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Dear Pine Plains 10.29.21

10.29.2021

Dear Pine Plains,

I walk around town a lot talking to people, and am always amazed at the way rumors gestate and then become live and rampant, and again at the assumptions people have when they hear certain words spoken and read no further. Hot-button phrases like “affordable housing” and “central wastewater system” end up growing large in minds, yet all these resources are available to alleviate worries and fears. So let me get into this a bit in this newsletter.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING does not mean Section 8 housing that falls into squalor. What does it mean for Pine Plains? First of all, it is a goal set by the Comprehensive Plan as far back as the 1990s. Then the Town recognized the need for housing that our own children might live in to start their families, or workers on farms and at local businesses can afford to live in. That hasn’t changed. If anything, availability has gotten much worse. So, what do we do? We study it for the best possible solution for a small rural town, because that solution is also subject to the zoning here. Our first step has been to re-zone for accessory dwellings, so that a homeowner can build an apartment in a barn or garage to rent out OR live in, thereby renting out the larger house. This will actually open up a lot of possibility for rental housing here if people choose to go this route. And it allows our seniors, who may be living in homes they can’t take care of anymore, to move into a smaller place right on their own land. As regards the 21 acres in the middle of town owned by the NYC Catholic Archdiocese, they have recently contacted us to begin talking about what they might do with their land. Suffice it to say, NO developer would touch it if we don’t have a central wastewater system for them to tie into. (Check out Woodstock Commons for the development built by RUPCO across the river. These are 2-story apartment buildings which are mixed-income set in the woods, with park-like pathways all around them. Think how nice it would be to take a walk at night on those pathways through preserved meadows and see your neighbors and meet new people…)

At any rate, I attended the 2nd meeting of the DC Housing Committee, and learned more interesting facts: in discussing trends, we looked at graphs of financial states versus home-buying/renting ability. In a nutshell, the top tier of earners make over $150,000. The lowest tier make under 50,000. Middle and lower middle make 50,000 to 100,000 plus. Upper middle is 100,000 to 150,000. Top tier earners came up to Dutchess County able to buy from the lowest tier sellers, with the money renovate those houses. They got “deals”. But when they renovate, they add to the cost of their homes making them unreachable by the middle tiers.  The lowest tier stayed in houses no one else wants. The middle tiers faced housing prices they could not afford. In addition, wages remained stagnant for the lowest tier, but rose for all the other tiers. Renters in the middle tiers can generally afford rising rents, but in the lowest tiers, people cannot. Hence, we have a housing crisis.

CENTRAL WASTEWATER SYSTEM November 15th at 7pm at the Community Center above the Library we will unveil the results of the Sewer Feasibility Study we did this past year with grant money and encouragement from the County. The properties affected are all in the zoned business district, 32 in all. Operations and Maintenance costs will be borne by those property owners, but their ability to expand exponentially will make up for these bills. The design is small and compact and hardly visible, so come see what it’s all about. Without a system like this, no new businesses can thrive or even open due to the department of health laws around septic system size now in place. It is not the old days anymore. We have new challenges to keeping our drinking water clean, and this system would enable anyone to open a business regardless of their personal wealth.

A lot of people fear a rise in taxes that would make remaining in their homes impossible. A lot of people blame “city people” for changing things in Pine Plains. A lot of people blame local businesses for having high prices and they shop elsewhere. But here’s the rub: who does everyone go to when they are fundraising for a school team? A class, the FFA, a family that has fallen on hard times? Business owners. If businesses fail in Pine Plains, we have only ourselves to blame, and the repercussions are vast. Just FYI, since I have been in office, every business space in town has either been renovated and opened, is in the process of opening, or awaits approvals and will open hopefully in the spring. 

Thinking does not necessarily lead to the truth, but it does give our lives meaning. Learning and thinking and asking questions are what we all must do in order to make Pine Plains a thriving, kind place. A meaningful place. The place our children want to come back to, to live. All of these issues are tied inexorably together.

Check out Rock Academy tonight at The Stissing Center. 7:30 and wear a costume.  Tickets are CHEAP! as always and the evening features Youth Bands 12 yo to 18.  $10 for students, $20 general admission. Go to www.thestissingcenter.org for more details. Plan on crazy hijinks on Halloween but note that the Fire Department will NOT be hosting the costume party this year, but WILL hand out candy from 5-7pm.

And think local, Pine Plains!
Darrah Cloud

This is what a central septic system looks like in a small rural town: