Sanders' Letter from Woodstock #3 -- April 2004
Woodstock from Being Overrun by Excess Development
Keeping Great America from being Overrun by Right Wing
is a strange year. The great nation of America is being
threatened by a right wing take-over, and the great
town of Woodstock is facing being overrun by excess
were stunned not long ago to get their new property
assessments in the mail, each accompanied by estimations
of how much their taxes will go up. Many property owners
saw their property assessments double since the last
previous property assessment in 1998. Developers are
smiling with joy. People with open space and forests
will now face greater pressures to sell to the subdivision
crowd, and artists and the creative will have even less
reason to settle here.
is not lost, however, and there are many many energetic
Woodstockers who will probably be able to stop much
of the open-space-devouring glut. But, just as on the
national level this year the sleaze-hurling level is
rising very unpleasantly, so too on the local, Woodstock
level the year promises a climate of anger and recrimination
especially on the issues of inept government, runaway
taxes and excess development.
Up above the hamlet of Woodstock is beautiful Cooper
Lake. It's one of the most thrilling views at dawn or
at dusk, with a excellent flowing line of mountains
in the background, and joggers and strollers love to
trace its sinuous shores along Cooper Lake Road.
Cooper Lake is the water source for Kingston-- and Woodstock,
on paper at least, has the right to tap into Cooper
Lake's water, which passes through downtown Woodstock
in pipes that follow Sawkill Creek.
New York State water regs require that water from lakes
be filtered before being consumed by humans. The developers
want to crush together a situation where Woodstock will
build an expensive filtering plant to tap Coope Lake
in order to spur subdivisions along empty meadow lands,
particularly along the Bearsville Road corridor. Indeed,
if you drive along the Bearsville-Wittenberg Road you'll
see large open fields and wooded areas which, with water
from Cooper Lake (plus an expanded Woodstock sewer system)
could spur hundreds of millions of dollars of growth,
and turn Woodstock into south Westchester.
why Woodstock activists are viewing with suspicion the
drive to tap into the Cooper Lake waterpipe (to supply
water for the new proposed HIghway Garage) where it
passes near the Highway Garage across the street from
the Bearsville Post Office on Route 212.
It could set a precedent. A precedent that not many
really want, especially given that the area of the proposed
tap-in sits above a pristine and uncontaminated aquifer.
Good Signs in Woodstock
In spite of the foam of freedom-crimping right wing
nuts and the greed of developers (not to mention the
work of those strange personalities called "developer-helpers")
there are many good things happening in our great nation
and in Woodstock.
Democrats, Environmentalists, National Healthcare Advocates,
and those who want a more benign and less violent foreign
policy are uniting in ways the right wing could not
that, I think we can thank the generation that lived
through the un-Constitutional attempts by Richard Nixon
and his cohorts not so long ago to overthrow the traditional
was very exciting activity in Woodstock during the run-up
to the Democratic Primary, particulary groups that supported
Dennis Kucinich and Howard Dean. Dean supporters regularly
packed a local cafe, and Kuninich partisans held many
meetings, a successful fundraiser and put up signs around
Julian Lines, very active with the Woodstock Chamber
of Commerce and Arts, and the co-owner of a shop in
town that sells organic cotton clothing, was one of
those leading the Kucinich charge, as were long time
activists Jane Van de Bogart and consumer rights legend
Esther Nason and her daughter Zena, plus former Woodstock
Journal technical consultant David Bruner, and many
of the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce and Arts, it's
done good work recently in trying to make sure that
Woodstock doesn't explode into a mega-burb. Some members
were stun-stung by the recent reval, want to keep some
of the strong rural flavor of the town, and are not
eager to have a bunch of celltower spikes sticking out
of one of the premier mountains of New York State.
Woodstock the Democrats have been the majority party
since 1984 and in the twenty years since have more than
a 2-1 lead in enrollment. There are many Republicans
who are clearly against ruinous development in Woodstock,
while at the same time there are well-placed Democrats
on the Planning Board, the Town Board and other volunteer
groups that are eager developer-helpers.
The 2003 Woodstock town elections were strange indeed
(see Letters from Woodstock #1 & #2 on this website).
As a result of the unpleasant results of the 2003 elections,
a new group, the Woodstock Progressives was founded.
a recent Progressives statement put it, "We wanted
a place to discuss pressing town issues and come up
with, and implement, plans of action. We want to be
better prepared for the next round of local elections
so that the progressive perspective will be represented.
also wanted to link people dealing with local issues
to people dealing with national issues -- especially
the perceived need to get rid of Bush and his cohorts
and do something about certain political matters that
can play out locally as well as nationally. Our national/local
concerns include current excesses of the Patriot Act,
the favoring of the rich, military aggression, corporate
control, and the Bush anti-environment measures. We
felt the need of a forum since, due to splits in its
ranks, the town's Democratic Committee has for some
time been moribund."
