It probably was not planned this way, but stories in two recent editions of the Times Herald-Record cast a glaring light on two important local issues — economic growth and local control.
The first, appearing Sunday, explored a boom in building for industry, something that anybody driving any main roads in Orange County has seen.
As the story noted, “Last year, developers in Orange County added the most industrial space in at least two decades, as inventory rose to 29.1 million square feet in 2017 from 27.8 million square feet in 2016.”
Poised to join the list was a new, 1.2-million-square-foot warehouse for Medline Industries in the Town of Hamptonburgh.
Then came the meeting of the Town Board Monday night, the first in what might have been an inevitable if contested path to approvals, site preparation, building and hiring.
But nothing happened. When the town supervisor asked for a vote on a resolution not to change zoning or allow building but merely to refer the project to the planning board and begin the environmental review process, there was silence in the room.
No second to the motion, therefore no referral, no review, no warehouse.
Local opponents had done their homework, persuading their local representatives that despite the promises of jobs and taxes, they had other priorities in mind, ones captured by the signs they brought to the meeting saying “Stop industrial creep.”
We’re used to these clashes. We saw them in Goshen over whether Legoland would be a boon, as promised by county officials and those whose profession is greeting and guiding anybody interested in development, or a disruption.
In that case, the project had such a head start, such clout radiating from the governor’s office to the county executive to the industrial development complex, that local opposition was on the defensive and never caught up.
In Hamptonburgh, the promise was not as sweeping and the battle lines were drawn early. Rather than finding out that zoning had been changed long ago or that local officials had been briefed privately and brought on board, the forum for the decision was a neutral one, with both sides having an equal chance.
This should be a lesson, albeit one that will take work to spread. If a community is concerned about the change that a development will bring, it is up to the people in that community to stay informed, to demand that their local leaders remain at least neutral, to attend every meeting and read every copy of the minutes of every town or village board to make sure that nobody is quietly paving the way for more pavement.
It is clear that at the county level, the developers are the constituents, that when somebody comes in promising jobs and taxes, the doors are open, the tax breaks subsidized by local homeowners already in draft form and the process toward approval and construction almost inevitable.
In Hamptonburgh this week, the local officials worked for the local community, not for those who wanted to change that community in ways that people who live there found objectionable.
That should not be news, but it is.