough to know what I need to know.
Can’t we just get smart once and for all?
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
Come to the Claverack Town Board meeting tomorrow (Monday) at 6 pm at Claverack Town Hall, Route 217, just east of Roxbury Road, above the old town garage.
Join the Facebook group for the Claverack Development Issue – Rte 9H & 66: https://www.facebook.com/groups/239348663236029/