Regular meetings have been held at the home of Marta
Szabo and Fred Poole in Woodstock. The Progressives
now have their own website, and they are co-sponsoring
a meeting in Woodstock on Friday, April 23 at the Community
Center, to seek a rescinding of the recent creepy property
revaluation which has sent future taxes through the
roof for many.
are also co-sponsoring a talk by Scott Ritter at the
Colony Café in Woodstock on April 15.
could almost hear a Jungian pan-soul gasp arising from
Woodstock not long ago when property owners opened their
new tax assessments. Everybody's assessments doubled,
and the proposed tax increases were ghastly. Particularly
savagely hit were those who own woods, fields and open
spaces. It was if the town government were saying to
such open-space owners, "Sell your land, creeps,
and make subdivisions! That's what government wants."
It mayspur increased pressure to gut the zoining law
and to reduce lot size. It may force seniors and those
on fixed and modest imcones to sell and get out of town.
Many of the modestly moolahed are artists, musicians
and the creative.
goal of the pro-development forces is help make things
as economically unpleasant as possible in Woodstock
so as to crack the zoning law and allow for new subdivisions
on smaller lots, secure the use of water from Cooper
Lake, forge some new commercial areas in outlying districts,
and run the Woodstock sewer lines hither and yon— all
to make a couple of hundred million dollars.
doubt those who rode to temporary and wobbly victory
in last fall's elections felt that the Golden Keys to
Personal Glory and Development were handed to them by
the voters. Not at all. Woodstock is a fairly complicated
place where it is quite in the main stream to be against
pro-excessive development forces are having to face
the harsh reality that most Woodstockers don't want
The town board can't just shout to the
developers, "Y'all come on in and build ye some
mini-malls and tract houses and pollute the water!"
It has to be slowly, indirectly and subtly done ,because
there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of us, ready to
confound and thwart their schemes.
Praise of David Menzies
Menzies is a long-time Woodstocker and videoartist who
has for decades videoarchived productions of the Performing
Arts of Woodstock theater company. In this alone he
has done a greater service to Woodstock than those ill-wills
who recently threw him off the Woodstock Planning Board.
was a duly chosen Democratic candidate for the town
board last fall. He lost after a sleazesome campaign
that saw key members of the Woodstock Democratic Committee
bolt ranks to support Republican pro-excessive-development
chair of the Woodstock Planning Board has long hungered
to promote excessive development, and was active in
foisting the pro-excessive-development town board upon
Woodstockers. Right after the election, the chair asked
fellow planning board members for ideas on where they'd
like to see development in the ttown.
challenged her, saying that the Planning Board should
be guided by the language of the new Comprehensive Plan,
the product of a number of years of work by an excellent
the Town Board stand up and applaud David Menzies and
commend him for taking a principled stand? No indeed,
these ill-heads tossed Menzies off the planning board.
(His term was up, but he was seeking reappointment,
normally an automatic affair.)
truth of it is that David Menzies has done more for
Woodstock in his long career here than any of these
bulldozer-skulls who tossed him.
so here's a salute to the long-term good work of David
a perception around Woodstock is that the town needs
full or near-to-full cellphone access. For that, they
say, the town needs a few cellphone towers.
who bring up brain-tumors, health effects of 24-hour
microwave bombardment, and the ugliness of towers in
a town whose economy is tourist-oriented, and whose
mountains are part of its enduring allure, seem, so
far, in the minority. A dedicated few, however, according
to the famous dictum of Margaret Mead, are what always
sets policies-- so we'll see.
a guy going around to towns in the Hudson Valley offering
to facilitate the construction of cell towers on town-owned
properties, in exchange for which he offers to share
50-50 the revenues he derives from renting out dish-space
on the towers.
