By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO After some confusion, legislators Leni Binder and Jodi Goodman successfully abstained from Thursday’s vote to include Forestburgh farmer Stuart Salenger’s 4.5-acre property in an expanded agricultural district.
First, during the Planning Committee meeting, no one initially moved the resolution forward. Legislator David Sager criticized the fact that Salenger’s parcel had been singled out for a vote separate from the other parcels up for ag district inclusion.
“I think it’s really bad procedural execution,” he argued, though Legislator Kathy LaBuda said a similar situation had occurred three years ago.
The resolution on Salenger’s parcel was eventually moved on, and Goodman promptly abstained.
She would not give a reason for doing so, however, and after a brief executive session, Committee Chair Kathy LaBuda ruled Goodman’s abstention as a “yes” vote, per Legislature regulations. (Binder didn’t participate in that vote because she’s not on the Planning Committee.)
Goodman promised she’d explain her abstention at the full Legislature meeting, which occurred immediately afterward.
There, after pleas from the public to either approve or deny the inclusion of Salenger’s land, Goodman was joined by Binder in abstaining.
“People say that ‘perception is reality,’” Goodman explained, referencing her and Binder’s controversial acceptance of tickets to Salenger’s box seats at Bethel Woods, “but wrong use of information, partial info or information given without proper research, or quotes that hit below the belt, are not acceptable on any level!
“I have done nothing wrong,” she insisted. “... I stand behind all my decisions and choices in the face of these baseless charges.”
“Ditto,” seconded Binder.
Neither Binder nor Goodman admitted to any wrongdoing, with Binder ironically suggesting that had the abstention rules been more accommodating, she and Goodman would have voted against the resolutions on Salenger’s inclusion.
LaBuda, in whose district the land sits, tried to have the matter tabled but could not rally enough support.
Thus Salenger’s land was included in the district, with Sager, Alan Sorensen, Jonathan Rouis, Frank Armstrong and Elwin Wood in favor and LaBuda and Ron Hiatt opposed.
“I think there is an impact on the character of the residential neighborhood,” explained Hiatt, disagreeing with the Farmland Protection Board’s belief that there is not.
LaBuda felt that Salenger owns enough property to accomplish his goals (in this case, raising five goats) elsewhere on his land, rather than subjecting some of his closest neighbors to the sights, sounds and smells of a farm.
“This is going to affect people’s homes who’ve been there 40 or 50 years,” she argued, adding that the Forestburgh Town Board was also unanimously opposed.
But legislators like Armstrong disagreed.
“Farmland is under threat and needs to be preserved and protected,” he stated.