County committee agrees to back a Clean Slate law

HUDSON—Columbia County issued a proclamation on November 1 stating that “members of the County Public Safety Committee by consensus… call on the New York State Legislature to pass the pending Clean Slate Act and the governor to subsequently sign it.”

The Clean Slate Act would seal the criminal records of people with convictions three years after completing incarceration for a misdemeanor and seven years after completing incarceration for a felony, provided they have also completed probation and parole and have no subsequent convictions or pending charges.

Many employers are reluctant to hire someone with a criminal record, and many landlords are reluctant to rent to them. It can also be harder for someone with a criminal record to get scholarships and licenses. With a person’s criminal records sealed, employers, housing agents, schools and license issuers will Not be able to see them when researching that person. Law enforcement and courts could still see them. Read more…

After 25 years Sergeant York retires in Chatham

On November 11 the retirement of one of the most celebrated caisson horses of the U.S. Army was announced at Equine Advocates Rescue and Sanctuary, on Route 66 in Chatham. His name is Sergeant York and for 25 years he served as the riderless horse for military funerals at Arlington National Cemetery including that of former President Ronald Reagan and General Colin Powell. A citation for the occasion was drafted by Governor Kathy Hochul (D) and read out by Equine Advocates President and Founder Susan Wagner (second from l). Columbia County Veterans Service Agency Director Gary Flaherty (l) also spoke. The Caisson Platoon is part of the Third Infantry and horses chosen must have the unflappable temperament and black or gray coloration. When large crowds are assembled and cannon salutes are performed the horse must be able to remain calm. Born in 1991, Sergeant York is a standardbred race horse who had a brief racing career under the name Allaboard Jules before joining the Army in 1997. Holding his halter was Melissa Murray, equine care manager and fellow U.S. Army veteran. Photo by David Lee

K’hook’s got cash but no disaster shelter

KINDERHOOK—The Town Board is using some of the federal ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds they have received to pay for a generator recently installed at the highway garage. They approved spending the funds at their regular meeting November 7.

According to the U.S. Treasury Department, the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) program, a part of the ARPA, delivered $350 billion to state, local and Tribal governments across the country to support their response to and recovery from the Covid-19 public health emergency. Municipalities have been using the funds for different projects, like improvements to the internet availability in Ghent, and work on housing issues in the county.

Towns received funding last year, with Kinderhook, the largest town in the county by population, receiving a total of $531,690.71.

The two villages within the town, Kinderhook and Valatie, also received ARPA funding. Read more…

Copake lays out where to sell pot

COPAKE—Now if anyone wants to open a cannabis dispensary in Copake, they will know where they can put it.

At the November 10 Town Board meeting, a majority of board members voted to adopt a local law which amends the Copake Zoning Code to regulate “the time, place and manner of the operation of licensed adult-use cannabis retail dispensaries.”

The Columbia County Planning Board reviewed the law and found it has no potential countywide or inter-municipal impacts.

Following an examination of Part 2 of the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR), Ken Dow, attorney for the town’s Planning and Zoning boards, explained, “Without this law, these things can go anywhere retail is allowed … [the law] narrows where [dispensaries] can go.” Part 1 of the SEQR document was completed at last month’s meeting. Mr. Dow said that most of the SEQR questions about environmental impacts/affects “have no relevance” to dispensaries. Read more…

Philmont plan offers anatomy of a project

(This is the fifth in a series of articles about housing in Columbia County.)

PHILMONT—A Philmont project named The Woods, as well as the planning approval process and the now-pending lawsuit about it, embody many of the conflicting themes surrounding housing projects in the county.

The Woods project is for 16 market-rate (not “affordable”) homes on a 21-acre site with lots ranging in size from .5 to 3 acres. The site abuts an 11-acre conservation area that in turn borders Summit Lake, a key natural feature of the village. The heart of the village sits on the opposite side of Summit Lake, and residents living on Lake Side Drive, Ark and Band streets will look towards The Woods.

The project sponsor, Clover Reach Partners LLC, is owned by two local builders, Jock Winch, Jr. and Andrew Personette. Both are also part of Claverack Builders and both are multi-generation county residents.

The project was granted preliminary subdivision approval on August 3, 2022 by the village Planning Board. Its opponents, who filed suit challenging the approval in September, include the Summit Lake Conservation Group, LLC, an entity formed a month earlier for the purpose of resisting the project. Among its members are the co-founder and executive director of Philmont Beautification, Inc., a 20-year-old non-profit dedicated to the revitalization of the village, and five residents in whose viewshed The Woods will rise. Read more…