Charlton board member resigns after criticism over vote
CHARLTON Sandra Verola resigned from the Charlton Town Board on Friday in a dispute stemming from a controversial resolution she sponsored linking the regional sustainability plan to a United Nations agenda.
Verola, who has been on the Town Board since 2004, resigned abruptly following a phone call Friday morning from town Republican Chairman Adam Todd, who she said criticized her for not honoring requests to delay the vote on her resolution.
“I hadn’t planned to resign, but I’m sick and tired of the sloppy boundaries in this town,” Verola said. “I don’t represent the Republican Committee. I represent every single voter in this town.”
The resignation comes after the Town Board last Monday voted 3-2 to oppose the state-supported Capital Region Sustainability Plan now under development with state sponsorship “as infringing on private property rights of private citizens.”
Verola wrote and introduced the resolution, which was also supported by board members Douglas Salisbury and Bruce Gardner.
“It’s about controlling land use at the local level,” Verola said on Thursday. “It’s about not having a regional body that wants to control our land use.”
Town Supervisor Alan R. Grattidge voted against the resolution, along with board member Robert Lippiello.
Grattidge said he was prepared to discuss the resolution at Monday night’s Town Board agenda meeting but hadn’t expected to vote. He said the three supporters passed the resolution even though he and Lippiello asked for more time to study the matter.
“I felt blind-sided that night,” Grattidge said Friday.
Grattidge said he spoke to Todd about his concerns Thursday evening, which apparently prompted Todd’s call to Verola Friday morning.
Todd did not return a call seeking comment.
“I’m sorry to see Sandy leave in the middle of her term,” Grattidge said. “She’s always been a hard worker.”
He and Verola, while both Republicans, have clashed over various issues in the past.
“It’s egos. I’m very sad. I’m upset about it,” Verola said.
Verola acknowledged that her resolution, which linked the draft Capital Region Sustainability Plan to United Nations Agenda 21, isn’t going to have much effect.
“This is a big, big to-do about nothing. It’s a position paper,” Verola said.
Verola has a long record of taking pro-property-rights, anti-government positions. A number of conservative private property rights advocates — including the Heritage Foundation — have argued that the U.N. agenda is behind aspects of the “smart growth” and “sustainable development” movements.
The Capital Region Sustainability Plan, now in draft form, is one of 10 such regional sustainability plans being developed in areas around the state with the backing of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration.
The draft plan calls for identifying ways to reduce air, water and land pollution through finding more environmentally friendly ways for communities to grow and ways to reduce energy use and increase access to alternative forms of transportation to automobiles.
The Capital Region plan covers Saratoga, Schenectady, Albany, Rensselaer, Warren, Washington, Columbia and Greene counties. Similar plans are being developed for every region in the state, as part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Cleaner, Greener Communities Program. Each county in the region has representatives participating in the effort.
The plan is being funded with a $1 million grant from the state Energy Research and Development Authority. Down the road, $90 million is promised statewide for implementation of some sustainability projects.
Opponents of the plan have tied its goals to Agenda 21, a set of “smart growth” policy goals that came from a U.N. conference held in 1992.
The Town Board resolution states that the board “rejects Agenda 21,” though it goes on to state that there is community support for protection of the environment through “conservation of resources, recycling and local land use planning.”
Grattidge said his research finds no link between the regional planning effort and the United Nations, and it’s his understanding nothing in the regional plan will mandate action by local governments. He expects the plan to simply serve as a way for the state to distribute grant money for local projects.
“It’s all voluntary, from what I understand,” Grattidge said. “We have home rule in this state, and I’m confident the town of Charlton is well-protected.”
There are three years remaining in Verola’s term on the board. The Town Board will be able to appoint someone to fill the seat until a special election is held in November.
Charlton Town Board members are paid $5,500 annually.