Gardiner Town Board candidate David Dukler answers questions posed by the New Paltz Times about his bid for re-election to his second four-year term.
1. What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the Town of Gardiner at
Gardiner is facing a new wave of development after years of relative quiet. The most visible of these are the large-scale projects: Heartwood, Route 208 Apartments, Shaft Road. They all have raised concerns about their design, both on the part of the planning board and the public. While the planning board uses the code to evaluate the projects, the public has concerns that go to the heart of the Master Plan and how the code comports with it. As we have recently discovered, the code does not cover all recent developments in the marketplace. Heartwood is described as a “glamping” project, a glamour-camping resort that fall between the cracks of our code. This ambiguity needs to be solved. The availability of water as we go forward has also raised concerns. With the changing weather patterns and effect on rainfall, residents are understandably concerned about how large-scale projects will affect them. Other residents are concerned that property rights may be compromised by additional regulation. It is the responsibility of the Town Board to address this crucial issue. We need to: 1—revise the code in areas where it is found to be lacking. We must do that with input from all stakeholders as well as those with expertise in areas related to development issues; 2—review, revise and reaffirm the Master Plan as our guiding document. The MP was arrived at through a process involving a large group of community members. It represents our community’s vision for our town. 3—bring the public and private sector together to create a plan for Gardiner going forward.
2. What, in your view, is Gardiner’s most threatened resource? Most underutilized resource?
The rural environment that has been Gardiner since its inception is slowly disappearing before our eyes. While we knew that this would eventually happen, we are now experiencing an acceleration of that change. It makes real what more development means. It raises our awareness of how precious our open spaces and vistas are, how much of what we have we take for granted. As we move forward, we must reaffirm our commitment to preserving what we love about Gardiner while shaping the Gardiner of the future.
I believe that our hamlet district is our most under-utilized resource. By working to create more in-hamlet density housing, we could accomplish a number of goals. We could create less expensive residential units for both renters and owners. We could foster the condition for more businesses in the hamlet. We could promote a walkable hamlet for shopping, families, seniors as well as more utilization of Majestic Park. We could make the possibility of a drug store, a theater, more food establishments and other community businesses more likely.
3. If (re)elected, what would be your top-priority action to take as Town Board member in your first year of the next term?
My first priority is to have the zoning codes updated. We must also consider the need for a moratorium as pertains to sections of the code that are deemed lacking in specificity. The community needs to feel confident that the board is doing all in its power to see that the intent of the Master Plan is being carried out and that no projects are allowed to fall through the cracks.
4. What practical measures can the Town Board take to help the Planning and Zoning Boards cope with the recent deluge of large-scale development proposals, many of which are controversial?
The Town Board needs to engage in a conversation with both the Planning Board and the ZBA. We need to hear about their view of the challenges we face and what resources they need. We need to reach out to the wide array of resources—governmental and private—and access their expertise that can help us better understand and meet the challenges of recent development pressures and projects. We need to see that our budgets are sufficient to meet these needs.
5. What needs to be done on the municipal level in order to make/keep Gardiner an affordable place to live?
“Keeping Gardiner affordable” is a great bumper sticker slogan. But what do we mean by affordable? What solutions do we have? What will make an impact? Some have called for a reduction of residential zoning from 5 to 2 acres. In a survey of local realtors, a consensus emerged that a three-acre reduction on a 2000’ new raised ranch house would result in about a $25,000 reduction in cost. Over a 30 year mortgage and a current rate of 4%, it would result in a monthly mortgage savings of $78(assuming 10%$ down). Increased density also has hidden costs. All studies have shown that new residential housing demands more in services than they pay in taxes, causing rates to go up for all. Greater housing density means more cars, longer drive times, degradation of the local environment, and more demand for and pressure on public spaces.
The best tool that town government has to create more residential options is to formulate and actively promote an alternate vision for the town. As described above, a new and expanded vision for the hamlet could serve as a new model for small town—rural development. The town could work to bring together residents, developers, planners, environmentalists, seniors, families, and all other interested parties to craft and new model that would find a new way of keeping Gardiner rural while building both a housing and business base that would create a vibrant Main St, increase our tax base while preserving the rural and small town community we all value.
6. What background, experience, skills or approaches do you feel make you the most qualified candidate for the elected office you seek?
1—I am a problem solver. I am not doctrinaire. I approach issues as problems that need to be solved. I promote discussion for understanding, dialogue and use of all available resources to help make the best decisions.
2—In discussion of issues, I seek to understand. When we differ, I want to comprehend my colleagues thinking. I know that life is rarely black and white, that there are many ways to create solutions. The more we understand, the better we can be in devising effective solutions.
3—I show up and work. I have hardly missed any meetings over four years. I have actively sought out additional work to support the two supervisors and boards with whom I have served. I will continue to take on that role as there is much work to do and not enough time to get it done, no matter whom I serve with. I have a passion to improve the life of our town. I chose to live her. I value that choice every day. I will work so that future generations will get the best of Gardiner in the future.