DRYDEN, N.Y. – On Tuesday, Dryden voters will be headed to the polls to decide on a hot-button issue–whether to allow the town to spend $71,800 on 15 acres that is intended to be a park or recreation area.
The vote – referred to as a referendum – is happening after opponents of the purchase gathered more than 300 signatures demanding that the issue be decided upon by Dryden residents.
Town Supervisor Jason Leifer – who supports the purchase – and Lead Petitioner Don Scutt – who does not support the purchase – helped paint a picture of major issues voters should know about before the vote.
1) What land is the town buying?
The town is looking to purchase 15 acres of land near a privately owned Pinckney Road property on the west side of Dryden. A map of the area is below:
2) Where is the money coming from?
The purchase is being funded from Dryden's recreation fund, which currently has about $306,000 in it. The land acquisition would reduce the amount to about $250,000.
The county has committed to pitch in $15,000 for the purchase in an effort to help preserve the bordering Fall Creek waterway. The remaining money, $57,00 will be from the recreation fund.
3) Can the money be spent on other things?
The money in the fund can only be used for purchases that involve recreation -- such as building and maintaining basketball courts, dog parks and playgrounds, among many other projects.
Leifer said, "This money can only be used for this sort of purpose."
He went on to say that there are, in fact, other proposals for how the money could be used. Other recreation ideas for trails, dog parks and playgrounds have been proposed.
But he said that not only is there still money for several of those projects, but there is nothing of the sort currently in the west side of Dryden, headed toward Varna.
4) What's the big plan for the land?
Scutt -- who has attended many meetings about the purchase -- said at least one member of the Dryden town board has publicly admitted that there is no plan for the land, as recently as January.
Leifer says however, that the land use is flexible and what goes on the property depends on both the community and money the town wants to try to procure from state or other funding sources.
He said the town wants to apply for grant money, but has a more realistic chance at getting grants if there is already land available for proposed projects. Without grant money, he said the land could still be used for smaller projects over a period of time.
Scutt said purchasing land without having money to develop it is "putting the cart before the horse."
5) How does this impact the tax payer?
The town of Dryden would not be required to pay taxes on the land, meaning that it would give the town just over $80 less per year.
Scutt said, however, that the town is not the only public facility that benefits from taxes. For instance, the police department, fire department and school district are also funded through taxes. Using the current tax assessment for the land, he's figured that the school district, for instance, would lose more than $1,000 a year.
Leifer said, however, that the land was up for purchase for about a year and a private company has yet to buy the land. So, he said, if there was a better opportunity for the land, there's a good chance it would have already presented itself.
He also added that the property owners rejected a cash offer on the property in favor of selling to the town.
6) Anything else?
The vote is happening noon to 8 p.m. Tuesday.
Featured file photo by Ed Dittenhoefer.