Two More Candidates in Nelsonville

Eisenbach and Potts make four for two seats

Two additional candidates have announced for the March 16 Village Board election in Nelsonville, bringing the total to four for the seats held by Trustees Dove Pedlosky and Lisa Mechaley, who do not plan to seek re-election.

George Eisenbach, a retired civil engineer who has lived in Nelsonville for nearly 20 years, and former Trustee Alan Potts filed nominating petitions with the village. The deadline was Tuesday (Feb. 9).

Last week, Maria Zhynovitch, a state appellate court attorney, and Kathleen Maloney, who has held a variety of clinical, corporate and research roles, announced their candidacies.

George Eisenbach

George Eisenbach

In a statement, Eisenbach proposed to bring his professional experience to the planning and cost-management of projects such as road repaving. “I’ll make sure the roads are done right and on budget,” he said. “I was shocked to learn Nelsonville’s budget last year grew 25 percent. I know how to find waste in bloated budgets and how to cut it.”

He also said he would bring his “scientific knowledge to the debate about 5G and make sure we have a full and open public discussion that isn’t cut short by the telecoms or politics. As a community we can no longer afford to conduct our debates with the lack of transparency and division we saw during the cell tower debacle.” 5G refers to newer wireless technology that uses smaller, shorter poles and similar structures installed more closely together, instead of relying on cell towers that cover a broader area. 

Eisenbach said he decided to get involved “after watching telecoms threaten our Village Board into agreeing to a cell tower that violates local zoning laws, my neighbors’ property rights and the state fire code.”

Eisenbach and his son, David, were among the plaintiffs who filed a federal lawsuit in October to invalidate the court settlement.

Alan Potts

Alan Potts

The fourth candidate will be Alan Potts, who served on the board from 2017 to 2019 before finishing third in a three-way race for the seats won by Pedlosky and Mechaley.

“As a Nelsonville resident for more than 16 years, I know firsthand how important it is to have cost-effective fire protection, trash collection, street/sidewalk maintenance and snow removal,” he said in a statement. “Nelsonville is also facing important choices around sewer versus septic, Airbnb, budgeting, etc.

“In addition to being a reliable steward of Nelsonville’s resources, it’s essential to solicit resident input on Nelsonville affairs, as well as their needs and interests,” he said. “I would ensure Nelsonville’s interests are represented with neighboring Cold Spring and Philipstown. I am committed to dealing with our village concerns in an honest, unbiased and transparent manner and would hit the ground running, drawing on my experience serving as a trustee.”

Jeff Rossi also filed a petition but withdrew it on Feb. 9, telling The Current that “time constraints that will preclude me from giving the board the time the role deserves” drove his decision. He said he would support any candidate who had “the best interest of the natural beauty of Nelsonville” in mind and who “specifically opposes the development of the cell tower behind the Cold Spring Cemetery.”

7 thoughts on “Two More Candidates in Nelsonville

  1. I welcome Mr. Eisenbach’s entry into the race for the Nelsonville Village Board, but I do want to point out why his comments concerning the 2020 budget are not factual.

    Last year was the first time in recent history where enough thoughtful budget cuts were made to avoid raising taxes on res-idents. The budget increase you refer to is primarily a transfer from our state Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) grant and savings accounts to pay for the long-overdue repaving of two village roads.

    The cell tower settlement was undertaken by the board to protect the financial future of the village in the face of immense legal challenges. The current lawsuit against the village, in which Eisenbach is a plaintiff attempting to overturn this same settlement, however, is obligating us to expend additional resources, taxpayer money and time in court. Our counsel has cautioned that, if elected as a trustee, Eisenbach would need to recuse himself from all matters involving this lawsuit.

    Bowman is the Nelsonville mayor.

  2. Thank you, Mayor Bowman, for responding to the article. As reported in The Current, the budget for the previous year was $325,000. The budget for 2020-21 is $405,000. That is a 25 percent increase.

    On the cell tower lawsuit: My fellow plaintiffs and I are suing to invalidate the settlement that you and the Village Board complained the telecoms forced you into accepting. We understand the pressure you were under, but as citizens we could not sit by and quietly ignore the fact that this settlement violates our local zoning laws, our neighbors’ property rights and the state fire code.

    The 95-foot tower, plus its adjacent parking lot and access road, will destroy the tranquility of the historic Cold Spring Cemetery. It will even be illuminated at night. In my professional opinion as a civil engineer, the switchbacks on the proposed access road are too severe and steep. It’s just a matter of time before someone gets hurt — maybe a volunteer firefighter, a maintenance worker or one of my neighbors. This cell tower will stand next to our homes on a wooded hill with no direct access to town water for firefighting. This thought keeps me up at night. If the Village Board wouldn’t fight, we had to.

    I suspect many Nelsonville residents will be surprised to hear their taxpayer money is going to defend a settlement that the Village Board didn’t want. But while we wait for the court to decide our case, as trustee I’ll make sure the village enforces the temporary restraining order, environmental regulations and the laws protecting our rights as a community.

    I will also make sure there is a full discussion and informed debate about the dangers this project poses to our community, our homes and our environment. As you know, Homeland Towers made significant changes to the plan after the public hearings and the court-ordered settlement were concluded.

  3. Thank you, Mr. Eisenbach, for running for Village Board. I did not feel represented when I presented data for the illegal switchback for the cell tower. I did not feel represented when I noted the 40 percent increase in large trees being taken down. I did not feel represented when we were not given a public town hall meeting after the switchback and trees were changed.

