Measure stalls to designate Fulton County as environmental review lead agency

In the ongoing effort to annex land from the Town of Mohawk to the City of Johnstown for the development of an industrial park, it may be left up to state officials to decide which municipality acts as lead agency for the environmental review.

The environmental review is required under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA). A resolution accepting Fulton County as the lead agency was on Tuesday’s agenda of the Montgomery County Legislature, but it died when two legislators withdrew their sponsorship of the measure.

District 2 Legislator Thomas Quackenbush pulled his sponsorship and District 4 Legislator Ryan Weitz withdrew his second, but not until the measure was discussed for more than half an hour.

“This land is in the Town of Mohawk,” Quackenbush said. “I don’t know how anybody could think that they shouldn’t be the lead agency; it just doesn’t make sense. I’m good with not tabling it and voting no, unless there’s a good reason why we shouldn’t.”

The Fulton County Board of Supervisors has already passed a resolution asking that Fulton County be designated the lead agency. The Mohawk Town Council will meet January 4 and will pass a resolution asking that the town be named lead agency, according to Town Supervisor Ed Bishop, who addressed legislators during the public comment section of Tuesday’s meeting. If that happens, or if Montgomery County passes a new resolution, both measures would go before the state Department of Environmental Conservation for a final determination.

Bishop said his town should be the lead agency, not Fulton County. He talked about a public hearing held earlier in the week, at which the matter was discussed at length.

“I’d like to start by thanking those of you legislators who attended the public hearing,” Bishop said. “I find it interesting that Fulton County elected not to show up at all. Not a single supervisor was there, although they were represented by their attorney.”

Bishop said it was clear after the hearing where people stood on the issue.

“I think the drift of that meeting was that folks in Montgomery County, and specifically in the Town of Mohawk and the [neighboring] Town of Glen are not in favor of this annexation at all.”

Bishop said Fulton County’s petition to be lead agency is “faulty” in several ways: it refers to the land being annexed into the Town of Johnstown, not the city; and several required certifications have not been obtained.

“So first of all, we think the petition is faulty, and secondly, is it in the public interest? If you attended the [hearing] last night, or if you read this evening’s papers, you’ll realize there wasn’t anybody there who spoke in favor of it being in the public interest.”

Bishop urged legislators to defeat the resolution designating Fulton County as lead agency, not just table it.

“I want to see Montgomery County support the Town of Mohawk,” he said.

After the meeting, Bishop said letting the resolution die was “a step in the right direction.”

Two Fultonville residents also spoke during the public comment period, saying the area already is adversely affected by truck traffic, which will only get worse with the addition of an industrial park.

“As a resident who lives on Route 30A for two and a half decades now, I’ve seen the steady increase in truck traffic, primarily to the benefit of Fulton County and to Otsego County and the distribution centers that are in both of those places,” Steve Helmin said. “I believe that Montgomery County should support its residents and should serve its own residents and not Fulton County’s ambitions.”

Stella Gittle said she has been “dismayed” over the growth in truck traffic during the past two decades and its effect on the town’s infrastructure. She is also concerned about the danger to Amish families driving in buggies when trucks use Route 30A as well.

“In addition to [more truck traffic and resulting damage to the area’s infrastructure], you have the increase in the Amish in the Town of Glen. I have watched the buggies and the trucks competing for space on the road. Eventually it’s coming, there will be a bad accident. You can cram as many as eight Amish children in one buggy, I’ve seen it. I’ve seen a Wal-Mart truck go around the buggy with traffic coming in the other direction.”

John Becker

John Becker is both a Reporter and Consulting Editor for The Compass. He and his wife Pat operate Abbey Farms in Amsterdam NY.