Rural businesses: Cluster and prosper

Julia Reischel in the Watershed Post:

National rural-issues website The Daily Yonder ran an article yesterday exhorting rural businesses to form “clusters” if they want to thrive. The thrust of the story is counter-intuitive — the author, Stuart Rosenfeld, argues that rather than competing for customers, similar small businesses operating near each other seem to attract more business for all. He cites Vermont’s booming sustainable agriculture economy as an example:

Though the second smallest state in population, Vermont stands head and shoulders above every other state based on its per capita concentrations of local farms, CSAs (community supported agriculture), organic farms, and farmers markets. This is important because groups of related businesses — clusters — are now thought to be essential for economic growth. Businesses are more efficient when they are clustered. Workers generally earn more. Related business clusters can feed off each other.

The last section of the article has tips for how to build a cluster. Food for thought for the Catskills, perhaps?

Agriculture is no longer just crops and animals in Vermont. Except for the largest dairy farms, economic survival and growth depend on rural families finding ways to supplement their income from the food they produce though other innovative market opportunities. They may offer weekend farm stays, start catering services, process their own foods, direct sales to local markets, create artisan products and brands or produce renewable energy by selling biomass, wind power, or operating methane digesters.

Read the entire story at Watershed Post.

Greene gains, Columbia barely loses population

Marist College’s Bureau of Economic Research just released an “Economic Report of the Hudson Valley.” Some interesting facts: “During the two-year period ending in 2008, total migration into and out of Columbia County resulted in a net loss of 31 households and a $27.12 million increase in adjusted gross income (AGI)” and during that same time, “total migration into and out of Greene County resulted in a net gain of 247 households and $15.50 million in adjusted gross income (AGI).” Ulster and Sullivan were the only other Mid-Hudson counties with population gains from 2006-2008. H/T The Daily Freeman.

Taghkanic tales

Sam Pratt‘s blog reprints a press release from Tivoli resident Ardith Truhan (a co-founder of the local community group Taghkanic Neighbors), and, as Pratt points out, it is a story so far unreported. An excerpt of the press release follows, take it for what it is worth:

A former Taghkanic resident has charged the town with arbitrarily and selectively penalizing her and her husband as a result of poor record keeping by the town’s previous building inspector and a politically motivated vendetta in connection with their outspoken opposition to the illegal motorcycle racetrack another resident has attempted to build in the town. Ardith Truhan read a letter at the town’s monthly board meeting Monday night accusing town officials of selectively enforcing a little-used building ordinance that requires all residents to have certificates of occupancy (C of Os) for residential buildings constructed on their property. She added that the town board was “fully apprised of all these events from the start,” and that it met in an improper and illegal executive session last fall—some 13 years after they completed construction on three buildings at their County Rte. 11 property—to determine what she and her husband John Markus owed the town, in “what amounts to an arbitrary $3,500.” Truhan said the board’s “complicity” in the attempt to penalize her and Markus “is quite evident.” At the core of the complaint against them, according to Truhan, was an investigation begun by unsuccessful 2009 town council candidate Erik Tyree, who is an employee of controversial racetrack builder Alan Wilzig. Truhan and Markus have been vocal opponents of Wilzig’s racetrack plan. Tyree, according to Truhan, investigated the paperwork associated with construction of their home, studio and garage apartment, and discovered that former building inspector Ed Waldron had not issued C of Os when the projects were completed in 1996. Tyree then set the town’s current building inspector and code enforcement officer Dennis Callahan on the trail with a formal letter of complaint in 2007, suggesting that Markus and Truhan owed the town $800,000 in fines because of the absence of the C of Os on the buildings. Acting on Tyree’s complaint, Callahan sent Truhan and Markus notices of violation. After consulting with Town Attorney Rob Fitzsimmons, however, Callahan then advised the couple that they could pay “fees” adding up to $10,800 to retroactively renew their building permits for each of the intervening years since construction was completed in order to qualify for the suddenly necessary C of Os. The couple challenged that ruling, and ultimately paid the town a settlement of $3,500 to resolve the matter. Read the entire press release and story at Sam Pratt.

Speedway owner sues town over camping

From From Gail Heinsohn in The Columbia Paper:

As he stated he would at the April 5 town board meeting, Lebanon Valley Speedway owner Howard Commander has filed suit against town officials, seeking a state Supreme Court determination as to whether the campers parked on his property trigger state requirements for a campground. The effect of the lawsuit, according to town Zoning Enforcement Officer Stan Koloski, is to stay the town’s efforts to enforce zoning restrictions that the Zoning Board of Appeals believes apply to camping at the racetrack. Read the entire story in The Columbia Paper.

Cairo voters approve new library

Cairo voters today approved a bond to finance a new library for the town, 53 to 47 percent. Totals: 283 yes, 248 no, 531 total voting. The vote at Resurrection Lutheran Church today determined Cairo will build a new library. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has offered the town a $3.07 million low-interest loan (4.25 percent) and a $200,000 grant with a local share match of about $100,000. The vote is for a bond for the loan. Cairo Library Executive Director Debra Kamecke is on the WGXC Radio Council.

Cairo voting now on library bond

Voters today deciding if Cairo gets a new library.

Voters in Cairo today are turning out to Resurrection Lutheran Church until 9 p.m. to determine whether Cairo will build a new library. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has offered the town a $3.07 million low-interest loan (4.25 percent) and, if the town accepts the loan, a $200,000 grant with a local share match of about $100,000. The vote is for a bond for the loan. Cairo Library Executive Director Debra Kamecke is on the WGXC Radio Council.

Historic Hudson

211 Union St., Hudson from The Gossips of Rivertown.

Carole Osterink continues her tour of properties in Hudson owned by Eric Galloway, whose group the Lantern Organization was proposing developing a building with “permanent supportive housing” for the mentally disabled, the homeless, and those with substance abuse problems on the corner of Warren and Fifth Sts. in Hudson. Read about the empty lot at the corner of Fourth and Columbia Sts., 345 Allen St., and 620-624 State St., but the post about 211 Union St. is the most interesting so far:

This is 211 Union Street, the birthplace of Hudson’s most illustrious native son: General William Jenkins Worth. (How many people have three cities, a lake, a village, and a county named after them?) It’s surprising that such a significant Hudson landmark is in private hands, but it is. It’s owned by the Galvan Group–named for Eric Galloway and his partner, Henry van Ameringen. William Jenkins Worth was born in this house on March 1, 1794–just a decade after Hudson was founded. His father was Thomas Worth, one of the original Proprietors, and his mother was Abigail Jenkins. Read the entire article in The Gossips of Rivertown.

PS/21 seeks to make tent permanent

Fran Heaney of the Chatham Courier reports that PS/21 requested Special Use Permit for permanent use of their temporary tent at a Jan. 28 Zoning Board of Appeals meeting, as they do not have the $11 million needed to construct a sound proof structure. Located on Route 66, the cultural center has hosted classical music and other events since 2005 at a 50 decibel sound level at the property line, well below the town building code sound level of 90 decibels, and much quieter than the lawnmowers run by the neighbors who are complaining about the sound. Those neighbors filed an Article 78 lawsuit against Chatham after the town approved PS/21’s plans in 2005, and a judge dismissed it later that year. The ZBA meets next Thursday, Feb. 25 for another public hearing about PS/21’s Special Use Permit.

UPDATE: The comments now include two anonymous statements from people claiming to be neighbors of the facility that include information not in the Chatham Courier story, specifically: “When the ability to rent to third parties was granted in 2008 to aid the financially failing tent, the project completely changed in focus. There is nothing arts focused about the electric slide and chicken dance.”

Taghkanic board votes for mine moratorium

Molly Salisbury in The Register-Star reports the Taghkanic Town Board last night voted to set the process in motion to enact a six-month moratorium on any new gravel mine permit applications in areas zoned R-2 and R-3. The moratorium, which will only take effect after a public hearing March 1, comes largely because of the the Berry Pond LLC gravel mine application. The Taghkanic Zoning ordinance contains a discrepancy regarding the code’s stance on mining in Residential 2 and 3 acre zones, although Salisbury does cite it specifically. The Berry Pond mine application being reviewed by Taghkanic’s Zoning Board of Appeals is asking for a special permit to mine in an area zoned R-2, and, if the moratorium survives the public hearing, would be delayed six months. “The March 1 date [for the public hearing] is tentative, as the availability of the firehouse is in question, and the hearing will need the larger space,” Salisbury wrote, failing to name the firehouse in question.

