- Lakeville Journal
- Millerton News
- Winsted Journal
- Compass A&E
- TriCorner Real Estate
Letters to the Editor - August 2
Letters to the Editor - The Millerton News
Concerns about the Lehman application before the ZBA
As you read through the Brooke Lehman special permit application, questions and concerns arise. The application mentions dormitories, staff housing and meals provided on site, groups of people being transported primarily by vans, and participants staying for multiple-day retreats (initially up to 30 people with the anticipation of “expanding capacity to 60 overnight participants”).
The statement on page nine that begins “We do not plan any new construction for the first phase” begs the question: “How many phases are there going to be?” As we have heard in the public hearings, all of Ms. Lehman’s intentions have not been revealed.
The $1.5 million property for which Ms. Lehman is currently under contract to purchase, pending the ZBA’s approval, is being promoted to our community as a farm. However, as admitted by the applicant herself in the past two public hearings, farming is, at most, 10 percent of what will actually take place on this property.
We live in a quiet agricultural community, and the introduction of a transient population raises several concerns. There will be an increase in the noise level; there will be an increase in traffic (both vehicular and foot); and there will be a decrease in our families’ quality of life, property values and safety. We must know now how the project’s increased septic requirements will impact this stable and pristine environment. What will be the effect of the increased sewage and water use on the property’s brook, pond, fields, wetlands and wildlife?
Sol Flower Farm’s operations will add an even greater traffic and noise burden with its restaurant/farmers markets supply business, its events and its Community Sponsored Agriculture pickups and deliveries. This corner of North East will be forever changed.
From what I have witnessed at the hearings, there is support for this project from a few North East residents and those who will benefit from the sale of this property. All of these individuals will not live here, nor will the people coming to the retreat and/or running the educational center.
Just like all residents of the town of North East, I want to be able to put my head on my pillow at night and not worry about 30 strangers living only yards from my house, and three days later, 30 more and then 30 more — this will continue for the remainder of my existence in my home.
Logically speaking, if all residents who “live” with direct exposure to this business operation have solid objections to the special use permit, then it is obviously not a good fit for the neighborhood.
I encourage all residents to look closely at the application for this special permit, because if it does pass, it will set a precedent that, with only 10 acres, “education centers” could be built throughout our neighborhoods, and we don’t know how that will affect the future of all of us.
Brian R. Watkins, President
Oblong Valley Neighbors Association
What’s behind the strong comments about Michaud?
For over two years Pamela Michaud has fought for the best interests of the village of Millerton and town of North East. Pam has spent money our household couldn’t afford on printing costs to provide information to people who often didn’t read it. She recently carried a petition around on some of the hottest days of the year.
Pam has no political ambition and seeks no monetary gain. She spends countless hours researching, writing, petitioning, attending meetings and speaking out strictly for the village’s and town’s welfare.
I was stunned by the snide, vicious attack on Pam in last week’s Millerton News by someone from Pine Plains. What could have motivated it? The answer was not hard to find. The letter’s author, Scott Chase, former Pine Plains supervisor and professional planner, is also the former executive director of the Dutchess County Water and Wastewater Authority (DCWWA). Pam recently presented information to the North East Town Board on this entity and its declared intention to assist Dutchess County municipalities in obtaining water and sewer systems which would among other things support affordable housing.
Mr. Chase has also served as Dutchess County interim environmental coordinator, with close ties to the Dutchess County Department of Planning and Development, home of the Greenway Centers and Greenspaces program Pam has been exposing as part of Agenda 21.
Mr. Chase sarcastically focused on nonthreatening sounding concepts like municipal cooperation (which would actually be fine if it wasn’t being used as a stepping stone to regionalization and loss of home rule). He completely ignored the fact that Pam has provided evidence proving Northern Dutchess Alliance’s Community Mapping survey information will go into a law enforcement surveillance database.
It’s funny that Mr. Chase held up NDA partner, the town of Red Hook, as a benign entity that couldn’t possibly be involved in pursuing U.N. goals — Red Hook is one of the few area towns that has actually formally signed on with United Nations’ ICLEI, formerly the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives and now known as Local Governments for Sustainability.
A coalition of self-interested businessmen, affordable housing advocates and their friends at the county level have been trying like heck to force an expensive and unnecessary sewer system on the village and town.
Last month a presentation on sewers to the Town Board was canceled only because there turned out to be insufficient matching funds. At a recent Village Board meeting Pam and I attended, board member Jay Reynolds stated we need a whole new water system and recommended the Village Board have the DCWWA (Mr. Chase’s former organization) give a presentation.
People who don’t believe that at least some of those pushing sustainable development are working against U.S. sovereignty toward ultimate U.N. control should consider that sustainable development advocate Brooke Lehman is also an anti-capitalist who seeks the end of nation-states and the free enterprise system, and that her associate, Gregg Osofsky, attends forums in Africa sponsored by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).
Wake up people.
More than farm education planned by Watershed group
Ms. Lehman’s special permit application states that her Watershed Center is to be a “farm-based educational center,” and that “many of the retreat participants are residents of New York City.” I find it interesting that New York City, the financial center of the United States, is the source of so many people (multiple retreats of up to 30 attendees at a time with a projected 60) interested in farm-based education.
