Several environmental groups attended the Wednesday, Dec. 6, Rotterdam town board meeting to voice opposition to a zoning change proposal to town wetlands. Members of the groups and concerned residents told the board that any threat to the town’s nature aquifer could have a lasting negative impact.
At issue is a potential development near the Rotterdam Square Mall. The proposal, known as Rotterdam Commons, would consist of a recreation park and sports complex.
Supervisor Steve Tommasone told residents that, at this point, the board is only looking to rezone the area from agricultural to land conservation, a move that would actually make development more restrictive.
Critics of the plan say the board has an ulterior motive to move ahead with the Rotterdam Commons plan after the zoning change.
I only support the park plan if the Department of Environmental Conservation gives the town permission under the regulations of land conservation zoning, said Tommasone.
Rotterdam resident Aaron Mair, an environmentalist and member of the Pine Bush Council, told the board it does not understand the hydrology of the land located near the Rotterdam Square Mall. Mair said changes to this preserve land could put the county’s water supply in jeopardy.
`Developing this land is a grave concern to me and to the entire county,` said Mair.
The DEC, the Schenectady County watershed board and the planning board must all approve the park plan.
Robert Godlewski, town board member-elect, said he thinks this plan is unfortunate for town residents.
He said that land conservation does not protect this land enough, and he is opposed to the idea of developing it.
`I feel very strongly that we need to leave this land alone. There is too much to jeopardize for our next generation. This is not the right place for a park,` said Godlewski.
A spokesman for a local chapter of The Sierra Club said the environmental group opposes the plan because a full environmental assessment is needed. John Vandello told the board that this subject has not been talked about or debated enough with residents.
`It’s simply poor planning on the board’s part. There are other options like small neighborhood parks or updating the parks that currently exist throughout the town,` said Vandello.
Town board member Joe Guidarelli, who will be replaced by Godlewski in January, said he remains in opposition to the park plan
`I remain in favor of protecting the land. Though I am glad to see the more restrictive zoning, I am not in agreement with the proposed development of this land. It’s just not the right spot,` said Guidarelli.
The board will vote on the land conservation zoning at next month’s meeting, where it is expected to be passed.
Tommasone thanked Guidarelli for his years of service to the board and for his dedication to serving the community.
`It’s been a privilege and an honor. It has also been a great learning experience. I have tried to base my decision-making on what is best for the residents and not what’s best for me,` said Guidarelli.“