Town Supervisor Updates

Dear Pine Plains 11.15.2019

Dear Pine Plains,

 

Thank you for coming out to vote and congratulations to everyone elected. Now we can move on!

This week, Sandy Towers and the Community Garden crew put the vegetable beds to bed. They have ideas for sharing garden space next summer which they will articulate at the next Town Board meeting. But I want to make sure I thank them in every location possible for their hard work and for getting their food into the hands of people who really needed it. Between these volunteers, and Nelson and Lisa Zayas, who founded Willow Roots in order to use all the food they produce and feed people in Pine Plains, pounds of fresh produce were distributed to people who needed it, and loved “shopping” the Zayas’ porch. Other farms got into the act and a movement was born in Pine Plains to help end food insecurity here.

We have now received the completed Comprehensive Plan Update and it’s a beautiful document. It will be up for approval of the Board at the next Board Meeting along with our Final Budget for 2020. So much hard work took place over the last year on both the endeavors and again, thanks to all who volunteered their time and intelligence. It’s a big accomplishment.

This weekend we put up the trees in town for Decoration Day and help is always needed. If you see a crew of teenagers and Carl Baden and Ibis, just join in. The Big Day is on the 30th, the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Tree decoration begins at 3pm and all families are invited to pick up the decorations in front of the bank and then find a tree that needs you. The Fire Department is having a pre-holiday craft sale this weekend as well. Our 1897 LaFrance Fire Truck is back from its stay at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds and will be installed at the fire museum there when that building is completed.

I finished my last class of Affordable Housing Training last week at Pace Law School. For that last day, we were treated to tours of a project in Peekskill and Chappaqua Crossing, on the grounds of the old Readers Digest offices. That huge building was re-furbished as mixed-income housing, with common rooms and outdoor spaces, a workout center and office center. A trolley takes residents over to an outdoor shopping center or doctors’ offices. It was really impressive, yet blended into the landscape in a really tasteful way. Everyone I spoke to at this training told me that no one can develop affordable housing in Pine Plains until we get a sewer system.

Which brings me to the Sewer Feasibility Study which is about to launch: we will be sending out a survey with only 3 questions on it and only to business and homeowners in the residential/business district and perhaps adjacent to it. This survey will be essential to our study, so please, when you receive it, get it back to us in a timely manner. Your voice is important in this. As in all things. Drop by Town Hall and tell me your ideas, or write me at supervisor@pineplains-ny.gov And if you have a friend who isn’t on the email list yet, tell them to sign up.

Sing out, Pine Plains!

Darrah Cloud

 

Dear Pine Plains 11.8.2019

Dear Pine Plains,

 

Communication is so difficult in our current world: people don’t trust the newspapers—and don’t read them anymore, social media is full of misinterpretations, rumors and bullies, very few people attend town board meetings or community meetings, and ignorance abounds about how town government works, what can be legislated, and what is actually going on. So I would like to ask you each for a favor now: would you please forward this letter to someone you think has not signed up for it, who would benefit from knowing what’s happening in Pine Plains? This comes from an examination of the vote count this past Tuesday. I ran unopposed, but there were a number of people who did not vote that line at all, or wrote in a name of someone who was not running. So, in my mind, that means we have disenfranchised folks who don’t care for “what’s going on” here, but may not actually know what’s going on. I imagine they might have valuable things to add to our conversation. I’d like to hear what they have to say. supervisor@pineplains-ny.gov

The re-design of the Durst Project is moving along, and I spent 2 hours with their Project Manager Lisa Baker this morning, going over the timeline and their perspective on all the changes going on around town. When we do our Sewer Feasibility Study, we will also look into ways for the town to hook into the sewer treatment plant they intend to build. There are so many ideas on the table about how we might get the infrastructure to welcome new affordable housing, new businesses, and therefore lower taxes here. The Study commences soon.

I am now a graduate of the Land Use Law Center Affordable Housing Training. And I have a plaque that contains a quotation from Marcus Molinaro, who attended way back when he was a young mayor of Tivoli: “Building communities one conversation at a time.”

