Questions for Candidates: Nelsonville Mayor

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Two candidates for Nelsonville mayor will appear on the March 15 ballot: Rudolf van Dommele and Chris Winward, who is a trustee. The incumbent, Michael Bowman, is not running.

Below are written responses to questions posed by The Current; their responses have been edited slightly for clarity and brevity. We asked each candidate to limit the three answers to a total of 500 words.

What is the biggest issue facing Nelsonville in the next two years,
and how would you address it?

Rudolf van Dommele

van Dommele

Van Dommele: One of the real issues is the ongoing battle with Homeland Towers, where the Village Board has taken a backseat in the fight by signing a controversial settlement. Local residents who continued this fight have very recently received an injunction against Homeland. As mayor, I will support those neighbors however I can. 

After their resignation from the fight against Homeland, the board decided to get to work drafting a new law regulating short-term rentals in our village. To justify the need for the imposition of this new set of rules, the Village Board has relied on an anonymous survey, secretive gossip, fear-mongering and fabricated complaints, while in fact not a single bona fide complaint or incident has been recorded or substantiated. In spite of objections from a vast majority of residents who attended the public hearings and sent correspondence on the subject, this law was adopted by a 3-2 vote, leaving many residents and stakeholders feeling disenfranchised. With this, the board exposed the village to the possibility of yet another lawsuit, which may well become the most important issue facing the village in the coming two years. Similar laws have been ruled arbitrary, capricious and unconstitutional in state courts. As mayor, I will work to revise and simplify this law to fit the needs of our community, preserving its character but also protecting the real property rights of its taxpayers.

Winward: Speeding on Main Street/Route 301 needs to be addressed to make our village safer for our kids, other pedestrians, cyclists and business patrons. Since 301 is a state road and Fishkill Road is a county road, I would work with these jurisdictions to adjust the speed limits as you approach Nelsonville. Additionally, I would advocate, to the state, installation of permanent radar speed signs in both directions of 301. I am grateful to the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department, which has been ticketing more, and look forward to discussing the issue with Sheriff Kevin McConville to see what ideas he may have. Finally, I would work with the state for a crosswalk near the bakery and ice cream stand to make it safer for children and adults to enjoy the businesses in that area. 

Should Nelsonville, Cold Spring and Philipstown collaborate on using American Rescue Plan Act money for a project to benefit all three municipalities? 

Van Dommele: Some of Nelsonville’s share of the funds could be used to create a clearing on the wooded Secor Street parcel for a village green or a playground — and definitely not an athletics field! [Van Dommele says The Current earlier misquoted him when paraphrasing his “vision of a recreational area, maybe a field where kids can kick a ball or fly a kite” as an athletic field.] As Alan Potts pointed out in a letter to the editor [Feb. 25], installation of a sewer line in Nelsonville will be prohibitively expensive and remains a pipe dream — no pun intended. 

Chris Winward

Winward

Winward: I am thankful for the good relationships I have with Cold Spring Mayor Kathleen Foley, Philipstown Supervisor John Van Tassel and others on the Cold Spring and Philipstown boards, and I appreciate that they also value collaboration. Our municipalities are interconnected and depend on one another for the benefit of all residents. Nelsonville’s $64,000 in ARPA funds are the first direct federal dollars that have been secured for the village in a long time and I’m happy to have managed the process. Individually, the three municipalities did not receive that great an amount of ARPA funding, compared to our needs, so it remains to be decided, with public input, if these funds are best for specific projects in each municipality or for shared investment. The three municipalities may also partner with the county on additional uses for the $19 million that the county has received in ARPA funding. 

If there is collaboration, what should the project be? 

Van Dommele: One project Cold Spring and Nelsonville could collaborate on is remediation of problems with the stormwater drainage and flooding at the culvert running from the Secor Street parcel under Cedar Street into the Cold Spring drainage system. Joining forces with Cold Spring and Philipstown sounds good, but it is not easy to find projects of equal benefit to the town and the two villages. This issue demands community involvement and input from residents. Ailing infrastructure in the Garrison water district and construction of a Nelsonville sewer line are localized problems and may not get the support of the greater community. Personally, my vote would be for the construction of a community swimming pool at Philipstown Park.

Winward: Municipalities have until 2024 to decide what to spend their funds on and until 2026 to make those expenditures. Nelsonville should continue to have discussions with residents on the best use of these funds and collaborate with the county on larger funding needs. Some potential needs: radar speed signs for Main Street, sprucing up the kiosks at trailheads, a new fire escape on the [village-owned] sheriff’s substation, an updated cost-and-financing study for sewers, solar panels on Village Hall and improved technology to increase options for participation in public meetings. We could also use the funds to supplant the cost of the Village Hall roof and recent paving that we planned to pay for with some of our fund balance, and free up those dollars for future needs.

7 thoughts on “Questions for Candidates: Nelsonville Mayor

  1. Nelsonville is fortunate to have Chris Winward as a candidate for mayor. She is well-informed about the many issues Nelsonville faces and will bring intelligence, experience and — importantly — thoughtfulness and her truly lovely demeanor to address them. After seeing her in action as a village trustee and knowing her extensive professional background, I was so grateful when I learned she was running.

    I am certain Chris will make an excellent mayor. The role requires someone who is willing to invest significant time and energy into under-standing a broad range of topics, including but not limited to budgeting, promoting public safety, addressing infrastructure needs and building community. With her substantial professional experience, Chris will bring significant knowledge as well as the ability to dig in and learn more when needed.

    She has also demonstrated a willingness to elicit and listen carefully to different opinions, and then to make decisions that she believes will benefit the village as a whole. Sometimes these decisions don’t satisfy everyone, but I expect Chris will continue to listen, learn and move the village forward in productive and cost-effective ways.

    If you have the chance, ask Chris why she is running and you’ll hear the enthusiasm and generosity of spirit she will bring to the work. Please join me and my family as we vote for Chris Winward for Nelsonville mayor on Tuesday (March 15).

  2. Rudolf van Domele is correct that the Nelsonville Village Board, including his opponent, took a back seat in the fight to stop Homeland Towers from erecting a 95-foot cell tower over historic Cold Spring Cemetery.

    Neighbors repeatedly alerted the Village Board that the settlement with Homeland violated their property rights. The Village Board turned a deaf ear and left it up to the homeowners to battle it out in court on their own at a cost of more than $100,000. Last month a judge ruled in our neighbors’ favor against Homeland.

    The Village Board also approved a building permit despite the fact that the cell tower and its rambling access road would destroy an endangered bat habitat and result in a dangerous fire access road that violates the state fire code. The Current has fully reported all of the Village Board’s failures to protect our property rights, history and environment.
    Nelsonville needs leaders like Rudolf who will stand up to defend our rights and our community.

  3. With real issues to address such as speeding, pedestrian safety, the sewers and collaboration with Cold Spring, it was dis-appointing to see continued mischaracterizations of the village’s short-term rental regulations.

    Many residents, like us, are glad Nelsonville has adopted common-sense short-term rental regulations, the result of what we saw firsthand was an open, transparent and extended process that invited and considered resident input. We support Chris Winward for mayor and Dave Moroney for trustee as people we trust will continue to focus on the issues important to preserving and improving our village.

  4. Nelsonville needs a diversity of thoughts and opinions on its board to ensure that the rights of individuals are protected from government overreach. Rudolf van Domele has seen firsthand how the reliance on hearsay and faulty data can obscure motives and allow for onerous legislation to be enacted.

    Because I trust that he will talk to all residents and hear their opinions on the various matters facing our village, I recommend a vote for Rudolf for mayor of Nelsonville.

  5. To me, and many other Nelsonville residents who walk daily in our woods, a hugely important issue in the mayoral election is the candidates’ plans for our beautiful woods.

    I love and highly value the woods and do not want to see any part of it cut down, including “to create a clearing on the wooded Secor Street parcel for a village green or a playground,” as proposed by one of the mayoral candidates. I strongly prefer that the woods be left alone for residents’ enjoyment, to walk and hike and enjoy the birdsongs.

    Chris Winward would not only support preserving the woods, but has attended every village event involving native-species plantings in the woods to make it better for birds and pollinators, including the event at Cedar Street where the Boy Scouts pulled out aggressive invasive plants and put in plants that create habitat for birds and pollinators. She also helped with planting Nelsonville’s pollinator garden at North Pearl and siting the bee houses near the kiosk at the trailhead. She is totally dedicated to the preservation of our woods.

    In other ways, she has also shown herself to be forward-thinking about the village from an environmental perspective. She supports the effort to solarize the Village Hall in an attempt to reduce the high energy costs for the village. She has met with our state Assembly member, seeking funding for work on our trails.

    For me, these issues are very important and I encourage anyone who cares about the woods to support Chris Winward for mayor.

  6. I’m enthusiastically casting my vote for Chris Winward for mayor on March 15. Chris has the background, experience and vision to be a great mayor for our village. A true public servant, she has a demonstrable track record of service to our community as a trustee, deputy mayor and volunteer. She is running for all the right reasons and with a vision that I support. The best public servants are those who serve for the good and welfare of the community as a whole. That is Chris and that is who I hope others join me in voting for on March 15!

    Campanile is a candidate for a trustee seat on the Nelsonville Village Board.

  7. We are lucky enough to have two viable candidates that have the best interests of Nelsonville in mind.

    That said, I’m happy to throw my support Chris Winward for mayor. In her time as a trustee I have appreciated her approach to the town’s challenging issues with a dedication, thoroughness and level headedness necessary to succeed as mayor.

    I hope we are lucky enough to elect Chris as I have no doubt will work tenaciously for the betterment of our community.