    These were large changes to “the plan” which many of us were not in favor of. I attended a few Zoom meetings and was told to propose my suggestions in writing for the new 5G policy. Of the many suggestions I proposed (which were taken from other New York and Connecticut codes), only one was addressed and I never received answers to the rest. I am aware that I am not the only citizen whom feels bamboozled, confused and unrepresented by the board. I am now taking a class in how to be an effective citizen participant. While I am growing confident, I hope to gain an effective voice.

  4. I would like to respond to previous comments on Eisenbach’s candidacy. I cringe at the hypocrisy of laying the blame for the present lawsuit against the village at the feet of our neighbors. This outcome was a known risk of allowing the tower company to bully the board into settlement. In succumbing to the pressure, the board divided our village.

    The residents of Nelsonville have a right and, in fact, a responsibility, to respond to Homeland Towers and Verizon forcing an unwanted settlement upon our village. Why aren’t our representatives refusing to allow our tax money to be spent de-fending a settlement they told us they felt forced to accept? Our neighbors are bravely attempting to protect the history, beauty and wildlife of their village after their own elected officials failed to do so.

    I welcome Eisenbach’s candidacy and his pledge of transparency and honesty. We need strong candidates who will insist on protecting our village and representing us, their neighbors.

    • I am 100 percent opposed to a cell tower over the Cold Spring Cemetery, feel enormous sympathy for the residents who would be most directly affected by it and am heartbroken about the trees that would be cut down and the bats that might be impacted.

      But, in my view as a litigator with decades of experience, it is a mistake to say that the village could have chosen to do nothing in response to the federal lawsuit. The plaintiffs, including Mr. Eisenbach, allege the village acted illegally in violation of state statutes when it entered into the settlement with the cell tower companies. In my opinion, the village had no choice but to answer these serious allegations in court. Had the trustees ignored them, the consequence would likely have been a default judgment against the village. In my view, failure to respond to a lawsuit would be a reckless approach for the village.

      Having attended many of the public meetings about the cell tower and heard the arguments from all sides, it is my view that the village had no tenable legal position to oppose the original cell tower litigation brought by Homeland Towers. The village would have been destroyed financially and would almost certainly still have lost. Federal telecommunications laws heavily favor the cell tower companies and leave villages little ability to fight them.

      I sincerely hope that the litigation brought against Homeland Towers by neighbors in state court will succeed and stop this horrible tower from being built.

  5. Thank you, Heidi Wendel, for your letter and for the opportunity to further explain why 18 Philipstown residents including myself are plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit to overturn the cell tower settlement. Our lawsuit seeks zero money from the Village and is only looking to defend our legal rights as homeowners and conduct legal mandated environmental reviews. The record is clear that the telecoms pressured Mayor Michael Bowman and the Village Board into a settlement that failed to protect the interests of the people of Nelsonville. With this lawsuit, we are simply defending our legal rights as homeowners and citizens.

    We are seeking to overturn the settlement for a number of reasons including the devastating impact it will have on the endangered bat habitat and the viewshed of historic Cold Spring cemetery. Also after the settlement was agreed to, Homeland dramatically changed the plan and the public was not able to conduct legally mandated hearings on the changes like a redesign of the access road to include two severe and steep switchbacks and a gradient that violates the New York State Fire Code. The cell tower will sit on a wooded hill filled with houses. We fear that if a fire broke out at the cell tower, fire trucks will not be able to get down the access road. All of our houses lack access to the town water supply. A fire truck will not carry enough water to fight a fire in the woods. All of our houses and lives would be in danger. We should have been able to comment on this at a hearing with our elected officials before they issued a building permit. For more details go to stopphonetower.com.

    The new plan also chops down 40 percent more trees than originally agreed to. This is particularly devastating because the site is an endangered bat habitat and because clear cutting additional trees will make the 95 ft tower even more disruptive to the viewshed. Homeland also changed the aesthetic look of the fake monopine — making it even more artificial looking. The public never had an opportunity to comment on these changes. My son David raised all of these objections with the Village Board before filing the lawsuit but he was rebuffed each time. Again I do not blame the Village Board for succumbing to the telecoms’ threats. We are a small village vs global corporations. But I do think the Village could have insisted on compliance with the Village Code before issuing a building permit for a new plan that departs significantly from the court ordered settlement. My fellow plaintiffs and I are only seeking to compel the Village to do what it should have done by law in the first place.

    The Village Board members including Mayor Bowman repeatedly went on record complaining that the telecoms pressured them into the federal settlement. We took the Village Board at their word, so it only made sense that 1) Someone should fight the battle that the Village Board forfeited and 2) The Village Board should not spend taxpayer dollars defending something it didn’t want in the first place. I have consulted 3 lawyers who tell me that there would be absolutely no legal or financial penalty for the Village if it refused to actively defend the settlement. As one lawyer put it, “No one can force you to hire a lawyer.” The Village could simply tell the court exactly what its members said in public, they were pressured into the settlement. The Village should tell the court it will simply abide by any decision the court makes. Don’t spend any taxpayer money and let the telecoms fight it out with us.

    My impression is that you oppose the cell tower and support our neighbors’ lawsuits in state court but you do not support our federal lawsuit. But here’s some information that might change your mind. As of now the telecoms have successfully gotten the state lawsuits over the Right of Way removed to the federal court. The telecoms probably believe that in a property dispute they are on more solid ground in federal court thanks to federal telecommunications laws. If that ruling stands, all of our cases will be joined in one federal case and as you know it’s always better to have multiple lines of attack in any legal fight. We are confident that our case which incorporates federal environmental laws and due process violations will win on the federal level.