Monday is Veterans Day. If you’ve heard me speak on Memorial Day, you know that my dad served in the OSS during WWII, the precursor to the CIA. His job was to go under the lines, fake being a German soldier, and smuggle out people important to the Allies. He was 21 at the time. He never spoke about the work he did for our country, but he wore it every day. Sometimes deeply sad for no apparent reason, he was always kind, welcoming to strangers, and committed to his family, the company he started, and all the people who worked for him. He brought in profit-sharing at a time when nobody else was doing that. He was a classic Eisenhower Republican. Which is why I fervently believe in working “across the aisle” in everything I do for the Town. Labels don’t make the person; the lives we lead say everything.

Let us all remember what men and women in the service fought for every day, and ask ourselves this: is the life I am leading worth what they sacrificed? If you want to do more, come serve your town. Volunteer for a committee. Volunteer to coach. Become a part of Pine Plains.

Come to Town Hall for a cup of coffee and a conversation, Pine Plains!

Darrah Cloud

 

Dear Pine Plains 10.26.2019

Dear Pine Plains,

The word of the week this week is “networking”. In building affordable housing, to be exact. I have been attending the Land Use Law Center’s Affordable Housing Training, and last Friday we separated into tables of 6 and worked on developing a plot of open land in a particular community. I got to be at the rural table. We had a lot of fun mandating that the developer build sidewalks and improve a road, put in extra parking and use an existent old building to create new affordable housing at an old school grounds. It gave me entry into planner thinking, but also into how to create affordable housing someone might actually want to live in.

This Friday, I attended an Affordable Housing Summit led by Didi Barrett which involved a possible network of 4 towns, Pine Plains, Ancram, Copake and Northeast, in a discussion with the State Finance Department and 4 builders. The Durst Organization was there. We talked about the zoning required, and in-fill housing, which would put to use small open tracts of land in the hamlet. I know I have spoken about this before, but this forum put us all in a room for the first time in a way that made it clear that we might form a coalition to build more cheaply. The design for the homes is flexible, but the idea is to build passive energy homes which cost $125/month in utilities—that’s right, $125/month. This makes home ownership possible for people with good incomes, but who don’t have enough left over for the utilities after the mortgage payment. These are 2-family homes, and 2 of them would bring 4 families into Pine Plains to help lower taxes. In addition, it would help the surrounding farmland from being cut-up and be better for the environment, because Pine Plains is walkable and people wouldn’t have to get into their cars to come shop.

Our assignment: for this to work, each town needs to update their zoning and find 2 lots. If you have land you could donate (in town) please let me know; if you have a lot that might go for relatively little, let me know. If you like/hate this idea, let me know. These homes are called “zero-lot-line” homes, meaning they have a shared wall, but the homeowner would own his/her own land around it. You can go see a prototype in Ancramdale across from the Post Office, and ask for a tour. Theirs is being built by Habitat for Humanity. (Numerous restrictions for income level.) Ours would not have to be if we can make this coalition work.

I am working on new rental housing as well, and will update you on that when more information is at hand.

Tonight, the Library is hosting its Silent Auction at the Stissing House. If you have never been to one of these, here’s the scoop: you get a glass of wine and walk around tables and look at what’s being offered, then bid on something. You bid ridiculous amounts of money for simple things. You meet new people and you help the Library enormously because all the money you pay for things goes right to them, mainly for new programming and a new helper. Our library has become the center of culture here in town for all things educational, and it is constantly hopping with activities for children and adults alike. In this age when lots of people love to say that libraries are dead because everyone is on the internet, our library keeps community alive by inviting everyone to gather and pursue new interests. It will also be a center for the 2020 Census, with computers available for people who don’t have them to fill out their Census forms.

BRAVO to all who created and participated and attended the Cemetery Tours. They were even better than last year! When Mark Jackson came out of Potter’s Field with his guitar, I cried. And for those who wanted to know what that hymn was sung in the show, it is How Can I Keep from Singing

Pine Plains has such a beautiful history. Even if you did not grow up here, it connects us all in the legacy of our land, our businesses, and our homes.

