Letters to the Editor - The Millerton News - 10-21-21
Voters, be aware of Silo Ridge’s ties to Amenia Strong candidates Nov. 2
As I’ve been speaking to folks in Amenia, I am struck by how few people are aware of the efforts by our neighbors at the luxury housing development Silo Ridge to lower their taxes.
To accomplish this, they have been suing the Town and are now supporting a slate of candidates to gain control of our Town Board. This should concern every resident.
In 2019, Silo threatened a lawsuit and negotiated a nearly $1 million decrease in their total assessed value.
Since then, 60 of its homes have been completed and purchased, with sales prices recorded. Thus assessments on these multimillion dollar units were based largely on fair market value.
Not happy with that huge reduction, this year 87 separate lawsuits were filed (one by Silo and signed by town supervisor Amenia Strong candidate Julie Doran, the others by Silo owners). They are requesting up to 90% lower tax values than assessed.
The Town has spent nearly $150,000 of much-needed taxpayer funds to fight these lawsuits.
In case they can’t win through the courts, Silo is trying to take over the Town Board by running their own “Amenia Strong” candidates: Julie Doran (full-time employee at Silo), Jamie Vitiello (owner of one of the luxury homes in Silo) and Brad Rebillard (husband of Silo’s public relations person).
This effort is backed by a lot of money, an aggressive PR campaign, a new newspaper, a new charity and many road signs.
A refusal by Silo residents to pay the same taxes as every other Amenian seems to me grossly unfair.
I volunteer weekly at St. Thomas’ food pantry and know how many families depend on it to survive. They pay property taxes too, but don’t have the time or money needed to sue and get them lowered. A decrease would help them enormously, but means nothing to the very wealthy residents of a luxury resort.
I have also been working for two years on affordable housing and wastewater issues for the town, so it pains me that both needs remain unfulfilled.
Although the developer had once promised to provide one or both (the zoning code required 25 worker units), neither has been built. Those essential projects and a predicted huge bump in tax revenue were much of the reason Silo was welcomed into our valley.
In an ideal world, both the Town and Silo Ridge would be communicating and supporting each other. It is certainly in Amenia’s best interest to have a successful resort paying needed taxes, and in Silo’s to have a thriving downtown and happy community.
We have to change our sour and non-productive stand-off, as it damages both. But turning over the Town Government to the Amenia Strong candidates is not the answer.
Please consider all that when you cast your vote on Nov. 2nd.
Amenia Town Board candidate
The Amenia Town Hall is a beautiful Town Hall
The Amenia Town Hall is a treasure for many reasons. For one thing, it sits in a prominent location and gives the town dignity and charm. It confidently welcomes those citizens who utilize its governance, its judicial system, its archives and its varied community activities (activities before COVID, that is).
Once known as “Cook’s Hill,” that particular place of prominence was chosen as the site for the Amenia Seminary, the first co-ed boarding school in the region, in 1835. Attracting students from across the country, this popular academy put Amenia on the map. It prepared hundreds of young people for positions of leadership in many professions. In 1888, when public high schools began appearing on the scene, the Seminary closed its doors.
The first Amenia High School was a wood frame building situated across the road from the Presbyterian Church. When it was falling into disrepair in 1929, a grand brick edifice was constructed on the Seminary hill. The Amenia School contained all grades, K through 12, until the Webutuck High School was built in 1957. The brick building continued to be used as an elementary school through 2007. For a few years, the empty building was a concern for the town.
When the Town of Amenia acquired the brick school building from the Webutuck School District and transformed it into a local government building, the idea of a multi-purpose Town Hall was well-received by the townsfolk. Leaving the cramped quarters at the Amenia firehouse was long overdue and moving into the spacious school was an exciting prospect.
It was understood that there would be major expenses involved in refurbishing the building, but saving the beautiful structure and having a place that could meet the needs of the town government made the endeavor worthwhile.
One community organization which has benefitted from being located in the new Town Hall is the Amenia Historical Society. Before AHS acquired a room in the building, the society had never been in a location where it could securely house its archives and make them available to the public. Having a room in the Town Hall has also made it possible for the historical society to welcome visitors and to have historical items on display.
The Amenia Historical Society is grateful to the Town Board and to town Supervisor Victoria Perotti for providing a secure place for the preservation of Amenia’s history. Consequently, it is in the Town’s best interest to preserve the Town Hall as a Town Hall.
Amenia Historical Society
Vote for Democrat Claire Owens as Dutchess County Legislator (D-19)
I write in support of Claire Owens for District 19 County Legislator. Claire, a 13-year Millerton resident, has energy, idealism and commitment to the community. This District needs a representative who has greater concern for the needs of the people of this district than does our current representative, Gregg Pulver.
