by Lynne Jackson
On Wednesday, July 24, the Guilderland Planning Board gave preliminary approval to the construction of 70 houses in the largest roadless area of the Pine Bush. Before giving approval, the Board held a hearing. Lynne Jackson of Save the Pine Bush spoke at the hearing, and wrote down her comments in a letter. The Altamont Enterprise printed her letter on August 1.
To the Editor:
This past Wednesday, I attended a public hearing on the Lone Pine 7 housing development off Timothy Lane. The 70-house proposed development will destroy Pine Bush ecosystem in the largest roadless area of Pine Bush remaining in Guilderland.
Essentially, Stephen Feeney, the chair of the Guilderland Planning Board, admitted that this area of Guilderland (Fort Hunter) could not sustain this development because of the traffic. The developer admitted that the several intersections studied were rate an “F” for traffic flow (“A” intersections being the best and “F” intersections being the worst). As the traffic expert admitted, once an intersection is an F, it can’t get any worse, no matter how many more cars are added, there are no ratings G-Z.
Mr. Feeney stated that traffic mitigation was not reasonable in this case, as the only mitigation suggested by the developer was a turning lane. Mr. Feeney observed that turning lanes cost $1 million per lane mile, and that this was too expensive for a 70-house subdivision. Instead, for mitigation, the developer was required to build some sidewalks and a path.
Regina DuBois, a member of the planning board, did not agree with the majority of members. She wisely observed, “The only mitigation is not to develop.” She said that “[Guilderland] has the responsibility to look at all this area in a comprehensive way” and that it’s “time for the Town to step up to the plate and look at the future of this place.”
I believe that Guilderland has reached what is called in planning circles as “the tipping point”. The tipping point is a point which is gradually reached with little changes in a neighborhood, but once reached, dramatic changes take place. The tipping point in Guilderland is the traffic. I have watched the traffic in Guilderland get gradually worse over the last 30 years. I am shocked at the fact that now, no matter what time of the day I go to Guilderland, the traffic is always very bad — even when I drive home late at night after public hearings. I suggest that building another 70 houses in the Pine Bush in Guilderland will begin to push Guilderland over the tipping point. If all of the houses currently being proposed are built, the quality of life in Guilderland will begin to dramatically decline, because the tipping point will have been reached.
Guilderland does not have the infrastructure to sustain unrestrained growth which is completely dependent on the automobile for transportation. Building more roads will cost a fortune, and only bring more cars, not solve the problem.
Cars are the number one producers of ozone, a hazardous air pollutant which causes asthma. The capital area has suffered more ozone warning days this summer than we have since 1996. The air quality is becoming worse, and, as anyone who has a loved one with asthma or other respiratory diseases, you know that if you can’t breathe, you can’t do anything.
57% if Americans are overweight. According to the Federal Center for Disease (CDC) Control, 300,000 Americans a year die from health problems related to obesity (to compare, 400,000 die from tobacco, 50,000 from car accidents, 40,000 from alcohol and 4,000 from illegal drugs). Obesity is the second-largest cause of preventable death in the country. According to the CDC, one of the major causes of obesity is lack of exercise. The number of walking trips has declined by 25% in the past 25 years, while the number of automobile trips has increased. This is because of how we build our communities.
Developments like Lone Pine 7 are totally dependent on the automobile for transportation to essential services such as groceries, school, employment, banking, attending plays, visiting the library, and other important activities of modern life. No consideration is given for other forms of transportation, such as walking, bicycling and mass transit. Though this development will have some sidewalks and a path (which is very good), there are no essential services within practical or safe walking distance, requiring that all residents of the development rely on autos for access to essential services.
I also contend that building houses which are totally dependent on automobiles for transportation is un-American. You may think this is a ridiculous idea. However, global events do not happen in a vacuum — they start in our own front yards. Automobile transportation relies completely on a continuous source of inexpensive oil for gasoline. The oil markets rely on unstable foreign sources. The current administration in the White House is considering a war on Iraq, not because of terrorists (most of the September 11 highjackers were Saudis, and you don’t see us attacking that country), but for its oil. The middle east is a tinderbox, the best thing we Americans could do for world peace is to find alternatives to oil, and build communities that do not rely solely on cars for transportation. The more developments built in Guilderland that allow for no other transportation systems than cars, the more dependent Guilderland residents are on these unstable oil markets.
Of course, the Planning Board should have turned down the Lone Pine 7 proposal because it is in the largest roadless area in the Pine Bush, and is part of this beautiful, unique Pine Bush ecosystem, home to the Karner Blue, and internationally famous. Guilderland has an obligation to protect this unique and beautiful place, and building houses does not protect it.
The Planning Board of Guilderland is not obligated to ensure the developer makes a profit from his speculation on being able to build houses in the Pine Bush. The Planning Board does not need to accept all proposals. The Planning Board could easily have rejected this proposal on the transportation and public health issues alone.
The Planning Board approved this development 5-1, with Ms. DuBois heroically voting no. Ms. DuBois is right, its time for Guilderland to step up to the plate.
Sincerely, Lynne Jackson
Printed in the August 2002 Newsletter