Stay connected, Pine Plains!

Darrah Cloud

Dear Pine Plains 8.16.19

Dear Pine Plains,

It has been a week of “soul searching,” the soul being that of this Town. The Comprehensive Plan Update Committee met with our planner to discuss the survey results and where they point, and what recommendations we might make regarding actions to take once the Plan is revised to ensure that the goals of the town are met. We looked at all the different areas of the town and talked about locating various dreams there—a senior housing complex, a revitalized recreation area, affordable housing, commerce and light industry—and began what I hope is the creation of a viable plan for the town which we can put into code so that people who want to build something here know that they will have the approvals if their project conforms to it. Rather than planning being a scary process, it would be an exciting one, which would open up possibility for the kind of small, locally-owned growth people mentioned over and over again in their surveys. We will be having a Public Meeting on August 26th at 7pm at the Community Center to talk informally about the results.

Tonight, ChaNorth is hosting their monthly presentations at the Community Center at 7pm. If you haven’t been to one of these, go. They are a wonderful way to spend an hour looking at art and hearing some great stories. ChaNorth is the artists retreat at the old Spruce Farmstead at 2600 Route 199. They also do a studio tour near the end of each month, so that we can visit the art we heard about.

Summer is coming to a close and the kids are getting ready to go back to school. Please remember that we have a wonderful store run by wonderful people right in town which stocks almost everything they will need for their classes. Buying local is what keeps Pine Plains going, and the reward is new relationships with business owners who support all kinds of things in town themselves. For instance, The Stissing Theatre Guild! Many businesses buy ads in their program each year, helping to fund the plays. The Stissing Center opens officially on the 31st, (make reservations, even though it’s free!) and whereas they must fundraise all the time to build the Center they are also big contributors to what goes on in town.

And don’t forget our second annual Town Clean-Up Day, September 7th, 8am-3pm at the Highway Department. More on this soon…

Planning is this week’s operative word! Planning the future of the town, planning the next few weeks…

So plan ahead, Pine Plains!

Darrah Cloud

 

Dear Pine Plains 8.3.19

Dear Pine Plains,

On Wednesday of this week, the County announced that Pine Plains had received 2 grants from their Municipal Innovation Grant Program: one for training for our police department in dealing with people with drug problems and mental illness, so the situation does not escalate; and the second for a central sewer/septic system feasibility study. The study award comes with a promise for future funding for the building of a system in our downtown, should we develop a viable plan for it.

The team of advisors for the grant was comprised of Dutchess County Planning and a few mayors and supervisors who are contractors and understand building. It is a bi-partisan committee. Which brings me to my next topic here this week, which is how well we work together now in Dutchess County. I know that it wasn’t always so, but I believe it is now. Here is another example of something which has become very important to our survival as a town: the sales tax. Most people don’t know that in DC, all sales taxes are put into a pool from which each town gets a percentage according to size. This ingenious plan has, in the past 8 or so years, saved numerous small towns in the County from dissolution. The only way the town of Pine Plains has been able to save money for projects has been through this funding, which allowed us to buy our own LED street lighting this year, and to balance our ambitions for the town with our low taxes. The larger cities and thriving towns have, of course, lost revenue because of this idea of sharing the sales tax. Shared revenues like this, and shared services, in which we as a town participate often with other towns in DC, means the difference between progress and standing still. I am all for progress, if it also means preservation of what we all hold most dear about Pine Plains.

Lately, the Recreation Department has been down at the beach on weekend nights making S’mores for all who come to join them. It’s a lovely thing to bring the kids to. Get on Facebook and watch for their announcements on the Pine Plains Recreation Department page. Coach Cooper has spent the past 2 weeks helping a blind camper attend camp upstate, then coaching with Sacramento King and Pine Plains son Tyler Lydon at the first of his basketball camps, the next of which will take place in Pine Plains August 5th through the 8th at Stissing Mountain High School. Justin Cooper and Zach Lydon will also be coaching.

We now have a YouTube channel! Town of Pine Plains will feature our meeting videos. We got off to a wonky start on these, but look for improvement as we all learn the new system.