As Chairman of the Republican-majority Dutchess County Legislature, Gregg Pulver supported approval of $12.5 million of the $57 million federal money awarded to Dutchess County under the American Rescue Plan (“ARP”) for upgrades for a luxury clubhouse and other facilities at the Dutchess Stadium.
ARP money was intended for frontline workers, small businesses and essential infrastructure needs like water, sewers and broadband, focused particularly on low-income communities. Improvements to the Dutchess Stadium may be nice — but hardly as important as the critical issues that the ARP was designed to address. And not, I think, worth 20% of the county’s ARP money.
As Claire has stated, “In running for County Legislature, my main goal is to ensure our towns get the attention and resources we sorely deserve and need in this unique time.”
It is that attitude that we need in a legislator. Claire’s warm personality will help her work with Republicans to accomplish important goals for all of us. As she has said, “The issues we face are not partisan issues, they are community issues.”
Claire Owens for County Legislator!
Hostile audience didn’t serve voters
I attended the Meet the Candidates event last Wednesday evening, Oct. 6, at the Webutuck High School for Amenia’s candidates for Town Board and town supervisor.
What troubled me most was the audience’s lack of respect when listening to some of the candidates as they spoke.
While freedom of speech is a right of our citizenry, a lack of manners and the use of unkind language only exacerbates the political divide in our nation. Also evident and quite palpable at the event was the animosity shown by some of the candidates for, not only Silo Ridge, but also for the residents who have chosen to live there.
Ms. Lee described Silo Ridge residents as people “who have more money than God.” (God must have raised an eyebrow at this comment.) This reflects her bias against people who happen to have the good fortune of being able to afford to live there. They may have, indeed, worked very hard in order to reap this benefit. Those of us familiar with scripture will remember the phrase — “The poor will be with you always.” So, I believe, the same can be said of the rich.
In listening to the candidates, the one who struck me as having an open mind as well as a forthright quality of character was Brad Rebillard. He exhibited no hostility, only a willingness to serve and work with others in order to make the best possible decisions for the town and its residents. I found this refreshing and commendable. He will have my vote.
Amenia meets goals of new Town Highway Garage
Our goal of identifying land for a new Town Highway Garage was met when 5 acres of DEC land costing $7,000 was transferred to the Town of Amenia by working with multiple state agencies.
Furthermore, an RFP (Request for Proposals) for Highway Garage Engineering Services prepared by the town grant writer was advertised in newspapers and in Empire BidNet.
As a result, 11 Highway Garage Engineering bids were received as follows: Wendel Engineering; Delaware Engineering; La Rocca Greene Architects; Lamont Engineering; Bergmann Engineering; C&S Companies; Battaglia Lanza Architects; McGoey, Hauser, Edsall Engineers; Lothrop Associates; Chazen/LaBella Associates.
Finally, the Amenia Town Board approved a Resolution to hire Crawford and Associates, who has experience designing Highway Garages. They will review and score the bids according to RFP bid criteria and cost so that the Town Board can make an informed decision choosing the right bid to start planning the Highway Garage and Salt Shed.
Amenia Town Supervisor
Join me in voting for Leo Blackman
I first got to know Leo in 2018, when we served as members of Amenia’s Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA). He was thoughtful, fair and attended every meeting. His questions were smart and relevant. Plus he brought a welcome sense of humor to the sessions. (More about that later.)
He resigned from the ZBA to join the Planning Board. But soon enough, we were working together again on important issues facing our town: First on the Tri-Town Coalition where Leo spearheaded efforts to get affordable housing built in Wassaic and Amenia and then on the Wastewater Committee. As chairman of that group I counted on Leo to help plan the steps to the installation of a sewer in the hamlet of Amenia. Thanks in large part to his tireless efforts, the committee meets this week with our engineer to start work on a feasibility study for a wastewater treatment system.
Leo loves Amenia and has worked hard for many years to make it a better place to live and work. I think he would be an effective member of the Town Board, because of what he has learned through his extensive volunteer work. As someone who has served with him on several committees I know he is very good at collaborating to accomplish shared goals.
I referred earlier to his sense of humor. At the candidates’ forum and then on Facebook Leo was criticized for a “joke” he made during a Housing Board meeting several months ago. He has apologized for this dumb, insensitive remark and has asked that his making it be judged in the context of his report at that meeting. I respectfully ask that you consider it in the context of all that he has contributed in years of volunteering in our town. Consider it also in the context of his working for all us as a dedicated, imaginative, energetic Town Board member.
Co-Warden, St. Thomas Episcopal Church
Amenia Union (resident since 1984)
Vote Griffin Cooper for North East councilman
I have worked alongside Griffin, us both being recent members of the Millerton/North East Climate Smart Community Task Force.
He is continually willing to volunteer and always brings his “A” game.
I am also witness to the work he contributes to Main Street Magazine, and in addition, the generosity he offers to the community at large.
I wholeheartedly offer my support for Griffin Cooper to be a member of the North East Town Board.
Christopher P. Virtuoso
A transparent Amenia Town Board needed
The “Meet the Candidates” event sponsored by The Millerton News and moderated by The League of Women Voters at Webutuck High School provided an invaluable service to voters in Amenia.
Unlike the National level, where TV talk shows, big-time opinion leaders and a barrage of ads do their best to shape our vote, Town politics is terrifically personal. To get past the jumble of wordsmithed bullet points on mailers, one needs to hear from the horse’s mouth. Many thanks to the candidates. Not only are they stepping forward to offer their time on behalf of the community, but also to stand in the spotlight and face public criticism.
I was glad to hear the Republican candidates; Victoria Perotti, James Morris and Brad Rebillard expressed real knowledge of the town, conviction in the benefits of small, but effective government and a desire to finally solve the single biggest impediment to sustainable growth… a sewer system in the center of Amenia. Kudos to the many volunteers who, over several decades, have participated on the Sewer Committee. Now, due to renewed interest in rural town life, the success of Silo Ridge and The Wassaic Project, my bet is that good communication and capable consultants will get the project off the ground, not the empty promises of politicians.
Finally: special interests work hard to make things go their way… and it’s the job of our elected and appointed representatives on the Town and Planning Boards and the Zoning Board of Appeals to weigh the costs and benefits of their decisions to the whole community.
In a small town the intersection of special interests is considerable… we’re all invested one way or another. So it’s critical that we have both transparent and inclusive or “balanced” representation in Town Government.
A Silo Ridge-backed “Amenia Strong” slate meets neither criterion. Amenia should stick to the wide path of diverse interests and opinions on the Town Board and we were fortunate to hear some of those on Wednesday night, Oct. 6.
Support Meg Winkler for Town Board
Anyone who frequents the Millerton Farmers Market knows Meg Winkler. Perhaps not by name, but by her familiar face that they recognize on a weekly basis.
She is known for her dedication to helping people participate in democracy. A true patriot, she honors our right to vote. She registers people to vote and informs them of how, where and when.
Regardless of party affiliation, Meg believes that democracy works best when people are engaged in the process. Her dedication is admirable.
Putting people above party is important. No two voters are alike or follow a predetermined path. Most want to vote their conscience.
Meg is an “outside the box” thinker. She is running as an independent candidate for a seat on the Town Board in the Town of North East.
Meg truly cares about the individual. She has helped me run a registration drive several years ago in Wassaic. I am proud to know her. I fully endorse Meg Winkler for North East Town Board.
Candidate for Town Board
County comptroller is a vital public office
Recently I was fortunate enough to hear County Comptroller Robin Lois speak to an audience. Not only was it interesting, but I realized the elected office might be sometimes overlooked. I under appreciated just what the comptroller does.
I think the office and title may be over-shadowed by others in the limelight, but I learned it might be the most important one of all to Dutchess County taxpayers.
The county comptroller heads up a department at the county, who essentially monitors and assesses all spending, contracts and audits done by the county.
This is an office that needs a competent professional as leader, and staff, and literally works on our behalf to make sure policies, audits and fiscal responsibilities are all carried out to a high standard.
I believe, no matter who is in the executive seat, or the Legislature, the comptroller is our representative, and represents the best interests of taxpayers who contribute the many millions of dollars needed in funding.
This is a truly a balanced government operation, helping ALL residents.
Robin Lois has now served a term in this office, after many years as a small business owner, and an employee of international corporations. She has deep experience in accounting and finance.
She brings this to our County, and while there, she has already expanded the office to not only better serve us, but to make it transparent. Anyone can access online a lot of information showing just what the office does. Anyone can easily contact her office, or contribute suggestions.
Above all of the experience and skills that she brings to this role, she also cares about her job, and the county residents she works for, and watches out for every one of our dollars spent by the County.
This is truly public service.
If you did not know much about this elected office, I hope this brings more attention, and if you care about your money, and who gets elected, Robin Lois is seeking re-election in November, so please consider voting for her.