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Waterford needs to keep an eye on developer's curve ball

By KATHLEEN JACQUES

Publication: The Day

Published July 07. 2011 4:00AM

On July 4 I wanted to celebrate my right to the pursuit of happiness, but instead I was tired, frustrated and worried. Since 1999, I have watched a very clever developer insinuate his own personal profit interests into the Seaside Preservation Zoning District.

The history is a sorry one, for it shows that municipal bodies will adapt the character of a neighborhood to a developer's interests, when it should be precisely the opposite - the developer should be fitting in with our community.

Originally, the town proposed a waterfront age-restricted residential population living in renovated historic buildings. Then came Mark Steiner with a popular plan that he bragged would have fewer residents than the zone allowed.

Soon after, Mr. Steiner convinced the Waterford Planning and Zoning Commission to adopt a regulation that eliminated the requirement that 75 percent of the residents be housed in the existing buildings. When neighbors asked him if he still planned to confine the density to 85 units, he replied, "That was just a concept - now I can do whatever the regulation allows."

Vague language in play

In 2006, the commission voted against the neighbors' request for a regulation amendment that would remove vague language from that version; the town planner insisted the current regulation was strong enough to control the site plan.

On July 11 the zoning commission will be asked by Mr. Steiner to change the regulation again, this time to eliminate the age requirement because he believes it will be more marketable to New Yorkers who want second homes.

Focus on regulations

After two public hearings, the conversation is now about what he has agreed not to change, rather than what the resulting regulation permits. Mr. Steiner's cadre of experts and attorneys has successfully distracted the Planning and Zoning Commission's attention from the vital issues - keeping the character of the neighborhood, providing waterfront access to Waterford's aging community, and controlling the development.

Mr. Steiner knows how to get what he wants. All concerned citizens must attend this meeting and remind our zoning commission that while Mr. Steiner stands in front of them and pitches curves, they need to keep their eye on the ball. If not, I fear that in the long run, the residents of Waterford are going to lose.

Kathleen Jacques lives in Waterford.

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