Maggio moves on from Cairo to Coxsackie, but Cairo has other plans

Cairo’s old development suitor, Charles Maggio, has moved his plans up the road from Cairo to Coxsackie, The Daily Mail reports. But Cairo may now have a second supermarket on the site where Maggio’s Alden Terrace project would have been, according to The Greenville Press (no web site). Susan Campriello’s Daily Mail story outlines the timeline: In 2007, Maggio proposed a mixed use development, called Alden Terrace, to be built in Cairo but the town’s sewer system could not accommodate the project. An Article 78 lawsuit was filed by taxpayer and community groups in Cairo against Maggio and the town alleging failure to properly conduct state Environmental Quality Review and public hearing procedures, and other residents in Cairo opposed it for other reasons, and the project was widely reported as “controversial.” Greene County Judge George J. Pulver Jr. dismissed much of the lawsuit in March 2009, but recently allowed part of the suit, a position the town is currently challenging. In May 2009, Maggio withdrew his site plan from the Cairo Planning Board. Now Maggio proposes a $50-million mixed commercial use and residential development for Route 9W in Coxsackie called Woods Farm. “Senior units will be reserved for individuals older than 55, he said, and market between $750 to $850 per month for a one-bedroom home and $950 to $1,050 per month for a two-bedroom unit,” The Daily Mail reports. Meanwhile, back on the Alden Terrace site in Cairo, behind the two banks that can be seen as you enter Cairo from the east on Route 23, a new Hannaford or Price Chopper supermarket might soon stand, The Greenville Press is reporting. “Charter Realty and Development Corp… and Creighton Manning Engineering LLP have prepared a two-phase plan that is set to start with a 36,000-square-foot market,” The Greenville Press reports. The second phase would be a strip mall with chain restaurants and retail. Workforce housing and subsidized housing were part of Alden Terrace but are absent from both the Woods Farm and new Cairo development proposals. Maggio made the announcement at the Coxsackie Chamber of Commerce dinner at the Quarry Steak House, and the plan was immediately championed by the likes of Sandy Mathes, executive director of the Greene County Industrial Development Agency.

Durham motocross may roll

We always complain that The Greenville Press lacks a web site, since the reporting is high-quality. In this week’s issue editor Linda L. Fenoff reports that Supreme Court Judge Joseph Teresi gave a declaratory judgment, saying that the Town of Durham board has discretion to apply its codes. A ruling is expected in “a few weeks” on whether a State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) review should be conducted for the Handel family’s Blackthorne Resort plan to reintroduce motorized racing to the site.

Ghent planning board to unveil plans for Price Chopper store

The public can view the plans for a proposed Price Chopper store on Rt. 66 in the Town of Ghent at the Ghent Planning Board’s next regular meeting on February 3 at 7 p.m., according to an article in ccScoop by Mike McCagg. The 43,000 square-foot store, on land adjoining the existing Price Chopper Plaza, would be adjacent but separate from the existing plaza. The plans include many trees blocking the view of the store from the road, according to the story. The store would be next to a proposed extension of the Harlem Valley Trail from its current northern end in Copake to Chatham.

From the ccScoop story:

“[Planning Board Chair Jonathan] Walters said town planners are generally pleased with the proposal as it stands…the project still has some major hurdles to clear. Among them, developing a plan to deal with the wetlands in the area to satisfy the State Department of Environmental Conservation, traffic entrances and exists that meet with the Department of Transportation’s guidelines, and the extension of water and sewer lines from the Village of Chatham. The latter has been the subject of great debate among village leaders, some of whom are supportive of extending the lines for a fee and others who question the ability of the current system to handle a new demand.”

