Stewart officially comes out as opposed to Anellotech project in Letter to Editor

Dear Editor,

I oppose the Anellotech project. As a representative of all Orangetown residents, and a longtime defender of clean air, water and land, there is nothing more important to me than using my position to make sure that town residents enjoy the highest possible standards of air quality and public health. Anything short of this is repugnant to my personal values and my mission as a public official. The people have spoken – we need to listen.

Decisions by the Planning and Zoning Boards have not promoted public confidence that Anellotech’s application has been thoroughly and carefully reviewed: 1) the Planning Board gave Anellotech a “Negative Declaration” under the State Environmental Quality Review Act without having first obtained critical information about air pollution that only became available later through the Zoning Board’s review of “performance standards.” 2) The Zoning Board of Appeals decided to approve Anellotech’s compliance with the town’s performance standards even though they had officially received environmental reports only hours before the meeting.

Though I have spoken out against these recent decisions by the Planning and Zoning Boards, I disagree with those who accuse members of these boards of knowingly working against the public interest. The land use board members are doing what they believe is right, and the personal threats and harassment which some board members have reported receiving is totally unacceptable. Likewise, I think Anellotech truly believes that their operations will be safe. Personally, I have my doubts, which is why I oppose the project, but I don’t think Anellotech is intentionally taking actions they think will harm the public’s health.

The Town Board cannot control whether the Planning Board approves Anellotech or not but there are several actions we can take to ensure that going forward, the Town’s land use review process is fair, transparent, and up to date. I ask my fellow Town Board members to join me in the following actions, which require a majority vote: 1) The ZBA needs a change in leadership, so let’s pick a new Chair, a person with a proven record of listening to the community who can rebuild our community’s trust in the ZBA. 2) We should retain any land use board members who are known as defenders of quality of life and due process while filling the vacancy on the Architectural Review Board (ACABOR) with a proven advocate for the community 3) We should hire an expert in zoning law and pollution control to work with the ZBA and town staff to review and update the performance standards of our town code, so that our rule book is up to date for any future applications along the lines of Anellotech.

Many people have questioned whether Anellotech will only be engaged in R&D or will also be manufacturing toxic benzene and other chemicals. What the community should know is that the manufacture of these chemicals is specifically prohibited by the light industrial zoning on the Pfizer property. So if Anellotech’s application is ultimately approved, the Town’s monitoring of the site will be frequent and thorough and if it ever appears that Anellotech is engaged in manufacturing, they will be forced to cease any operations that are in violation of town law.

Some Town Board members have faulted me for expressing my opinions about Anellotech, but I believe it is my duty as an elected official to speak out on projects like this which so greatly concern the community, and I will continue to make my positions known to the public.

Sincerely,

Andy Stewart,

Town Supervisor, Orangetown