So much of town government now includes understanding new technologies as they arise in order to run the town, as well as connect to State Government and other towns. The learning curve is steep and endless. The training is ongoing. If you think these skills don’t pertain to the future, you will not get there. This is a PSA for encouraging your children to take those technology courses seriously! It’s not too late for us old folks either. The Library is a good place to learn them too.

And there is an antidote for being on screens all day, and under stress in general: poetry! Theatre! Music! As we are about to open the Stissing Center for concerts and theatre events all Fall, make sure you pay attention to what cures all ails—art. Donate, attend and/or volunteer there, and we will all be rewarded.

Get your poetry on, Pine Plains!

Darrah Cloud

Dear Pine Plains 7.26.19

Dear Pine Plains,

It’s been a quiet week in the shadow of the mountain. Much of it was spent catching up on the history of lake stewardship in the town, and the Comprehensive Plan Survey comments results. You can view the graph results on the website if you’d like, and the comments will be available as soon as they are collated by the Committee. When you look at things like this, patterns begin to emerge which point to all sorts of things: time periods of missing records, for instance, or actions not taken. So much of what I see in our history has to do with maintenance. I am obsessed with maintenance as the key to so many aspects of life and governing.

“The satisfactions of manifesting oneself concretely in the world through manual competence have been known to make a man quiet and easy. They seem to relieve him of the felt need to offer chattering interpretations of himself to vindicate his worth. He can simply point: the building stands, the car now runs, the lights are on. Boasting is what a boy does, because he has no real effect in the world. But the tradesman must reckon with the infallible judgment of reality, where one’s failures or shortcomings cannot be interpreted away. His well-founded pride is far from the gratuitous “self-esteem” that educators would impart to students, as though by magic.”
Matthew B. Crawford, Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work

I think this paragraph describes why Pine Plains is such a fine place to live. There are so many people here who can do so many things well, and can point to them as accomplishments, with no disputing it. People take great propriety over the town, moving branches out of the road when they come upon them, cleaning up at the beach, checking on neighbors… This is a form of maintenance too. It’s how you participate in the place where you live that makes the place worth living in. Thank you all who take responsibility for Pine Plains.

So look for the compilation of comments from the Comp Plan Survey on our website www.pineplains-ny.gov, think about something you might want to volunteer to do, and come out to Town Hall to get involved.

And this weekend, you can attend the ChaNorth Artists Retreat Studio Visit Day on July 28th starting at noon to see the art our visiting artists have made while they’ve been here. (2600 Route 199, the old Spruce Farm house!) There is a wonderful Spoken Word Poet there who will perform on the hour starting at 1pm.

And make plans to attend the Lions Club BBQ on August 10th or the pop-up West African Vegan Dinner at The Platter that same night.

“We’re not as free and independent as we thought. Street-level work that disrupts the infrastructure (the sewer system below or the electrical grid above) brings our shared dependence into view. People may inhabit very different worlds even in the same city, according to their wealth or poverty. Yet we all live in the same physical reality, ultimately, and owe a common debt to the world.”
Matthew B. Crawford, Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work

Become a part of it, Pine Plains!

Darrah Cloud

Supervisor’s Statement 6.20.19

There are a lot of people to thank for their hard work this month, but I don’t have enough time to list everybody, so I am choosing a few: our Assessors, and the BAR, who have been handling the grievances like the pros they are; Boy Scouts Jacob Henderson and Michael Hage, their parents and leaders, for their work building raised beds for our Community Garden; Lisa and Nelson Zayas, who have been distributing food to those in need during times when the Food Pantry is not open; and Bobby Lee Couse, who has gotten our ball fields just right for the baseball, T-ball, and soccer players swarm it nearly every night.

This week we held our first Public Meeting for the Comprehensive Plan Review, and I want to also cite the hard work of our Comp Plan Committee for writing the Survey which is available online and at the Library and various spots all over town and for hosting BFJ Planning, our consultants on the project. Their commitment has been inspiring already and we have a summer of work still ahead of us. The survey period ends July 10th and in the first 10 days we received over 150 responses. One of the fun facts that came up during the meeting was that Pine Plains has about 31 more people than it did in 2010! A growth spurt! I want to remind people that we are NOT rewriting an already beautiful timely Plan; we are tweaking it to bring it up to date and deal with the challenges that have come up since it was written. If you will remember, this comes via a grant from the Greenway Grants people.