Judge McGrath rules permanent injunction against Wilzig race track

Sam Pratt is reporting Judge Patrick McGrath gave a ruling granting, “the Granger Group’s petition for a permanent injunction against the mile-long, 40-foot-wide racetrack which Alan Wilzig began bulldozing way back in the Summer of 2006.” McGrath wrote: “Petitioners request for a permanent injunction is granted enjoining the Town of Taghkanic, Zoning Board of Appeals of the Town of Taghkanic, Town of Taghkanic Planning Board, Dennis Callahan as Code Enforcement Officer and Building Inspector for the Town of Taghkanic or any other employee or agent of the Town of Taghkanic from issuing a Building Permit, Certificate of Compliance and/or Certificate of Occupancy or Site Plan approval for the sporting course or track located on the Wilzig property and Alan Wilzig and Karin Wilzig are permanently enjoined form using, constructing, or completing the sporting course or track in any way or manner as well as any agent, guest or invitee of Alan or Karin Wilzig.”

Today’s local headlines

Proposal leaves DSS in Hudson
From The Register-Star

HUDSON – Columbia County Board of Supervisors Chairman Art Baer (R-Hillsdale) and Hudson Mayor Rick Scalera stood together at a press conference Tuesday and announced a new proposal that would keep the Department of Social Services in Hudson. The county would buy the One City Centre building on the corner of State and Green streets in Hudson; departments currently in the County Office Buildings at 401 and 610 State Street would move to City Centre. The total square footage of 401 and 610 State Street is 36,000 square feet, 24,000 at 401 and 12,000 at 610 State Street. DSS would stay in its current building on Railroad Avenue for the duration of its lease, which ends in 2011; and then move to One City Centre. Baer called the proposal “a great solution for a difficult problem” and said “I’m looking forward to implementing it.” “The logistics of the planning — there’s a lot to discuss,” said Scalera. “The commitment to keep DSS in the city of Hudson is what we’ve been working for.” Baer previously opposed such a plan, but switched positions because of falling real estate values. The Register-Star says One City Centre was going for $5 million last year, but now is selling for $2 million. “This is not a done deal,” Baer said. “We are only in discussion with the bank. There are still many pieces that have to be put together in the puzzle.”

Copake Green project set to sprout again
From CCScoop

COPAKE – Large developers bring big projects to small towns in this area, and often get special treatment. Like in Copake last week, where Housing Resources Executive Director Kevin O’Neill got to re-introduce his 139-unit Copake Green project to a Copake Planning Board meeting even though he was not on the agenda. From the CCscoop story:

“Although O’Neill did not request to be put on the agenda ten days in advance of the meeting — the Planning Board requirement — [Planning Board Chairman Marcia] Becker explained that, because there was a light agenda in July and because Housing Resources owns land in the town, she believed allowing O’Neill to make his twenty-minute presentation was the right thing to do.’It caused an uproar that we let him speak. . . . So from now on we are adhering to the ten-day rule,’ Becker said.”

Medical center, bank storage get green light
From The Daily Mail

CATSKILL – The Catskill Planning Board approved site plans for the 3,000 square-foot Urgent Care facility proposed for Grandview Avenue and for a Bank of Greene County storage facility on Windsor Street after hearing brief presentations on each proposal. The medical facility used Architect Josh Pulver, a relative of planning board member Michelle Pulver. She recused herself when it came to the vote, but as an anonymous reader commented on the story, “Nothing assures the approval of a project better than hiring the relative of a judge and town planner as your architect, and paying him astronomical fees.”

Copake opts for outside budget review
From The Columbia Paper

COPAKE–The Copake Town Board hired a second accountant to make sure the first accountant’s figures of a estimated $175,000 budget shortfall are correct. “We all agree that our first course of action should be an independent audit to verify the numbers or find out if they are not correct. We have to know where we are,” Town Supervisor Reggie Crowley told the audience at the Town Board’s regular monthly meeting July 9.

Court Sides With GOP On Ravitch, Paterson Vows To Appeal
From The Daily News’ The Daily Politics

ALBANY – State Supreme Court Justice William R. LaMarca granted the Republican Party’s motion for a preliminary injunction that prevents just-appointed Lt. Govenor Richard Ravitch from “exercising any of the powers” of the LG’s office, pending a final judgment, noting there is no provision in the Constitution that allows the governor to appoint a replacement LG when a vacancy occurs in that office.

