Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Ginsberg's Project: it doesn't fit

Below (click "read more") is the short version of all that is wrong with this project. Here is the more detailed version.

Free land, free money, variances that allow the company to flaunt the zoning laws: this deal is bad and there is a meeting tonight.

Then, another: Wednesday, September 17, at the Ghent firehouse at 10 AM. Very important meeting for all Columbia County residents.

Also, I never did blog the payroll meeting but this article is damn good.

Let your voice be heard at both. Read more.

Ginsberg's Foods is a trucking company that distributes mass produced commercial food from outside of New York to businesses outside of Columbia County. The business, incorporated as Ginsberg's Institutional Foods, Inc., is now planning to add a second trucking facility on Route 66 right on the Claverack-Ghent border in Columbia County New York, an area known for second homes for city residents, farming, art, and rural landscapes.

I will write a separate entry on jobs and this project. 

As currently proposed, this industrial project will be bad for the local economy, environment, and reduce tax revenue coming into the the local school, Taconic Hills. And, worst of all, this project is being financed with large amounts of taxpayer money through an opaque and secretive process that does not pass the sniff test. 

To finance the project, Ginsberg got a PILOT grant that allows them to avoid paying taxes. In addition, the Economic Development Corporation of Columbia County, which Ginsberg headed until just prior to the grant, has given the company 33 free acres. You heard right, free land. Nice, right? Ginsberg hired the head of the board who gave him the land. It's naked corruption. Here is the government promoting the business. 

There is a public hearing on Wednesday, September 17, at the Ghent firehouse at 10 AM. What kind of public hearing takes place at 10AM? One that does not really want a lot of public input. 

In order to make this large project work with the zoning laws of the towns, Ginsberg Foods will need to get at least five  variances from the two towns. Variances allow the company to avoid provisions of the zoning law. In addition, they will have to bend the definitions in the law so that their warehouse is "wholesale business."

Meanwhile, the Comprehensive Plan says that Claverack zoning exists to preserve "rural character, historic features, scenic views, working farms and natural resources." Claverack allows "sustainable residential and commercial development that is compatible and harmonious with its historic architecture, rural traditions and small town atmosphere." 

Ghent's plan promotes "the vision of a rural lifestyle in a scenic setting, protected from suburban‐style sprawl characterized in neighboring towns and counties." The Ghent plan continues, "protect open space and promote agriculture and agri‐economics."

If you need two government handouts, five variances, some fancy footwork on what a "warehouse" looks like, what you have is a project that does not fit with the visions of the comprehensive plans of the two towns. It's too big. It's too expensive. It's too shady. It costs too many jobs. It's too industrial. It's not promoting local agriculture. It's putting too many trucks on the road. It does not fit with the tourism and valued added agriculture economy we are building. 

In short, the project as currently proposed, is a square peg trying to fit in a round hole. 

If the project were to occupy only 10% of the land, as required by law, not to be taller than zoning allows, were to be set back as required by zoning, warehouses were labeled as such, and if the project were financed entirely with private money, then it would fit with the comprehensive plan and the zoning laws that were established to achieve the goals of these plans. 

Ginsberg needs to go back to the drawing board can come back with a plan that does not need a half dozen variances, two government grants and some creative definitional footwork. 

We, the neighbors of the project and county taxpayers more generally, want to see the comprehensive plans of the towns enacted and enforced by existing zoning laws without excessive variances and creative definitions. We do not want to see crony capitalism and government corruption. 

This project, as currently proposed, is precisely what the comprehensive plans of the towns and zoning laws are meant to prevent. This project serves none of the goals of the comprehensive plan. This project should not be publicly financed. In fact, as proposed, it should not be authorized by the planning and zoning boards of Claverack and Ghent.

No comments:

Post a Comment