Lisa Lindsley, Candidate for Gardiner Town Supervisor, outlines her view of Gardiner’s challenges and what she intends to do about them:
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the Town of Gardiner at present?
Our town is at a critical point in its development. Gardiner’s elected officials must foster responsible economic development while preserving our rural character. I want to ensure that our water, wildlife, land and the natural resources that make Gardiner unique are not exploited by predatory financial interests that are not part of our community.
The institutions, policies, processes and professionals that govern land use no longer serve the long-term interests of Gardiner residents. I will work for more effective implementation of Gardiner’s master plan and open space plan, and an update of the town laws to be consistent with these plans. I will initiate a process to review, get community input, and update these two plans – each over a decade old – in light of the experience and trends of development in Gardiner.
The boards and committees that influence development in Gardiner – planning, zoning, open space, environmental – require dedicated impartial volunteers. Recruiting and training those volunteers will be a priority.
What, in your view, is Gardiner’s most threatened resource? Most underutilized resource?
Gardiner’s irreplaceable natural beauty is its most threatened resource, followed by Gardiner’s small-town charm, its water supply and its wildlife. Development projects in various phases of approval could threaten these precious resources.
Gardiner’s parks are its most underutilized resource. In a town whose children attend schools in three different school districts, parks are an important resource for building a sense of community. Gardiner is blessed with ample public parks with unfinished and decaying infrastructure. Our town’s skateboard park could be complemented by a finished pole barn and revamped pavilion, soccer fields, and perhaps eventually an ice skating pond. The town would earn revenue from renting these structures, and there could be many more recreational programs for residents of all ages.
If (re)elected, what would be your top-priority action to take as supervisor/Town Board member in your first year of the next term?
I will make town government more accessible and transparent, and improve communication with Gardiner citizens by updating the website, use of email and social media, communications about board meetings, and publication of minutes. I will explore streaming or videotaping of meetings, and hold office hours that enable people who commute to access the Supervisor.
Another top priority will be to design and launch a process to update Gardiner’s Zoning Code, Open Space Plan and Master Plan so that they take into account existing and expected land use issues and so that they are consistent with each other.
What practical measures can the supervisor/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?
Creating a deep bench of candidates for all of the town’s volunteer boards will be one of my priorities as Supervisor, as will ensuring that board members receive the training they are required to have in order to successfully perform. I will work to ensure that these boards, as well as the Environmental Conservation Commission, Open Space Commission, and Ethics Commission have the tools and staffing that they need so that the members of each board may collaborate and that the boards may easily disseminate to the public relevant documents regarding what is happening with these projects. The professionals who advise these boards must be clear that their role is to support deliberation and decision-making, as opposed to steering the boards down a predetermined path. I would also encourage the boards to exercise their prerogative to hire independent professionals, at the expense of the developer, to evaluate analysis provided by the developer’s experts. I will work to secure a sound system that will ensure all attendees at meetings and hearings are able to hear what is being said, and explore adding video of key meetings, which can be done inexpensively. A pause in the approval of development projects may be warranted as a tool for easing the burden on Planning and Zoning Boards.
What needs to be done on the municipal level in order to make/keep Gardiner an affordable place to live?
I will work to keep Gardiner affordable, and to maintain the quality of life that Gardiner residents currently enjoy. One component of preserving Gardiner’s rural character is to keep farmers on their land, and I will support efforts to do that through the Open Space Commission and alternative financing vehicles for farms. The most significant proportion of the taxes paid by Gardiner residents are levied not by the town but by the school districts. While it is tempting to assume that residential land development will help our tax base, the opposite is often true when it comes to school taxes. Thorough analysis of the impact of residential development on our taxes should be a component of evaluating new projects.
I am passionate about providing affordable housing to our residents with low or fixed incomes. I believe more study is needed to evaluate the demand in our town for this type of housing, as well as the alternatives for building and financing affordable housing that are economically and environmentally sustainable and consistent with our development priorities.
What background, experience, skills or approaches do you feel make you the most qualified candidate for the elected office you seek?
I love Gardiner and have been coming here for 25 years. No I was not born in Gardiner – I chose to live here. I am willing to listen and learn from fellow elected officials and residents alike. I’ll be a responsible steward of our town’s financial resources and tax dollars, applying my 30+ years in finance, my knowledge of municipal finance, and my managerial acumen to the operations and opportunities of Gardiner. I have a track record of leadership, from global organizations to activist groups to a local skydiving team. And I’d like your vote on November 7!