DEP land acquisition plans focus of community meetings

By Matthew J. Perry
Delaware County has scheduled four public meetings on New York City’s land acquisition program for the week of Nov. 17 to 21. Watershed commissioner Dean Frazier and representatives from Downeast Development Group, a consulting firm from Nova Scotia, will officiate at each meeting.
Margaretville Central School will be the location for the final meeting on Thursday, Nov. 20. The consultants will convene in Stamford on Wednesday, Nov. 19. Both meetings will begin at 6:30 p.m.
While Downeast is using the meetings as a means to present preliminary findings on the effects of land acquisition, fliers being circulated spell out the primary purpose of the tour through the county: Make sure your voice is heard.
“We’re seeking input from the communities to shape the report as we go on. We want to solicit everyone’s view on land acquisition,” Frazier said on Monday.

Preliminary findings
Downeast will also provide materials that will help to illustrate the changes that could take place in the county should land acquisition continue at its current pace. Those attending can also expect preliminary findings on the economic impacts of the program on the area. The firm’s final report is expected to be submitted to the county in February 2009.
Board of supervisors’ chairman Jim Eisel attended an expert panel convened by Downeast last week, and says he was “encouraged” by the consultant’s progress. “So far I’m very pleased by the work they’re doing,” he said. “They’re being thorough and objective.”
Eisel stated that he hoped the study would help to mitigate what he describes as the city’s “shotgun approach” to buying land. “I don’t feel the city is being very scientific in their approach to protecting water quality.” He noted that the city had recently purchased land in his home town of Harpersfield, “and I’m 42-miles away from the Cannonsville Reservoir.”
Several supervisors have used one preliminary finding, that challenges to tax assessments on city land could contribute to a crippling spike in local taxes, as an alarm to raise awareness. Eisel, while not dismissive of that projection, did not add fuel to the fire.
“We all live here now,” he said. “And 10 years from now people will still live here. They can’t push everyone out through reassessments.”