In fact, “farm-based” topics appear only as the bottom three of 13 courses offered by the Watershed Center (thewatershedcenter.org). High on the list are courses on organizational development, sustainable community design, civic engagement and transformational leadership. At the bottom of the list are organic farming, fermentation and cheese-making, and the economics of farming.
At the July 19 meeting, these and other inconsistencies led me to suggest to the Zoning Board of Appeals that its members research Ms. Lehman’s non-farm related activities in order to understand the full scope of her interests. If they use the Internet, as I did, readers of this newspaper can decide for themselves if the agricultural component of Ms. Lehman’s project is mere window-dressing, at best.
On March 17 and 18, Ms. Lehman was the facilitator of one of six sessions sponsored by the Institute for Anarchist Studies (www.anarchiststudies.org) called Occupying from Below: Resist, Reflect, Re-Create. Its biographical description for Ms. Lehman states “Brooke Lehman is a faculty member at the Institute for Social Ecology (www.social-ecology.org) and a longtime activist. She is on the board of Smartmeme (www.smartmeme.org), the Brecht Forum (www.brechtforum.org) and Yansa (www.yansa.org), and spends most of her time organizing with Occupy Wall Street (www.occupywallst.org).”
So one must ask: With the consistent thrust of Ms. Lehman’s life centered on activism, don’t all indications point to the Watershed Center following suit?
I wondered why a website developer (Mr. Gregg Osofsky) would be involved in a “farm-based educational center.” Then I found via one of Occupy Wall Street’s subsidiary websites (www.occupyeducated.org) that OWS is looking for “Web developers.” On Mr. Osofsky’s website (www.rexoom.com), I saw the Web design for the Institute for Social Ecology. The ninth topic listed on the Watershed Center’s What We Do page is community media and Web design.
These are just a few of the connections that raise questions about the underlying purpose of this “farm-based educational center.” Although it is not the usual responsibility of the ZBA, it seems that the taxpayers of North East must rely on their zoning officials to determine the difference between a “farm-based educational center” and a Trojan horse.
Mary De Pasquale
Watershed Center doesn’t offer much background on its application
I am a property owner in North East and am responding to the article “Watershed Center raises concerns” and the related editorial, “Keeping focus on the issues at hand.” Any focus on the Watershed Center is difficult since little can be learned about the Watershed Center on the Zoning Board of Appeals application or on Watershed’s website other than that they are a watershed of euphemisms whose meanings are open to broad interpretation. While the special permit application was submitted by the Watershed Center, the applicant named on the application is Brooke Lehman, so it is entirely understandable that people should be talking about her.
From your article I learned nothing about Brooke Lehman the applicant, but only about her father and her great-great-grandfather. Fortunately there is a trove of information on the Web, and I recommend searching there.
As far as I know, the ZBA is not being asked to consider “vision” in its “business at hand.” They should, however, consider very deliberately the wording in this application. Does it adequately describe the activities of the Watershed Center? For instance, “transformational leadership” and “civic engagement” mean more to some people than we could possibly imagine. There will be no recourse in the future if we do not have a thorough understanding of the Watershed Center’s underlying meanings. This is a critical point and properly part of the ZBA’s duties.
The fact that Thomas Lyons of the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation has taken an interest in us was a surprise. This is the same NYS office that has been trying to close the Rudd Pond campground for as long as anyone can remember, the same NYS office whose neglect caused the extraordinary and historic blast furnace on Shagroy Road to disintegrate into ruins. Why the sudden concern for our welfare? Are we to believe Mr. Lyons really thinks dormitories (Watershed’s own description) housing 60 people cycled in and out of the development by van is a more compatible use than the existing farm? Or, did Mr. Lyons produce his letter of support primarily as a favor to the daughter of a previous director of the office of parks?
If nothing else, the responsibilities of a Zoning Board of Appeals pertain to property rights. Thus, I was disappointed that a taxpayer speaking at our ZBA meeting was prevented from quoting Brooke Lehman on property rights: “I personally am not against property destruction. I don’t consider it a violent action. I consider it often a stupid action but not a violent one.” (Quote from Salon Magazine article.) This is pertinent to North East and its property owners.
We should be asking many more questions and not accepting what may be a sugar-coated narrative at face value. There is a story here that needs to be told.
North East and Malvern, Penn.
Many folks helped with carnival
In early July, the Amenia Fire Company sponsored its 86th annual Carnival and Parade, one of our most important fundraisers of the year. The entire operation could not happen if it were not for the generous help from our neighbors and businesses.
At this time we would like to extend our thanks to the following for their help (and apologize to anyone we may have missed): Rocky Ducillo; Judge Manning; The Brookside Restaurant; the town of Amenia; the membership of Wassaic Fire Company and Rescue Squad; Millerton Fire Company Rescue Squad; J.H. Ketcham Hose Company; Sharon Fire Department; Norman Moore; and everyone who helped work the carnival.
