By a vote of 5,442 to 2,323, Shenendehowa School District residents have rejected a plan to develop wooded land near the main campus.
Meanwhile, in nearby Ballston, the town is being sued by the state for failing to protect farm land, and being denounced by residents for permitting too much development near Ballston Lake. And in nearby Malta, the Town Board is pressing ahead with commercial and other development at all costs. Tuesday’s vote should cause all the public officials involved in these issues to reconsider their priorities.
In Shenendehowa, that shouldn’t be too hard. The school board only had a bare 4-3 majority to develop the property, and if a modicum of common sense prevails, a new majority will find a way to cooperate with the Town of Clifton Park, which is willing to pay the district a significant amount to create a park there.
Ballston, Malta, Clifton Park and most of the rest of Saratoga County are, of course, run by Republicans, but that doesn’t mean they have to be in favor of paving over farm land and other open space. Many Republicans, at the federal, state and local level, have worked to conserve (a word with the same root as conservative) rather than develop land, and there is no reason why the town boards in Ballston, Malta and other communities can’t follow in that tradition.
Paul Vandenburgh, the Talk 1300 morning radio host and a big supporter of President Trump, was hoping the Shen vote would go the other way, and has been saying that if it didn’t, it spelled trouble for the local Republican Party. While I was a critic of Trump last year, I did wind up voting for him in the general election, when he carried Saratoga County (but lost New York state).
I disagree with Vandenburgh on the policy, but agree on the politics. The Shen vote and much other evidence shows that the people of Saratoga County do not want the endless development of strip malls and housing developments, with ever more traffic roaring or idling in-between them. They prefer to conserve farms and develop other open space into parks, while building sidewalks and denser development in downtowns, which exist in all these municipalities.
That “smart growth” is not necessarily a liberal policy. It could lead someone to oppose state-subsidized housing now being constructed on Route 67 and East Line Road, in a place with no sidewalks or bus line. Smart growth also is welcomed by many business people, who do not want to destroy the environment which makes people want to be located in Saratoga County. Trump voters like me are willing to try education vouchers and social conservatism, and negotiating with Russia, but we also want to keep farm land and woods.
Vandenburgh is correct that the Shen vote could mean trouble for Republicans. Democrats have been making electoral inroads lately in Ballston Spa and nearby. Unless Republicans in Ballston and Malta prove more willing and able to address voters’ concerns on land use, they will likely suffer the consequences.