Supervisor of Woodstock went for the project, and just
as so often he flashes his disregard for open space,
he has been trying to site the cell tower on a very
beautiful wooded Woodstock-owned property on the side
of Overlook Mountain. This steep property which borders
the State forest is called California Quarry, and contains
ancient Native American rock shelters where archaeologists
have found relics from many hundreds of years ago.
years ago the board tried to carve up a big chunk of
the meadows of the Comeau property for development.
rule should be: protect open space in every possible
case. But, this particular town government seems to
love to violate open space when they can get away with
When I chaired the rezoning committee back in 1988-89
we rezoned the large California Quarry parcel to 8 acres,
with language describing the district clearly discouraging
Woodstockers have mounted a petition to force the Town
to hold a referendum to declare California Quarry a
park. They've obtained already much more than enough
signatures to force a referendum.
of Open Space
these matters, actions often speak more forcefully than
words. Some developers will claim they're ardent environmenalists
(and some do have environmentalist credentials) for
instance, as they eye a forest to cut down or a field
to mini-mall. Whenever it can, the current Woodstock
Town Board majority makes pro-excessive development
decisions, particularly in appointments to the ZBA and
the Planning Board.
they are mutating the zoning law and land use regulations
to allow more and more development.
them, but get ready for a lot of evenings spent talking
at meetings rather than watching Bravo or reading a
and Multiple-Moviehouse at the Gateway
of spot zoning, the Woodstock town board seems to hunger
to allow a property owner to tear down an historic old
Woodstock building (the old former rooming house and
restaurant called Deanie's) to be replaced by a motel
and multi-plex movie house.) The problem is the board
will have to spot-zone the property. Currently it's
located in the Gateway Overlay District, a restricted
area located at the entrance to Woodstock at the intersection
of Rte 375 with Rte 212 downtown. An arsonist torched
the Woodstock Playhouse in 1988, in the Gateway, and
it was widely perceived to have been done to accomodate
the construction of a large commercial property on the
location of the torched theater. In response, the 1989
Town Board created the Gateway District, which allows
construction only as related to the arts.
the spot is in the zone just as the fly is in the honey
small town in the Catsklls has a good highway garage,
except Woodstock. The level of ineptitude locally is
so high that the famous liberal town can't even build
a highway garage. They promised Woodstockers they'd
have something to vote on at an election in June, but
they can't even figure out how much it's going to cost.
outrageous reval and property tax increases will likely
doom the highway garage especially if the town proposes
one that is a Cadillac instead of a good Ford pickup.
Then voters will say no, because the danger to people's
ability to continue to live in Woodstock is being threatened
as in no other time I can recall. There is a secret
and not-so-secret inflation that shows up at the gas
pump, at the checkout line at the health food store,
and now in the ghastly new taxes the Town Board has
highway garage referendum goes down, I think the Town
Board has an obligation to rent a house or apartment
near the maintenance garage when the workers can eat
lunch and take showers.
seven years I've been helping the great American Alf
Evers complete his huge book on the history of Kingston.
Of course, it's more than about Kingston. It contains
very interesting writing on the history of the Hudson
Valley, New York State and the United States itself.
will find Evers' writing on the early days in the 17th
century fascinating-- dealings with the Esopus (or Munsee)
Natives that dwelled in this area; the struggles between
the Dutch and the English for local control; the bitter
factionalism in the region leading up to the Civil War,
and the industrialization of the Hudson River around
Kingston during the late 19th century.
last is near the conclusion of his story of Kingston.
Fred Steuding is working with Alf on the extensive footnotes;
the Woodstock Guild is cataloging his brilliant collection
of history books for inclusion in a new Alf Evers library
at Byrdcliffe, and I am helping him with the final corrections
to the manuscript and in selecting and scanning the
images he will use.
Alf Evers is beginning a new book, at age 99! He has
started work on a biography of his friend Hervey White,
one of the early movers and shakers in the Woodstock
Kerry and Preventing Election Fraud
The new course of treason will not be, as in the Nixon
era, tampering with who the Democrats run, but now
it will be tampering with the actual ballot box. It
seems to me that, just as in the assassinations of
the '60s, rogue elements of the military and the intelligence
"community" would have to be involved in
state-level election fraud in November. Therefore
Kerry should take quick steps to make sure he has
trustworthy eyes and ears and resources in the military/intelligence
community to forestall tampering with voting. There
are many many many honest and ethical citizens in
that community who will not want to be part of vote-tampering
Kerry has to have computer experts in every county
where there are papertrail-less electronic voting
machines. This is very very very crucial.
should guard his planes 24 hours a day.
those who are groaning about Kerry's love of hunting
and his overall squareness, I think the following
consideration is important. He'll get to appoint a
couple of Supreme Court Justices, and thus be able
to do something about the disgrace of Scalia, Thomas
and Rehnquist. And most importantly, Kerry will be
someone whom, when you oppose some of his policies,
you won't feel that you have to roll in the gutter
to locate in order to protest.