Term Limits and Preserving History in Clarkstown

BY MARIA MIRAKAJ BROWNSELL

Should a town official be able to be elected and re-elected unlimited times? That was the question at the town board meeting in Clarkstown on September 9, 2014. There was a public hearing about a proposed local law entitled, “Term Limits – Chapter 263 of the Town of Clarkstown.”

With this local law, terms will be limited to no more than eight consecutive years. The public was divided on this topic with some agreeing whole-heartedly and others protesting greatly.

“This proposal is a travesty!” said George Hommel, a Clarkstown resident. “Two positions should not be involved in this: Town Clerk and Highway Superintendent. I think you need to take another look at what you’re trying to do. You think we’re a bunch of idiots!”

Marge Hook of New City agreed with Hommel about the Town Clerk and Highway Superintendent. Another resident was also outraged about term limits in general. He said it was his right to decide for himself if he wanted to re-elect the same individual again and that right shouldn’t be taken away. Pat Gottfried disagreed.

“In the four years that I’ve been coming here and paying attention to this, this is the best piece of legislation I’ve heard,” said Gottfried. “Government is not supposed to be a long term job.”

Tom Nimick of New City was concerned about which positions this applies to, but was in favor of term limits, citing how it builds trust between government and citizen. He suggested the town go a step further in fostering this trust by not allowing public officials to also serve for political parties.

“I’ve always been in favor of term limits,” said Councilman George Hoehmann. “This opens things up for new visions and new ideas. This is good for the town and for the people as new people come in with ideas. I disagree about the Town Clerk and Highway Superintendent not being part of it. If it’s good enough for the President, it’s good enough for Clarkstown.

The public hearing was closed and the law was adopted.

Another public hearing that took place that evening was to designate the Traphagen Property and houses as a historical site. This property is at 131 Germonds Road in West Nyack and encompasses the Vanderbilt and Traphagen houses, as well as nine acres of property that is all currently owned by the town.

Bert Dahm, the President of the Heritage of West Nyack was very pleased with this designation. “We’ve got two historical gems,” said Dahm. He explained how they will be able to obtain funds for renovations much more easily after being declared a historical site and urged the board to vote in favor.

“The Vanderbilt house, built in 1730, is the oldest house in Clarkstown,” said Robert Knight, chairperson of the Historical Review Board. “It is in bad shape, and needs lots of work. It needs to be a historic site to get funding.”

Frank Grandel was upset that more information about the pros and cons of making this property a historic site wasn’t given. He was concerned about what costs it might bring to the taxpayers.

Councilwoman Stephanie Hausner explained that this was brought up several times at Historical Review Board meetings and at Heritage of West Nyack’s public meetings. She said that it shouldn’t cost he taxpayer much of anything, since this designation will bring in new money and funding that wasn’t available previously. The land will also be used in conjunction with open spaces and being available for public use.

This public hearing was also closed and adopted.