This month the Town received a legacy from someone who loved it here, Edward Kinzer. He left us $25,710.60. We can discuss what to do with it later in the meeting, but I would also love to hear from people as to what they would like to see it applied to.

The Solar Committee is almost done with their recommendations to hand to Warren, and they too have done committed excellent work on this. It’s been a real joy to be a part of this. Once we have our Law in place, we can start working on trying to attract solar power to our own landfill. If we had community solar out there, people would not have to spend money putting panels on their roofs.

The last person I want to thank this week is Eileen Ciaburri. She has achieved 95% collected taxes for the town. That is unheard-of in most towns in Dutchess County. Thank you Eileen. Bravo!

This was the last meeting Stan Hirson filmed for us as he is retiring. We are so grateful to him for all the years he dedicated himself to the Town of Pine Plains.

 

Supervisor’s Statement 5.16.19

SUPERVISOR’S STATEMENT

 

Tax assessment letters went out this week. Just because the market value on your house went up does not therefore mean your taxes will go up. Please, if you feel upset or worried, go talk to our assessors. They are wonderful human beings like you, and their market values have gone up too. We have the best team in the County, and I can tell you, all the other towns are envious of our assessors. They’re open Tuesdays, Thursday, Friday morning and this Saturday morning, the 18th. Don’t sit at home fretting. Go find out the answers. And Grievance Day is Tuesday May 28th from 2pm-4 and 7pm-9 at Town Hall.

The Comprehensive Plan Review Survey is almost done. Our committee has been working diligently every Tuesday to pull together questions apropos of where we are now and what we might want to consider for the future now that so many things have been accomplished since 2004. In that time, the town has secured the preservation of most of our farmland and open space. Now is the time to work on downtown. When you receive your survey—which can be emailed to you as a Survey Monkey, or can be picked up at the Library as a paper survey, once again, do not think that taxes will go up because we are dreaming big. Dream Big and allow us to seek the help and funding from other sources for what we all want. And don’t forget June 17th at 7pm at the Community Center is our first Public Meeting on it. Come meet our new planners.

The Solar Law Committee is also very close in drawing up the regulations we want to see upheld in the Tier system these things require, addressing not only the roof-mounted in-town solar arrays we passed already, but ground-mounted, agricultural, and larger-scale arrays. Whereas we are encouraging the use of solar power here, we are protecting the landscape above all else. It may be that with the advent of more and more community solar projects, our residents can tap into that source for their electricity without having to build anything on their own.

Sarah and I traveled down to Pace Law School again for a very informative conference on affordable housing. There we met, among many other great people all working on this, a man from RUPCO, builders of the Woodstock Commons, a mixed-income development for seniors, young families and artists. Here is the thing to remember about affordable housing: it is not built to bring more people to town, it is built to keep people IN town. If people can afford to stay where they want to live, we will all feel a lot richer. He did ask me if we have a central wastewater system. Everything depends on that for new businesses and new housing to come in. No small town can afford to build these things are their own. That’s what grants are for.

Finally, I want to report on the Community Center. It is going great guns over there. People are renting it for birthday parties and baby showers, there’s Line Dancing on Thursdays and yoga and Tai Chi and the Book Sale Memorial weekend. Last night there was a lecture by a young woman who has been down on the border with Mexico, who gave a report on what’s happening there. It was extraordinary. We are so lucky to have this wonderful space.