Today’s local headlines

Local housing groups get $650,000 in grants
From The Daily Mail

The Hunter Foundation, in Tannersville, and the Catskill Mountain Housing Development Corporation, in Catskill, were notified Thursday that they are each a recipient of grants — $300,000 and $350,000, respectively — from NYS Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR), the administrator agency for federal U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funds. The money is part of a statewide package of $31.4 million in housing grants announced by Gov. David A. Paterson Thursday.

Wilzig track foes win latest round in court
From The Columbia Paper

State Supreme Court Judge Patrick J. McGrath handed down an interim decision last week denying Alan Wilzig’s petition for dismissal of a complaint filed by the Granger Group in regard to his private motorcycle track. Mr. Wilzig received site plan approval and designation as a permissible recreational use from the Town of Taghkanic’s Zoning Board of Appeals and Planning Board earlier this year. But he was unable to proceed with paving the track because of an injunction against further construction on the facility. The injunction was obtained by the Granger Group, an association of citizens opposed to the track and concerned about enforcement of town zoning law, and by neighbors to the Wilzig property who believe that the track is not allowed under the zoning laws.

Hudson antique dealers struggling
From The Register-Star

Antique sales in Hudson are down around 20 to 30 percent, according to Hudson Antiques Dealers Association president Frank Rosa. Jennifer Arensksjold, co-owner of Arenskjold Antiques Art and Modern Design says sales actually fell more after the recession associated with the World Trade Center attack, which also coincided with a change in buyers’ tastes.

Falling dairy prices strain farmers
From The Daily Mail

A top official at the U.S. Department of Agriculture defended his agency’s response to tumbling milk prices as “extremely aggressive” but showed little appetite Tuesday for immediate and far-reaching measures that some lawmakers say would keep thousands of dairy farmers in business. The Daily Mail story does not mention New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s work on this issue:

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is introducing legislation that would increase the amount farmers get through the Milk Income Loss Contract — or MILC –program. MILC pays dairy farmers cash when milk prices fall below certain levels. When demand is up, prices tend to be up as well. The program is aimed at helping small and midsize dairy farmers weather low prices. But Gillibrand says that under the current pricing structure, farmers aren’t receiving enough income to cover the costs of staying in business. She’s introducing a bill this week that would double the amount of money farmers get from the MILC program retroactive to the low point of the pricing crisis in March. Another bill would increase the MILC rate to account for inflation.

Outbreak of Fungus Threatens Tomato Crop
From The New York Times

A highly contagious fungus that destroys tomato plants has quickly spread to nearly every state in the Northeast and the mid-Atlantic, and the weather over the next week may determine whether the outbreak abates or whether tomato crops are ruined, according to federal and state agriculture officials.

Trippi’s weird “apology”
From The Albany Project

“Joe Trippi, who has been working secretly for Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (NY-14) in her primary challenge to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand for more than a month, posted an odd “apology” for his deception (which occurred at Daily Kos, Huffington Post and with several reporters) on his website yesterday.” This comes after PolitickerNY found Maloney’s second quarter FEC filing and found a $10,500 check to Trippi dated June 5, well before he stopped writing about Maloney as if he was an unpaid observer.

Mark Eitzel will perform at 8 p.m. Jason’s Upstairs Bar, 521 Warren St. in Hudson.

Today’s local headlines

New Congressman Scott Murphy (D-NY20) voted for H.R.2454 (the American Clean Energy and Security Act) Friday, which passed the House 219 to 212. It was the first time Murphy’s vote mattered, as 44 Democrats voted against the measure that works to slow the pace of global warming. Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth also opposed the measure, saying it didn’t begin to solve the earth’s problems. The bill sets a limit on emissions of heat-trapping gases while allowing emitters to trade pollution permits, or allowances, among themselves….The New York State Senate again failed Thursday to act on any items important to the people of New York. Senate democrats, however, did manage to hold a moment of silence for Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett….Austerlitz adopted zoning regulations, according to ccScoop. Anyone who would like to serve a five-year term on the town’s new Zoning Board of Appeals, should send applications to the Town of Austerlitz, P.O. Box 238, Spencertown, NY 12165 by July 9.