The food booth appreciates the help of Randy Christiansen, Alan Carroll and Tom “Tucker” Dahoney for their help on parade night. We also thank Paraco Gas for its donation and installation of the propane and to Jason Whaley and Brian Whalen for the use of their vehicles for the parade. Special thanks also to Sears of Dover, Marty Conklin’s Garage and to Peggy and Kieran McEnroe for donating toward our raffle. We also want to thank the Amenia Hometowner; The Millerton News; Poughkeepsie Journal and WHDD for great press coverage. We also appreciate the assistance of Maureen Rooney for our signs; Jim Devine for the loudspeakers; Dave Gamache for announcing the parade; and Jack’s Auto Service for lending us its flatbed for our reviewing stand.
Finally, we thank all of the fire departments and organizations for marching in our parade and to the Town Board, dignitaries and county officials who made up the reviewing stand. Also, to the townspeople for their cooperation and for coming out for four nights to attend our special event. Thanks again to all.
Andy Murphy, on behalf of
The Amenia Fire Company and Auxiliary
Brooke Lehman’s political views are relevant
It has been asserted that Brooke Lehman’s political views are irrelevant to her application for a special use permit for an educational center in North East. Last week’s Millerton News editorial absurdly described Lehman’s extremist views as merely being liberal. It also brushed off opposition to Lehman as being a knee-jerk partisan response. Nothing could be further from the truth.
According to my research, Lehman is a Marxist anarchist. She has spent her adult life in the radical protest movement and I believe she is committed to ending capitalism and United States sovereignty. Ms. Lehman has been a member of The Institute for Anarchist Studies (board member), Institute for Social Ecology (an anarchist school), Brecht Forum (board member) and was owner of Bluestockings radical bookstore. Lehman was quoted on the progressive website Salon.com in 1999 as saying she was not against property damage, and didn’t consider it to be violence (www.salon.com/writer/la_kauffman/). She was part of the protest movement that uses black bloc tactics. Look it up.
Ms. Lehman was described by The Progressive online as “a central figure in the anti-corporate globalization movement a decade ago.” (Lehman’s Direct Action Network helped organize the 1999 World Trade Organization protests.) The May 2012 article quotes her as saying, “Compared to a year ago, the level of activity is amazing today. There is a whole new generation of high school and college students being radicalized.” (http://www.progressive.org/occupy_wall_street_just_getting_going.html).
Lehman’s supporters are framing this as a free speech issue. No one is trying to deny Ms. Lehman’s right to free speech. She has free speech, otherwise she wouldn’t be able to go around advocating the overthrow of our government and condoning property damage. What she should not have is automatic entitlement to special permission for a use the property in question is not zoned for, especially because a compelling case can be made that she is deceiving the town regarding her actual plans for the center.
Ms. Lehman says farming is difficult and she won’t be doing it herself. So how will this high-powered activist be spending her time? Her proposal includes organizational, strategic and leadership training in addition to farm education. Over 1,000 people could eventually come to the center every year. How many will be hardcore radicals? What will they really be learning? Will their activities negatively impact our town?
Some within the group I have been fighting for over two years, who are now championing Ms. Lehman, are showing their true colors in supporting a radical Marxist. The Millerton News editorial ironically asks whether those opposing Ms. Lehman believe in free enterprise. Would that be the free enterprise Ms. Lehman works tirelessly to destroy? Whoever wrote the editorial should stop making assumptions about my or anyone else’s political views and stop projecting their left/right paradigm on others. Additionally, I’m sick of hearing that because I don’t agree with you I’m afraid of change. I’m not afraid of change. I just don’t like the kind of change you’re selling.
Support Watershed Center
The Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) of the town of North East is holding hearings on a special permit for an educational center on a 73-acre parcel of land, abutting Taconic State Park, on Kaye Road (as reported in The Millerton News, July 26).
We would like to encourage our neighbors to support the application of the Watershed Center for this permit. It’s hard to imagine a better use of the land than as an “educational center for sustainable living,” which would include an organic farm. Unlike other possible uses, the center would be environmentally friendly. It would be quiet, would not produce dust or dirt and would preserve the open space and landscape which are such valuable assets to our community. Even a residential subdivision, with its multiple driveways, might well disrupt traffic more than a single center, would be more destructive to open space, and also, most likely, would create more demand for educational and other governmental services.
According to The News, the project already has received the support of at least one relevant agency. A letter from the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation is said to describe the project as “perfect,” and “enthusiastically supports this.” Furthermore, Jenny Hansell, the executive director of the North East Community Center, which does so many good things in our town, including running the very popular Millerton Farmers Market, has expressed her support, anticipating that continuation of agricultural use of the land by a nonprofit organization would lead to a “fantastic” partnership between the center and the Farmers Market.
All of these factors suggest that the Watershed Center should be granted a permit and welcomed into our community.
We would like to end this letter with special thanks to Julie Schroeder, the long-serving chairwoman of the ZBA, and a true town treasure, for steadfastly refusing to allow the “assumed ideology” of the center, and the political ideas and philosophy of the applicants, to play any part in the decision which the board will make. To do otherwise not only would set a very bad precedent, but it clearly would be unconstitutional as well. Her good judgment is a boon to our community.
Cavin and Diane Leeman