 

Dear Pine Plains 5.10.19

Dear Pine Plains,

It’s raining, again, as I write this. It makes the colors of spring all that much more vibrant. Right? I never mind walking in the rain, but…

This past week, the Comprehensive Plan Review committee (or CPR as I like to refer to it) met again to work on our survey questions, which should be ready to go out very soon. They will be available in a Survey Monkey online or at the Library, and the sooner you can fill them out and return them, the sooner we have town input to work with. Stay tuned for that! Remember: the Comprehensive Plan is a visionary document. It identifies the town and hence what we can do to bring about a future which protects that identity. It is not zoning, but it affects what we can do about zoning. We meet generally at noon on Tuesdays for now. Anyone can attend and watch.

The Solar Law Committee also met. We are very close to some fine recommendations for drafting our Solar Law. These laws address solar panels and arrays via a 3 Tier approach. Tier 1 is for personal solar panels on rooftops in town; Tier 2 is for ground-mounted solar on farms and outside the hamlet; and Tier 3 is for large parcels of land. Our task is to protect neighbors, homeowners and the landscape and to promote the usage of solar power at the same time!

Tonight is the art show put on by Chanorth, which is an artist’s retreat located at the old Spruce Farm house on 199 just west of the hamlet. At 7pm, you can see their work displayed with a discussion at the Community Center. The Chanorth Art Center brings artists to town for periods of time to work on their own projects. I am dreaming of some kind of collaboration with artists to bring art into the hamlet. Anyone with ideas please contact me.

There is now yoga at the Community Center on Saturday mornings at 8:30am as well as on Monday nights. I have been going for awhile and can now touch my toes. A triumph! Thank you, Nichole Martini and Jordan Schmidt, instructors.

Coming up next week: on the 13th, the last home game for the girls basketball team will be played at the high school at 4:30. Go and lend your support. At 7:00 Wednesday the 15th at the Community Center, Abby Nathanson will be giving a report from the Border with Mexico, where she has traveled and assisted with the crisis there. This should be fascinating and informative.

Town Board Meeting is next week too, Thursday night at 7pm. On the docket: Martin Handler, School Superintendent, to explain the budget proposal and answer pertinent questions; and visitors from Habitat for Humanity to discuss affordable housing.

SAVE 2 DATES: JUNE 5TH 5:30-7:30 AFFORDABLE HOUSING SUMMIT at the Community Center and JUNE 17TH COMPREHENSIVE PLAN PUBLIC MEETING at the Community Center.

Stay informed, Pine Plains!

Darrah Cloud

 

Dear Pine Plains 5.3.19

Dear Pine Plains,

This week, the Comprehensive Plan Committee met again twice to discuss how to create the Survey which will be available to everyone to fill out regarding our vision for Pine Plains. As this will be an Update to our original, quite beautiful, Plan, we are working to tackle those issues which have arisen as a result of the zoning inspired by the 2004 Plan. We are also looking towards a future which has new threats on the horizon as well as new opportunities. SAVE THE DATE June 17th we will hold the Public Meeting on this at the Community Center at 7pm. All encouraged to attend.

The incredible Stan Hirson will be retiring as cinematographer of our Town Board meetings, as we announced awhile ago. We will of course still film our meetings, but the quality will be going way down. Basically, we will put a camera in place and hit the button. We are sorry to see Stan go. We have archives which look better than the Godfather films! (Note: that is a joke!)

Board member Sarah Jones and I traveled down to White Plains on Thursday to take part in an affordable housing summit at Pace Law School. We met representatives from RUPCO as well as Hudson River Housing and look forward to showing them the town. Check out what RUPCO has done at Woodstock Commons… I was told that developers want to tie in to existing waste management systems when looking for properties… which is why it is so hard for small rural communities with no systems in place to attract them.

We are also organizing the next iteration of the Affordable Housing Partnership with Northeast and Amenia, which will be held the last week of May here in town at the Community Center. Details to come as they are set.

That week will also include a reading to be given by the Pine Plains Writers Group. Come to the CC at 7pm May 29th to hear the writings of your neighbors and friends in a relaxed and wonderful evening hosted by the Friends of the Library. Cookies and coffee involved.

It seems like every spring I look around and say: this is the most beautiful spring ever! Sarah and I said this again yesterday as we sped back north on the Taconic towards home. It is hard to argue with the beauty of blooming trees.

Bloom on, Pine Plains!

Darrah Cloud