In November Independent Fred Pizzuto was elected Lloyd Town Supervisor, beating Republican Jeff Paladino by 1370 to 1297 votes. He was to be sworn in on January 1.
Pizzuto is no stranger to politics, having served a four-year term as a Town Councilman in Lloyd in 1977, an Ulster County Legislator and a Dutchess County Legislator. He lives on Brescia Boulevard on land that was part of his grandfather’s much larger farm.
Pizzuto has been a member of the American Legion and has also been a Mason for his entire life. During the Vietnam War he signed up as a reservist and served stateside.
“We were a combat engineering unit and my job description was as a bulldozer operator and a welder,” he recalled.
Pizzuto had been a life-long Republican but in 2005 he enrolled in the Independence Party.
Though Pizzuto lost his initial run for Supervisor two years ago against Supervisor Paul Hansut, he decided to run again after Hansut announced that he would not be seeking another term.
Pizzuto said this time around he used the ‘old shoe leather’ strategy.
“You can use the internet and you can do mailings but there’s nothing to replace knocking on doors,” he said.
Pizzuto said the position of Supervisor is now a full time job.
“There’s 80 employees, 7 departments and a $10 million budget, give or take, so it’s a business. I always felt that it’s a full time job and I ran on that,” he said.
Pizzuto said he will work harder to attract visitors coming to the Walkway Over The Hudson to the Hamlet of Highland and it’s surrounding area. He calls the Walkway, “a diamond that they handed us, so how do we capture the 600,000 to 750,000 people that come in a year and bring them into our grasp through our rail trail and everything else we can do?”
Pizzuto said he is gong to “task” himself, the Town Board and the Economic Development Committee on how best to attract these visitors into town.
Pizzuto said the town is facing a wave of “massive development that’s surged into the town.” He strongly supports passing a moratorium on large scale projects in order to allow the town time to update the town’s Comprehensive Plan and certain parts of the zoning code. He pointed out that he has a unique perspective, having served as the Planning Board Chairman before winning the position as Supervisor.
“I’m just coming off of all of that and fortunately my head is full of what is going on with this, firsthand,” he said. “There are 1,000 beds, if you want to think in beds, between the nursing home project, which is a good project [but] size could come into question, and next is the Views that is two buildings, 44 apartments with commercial space downstairs and really no way to get in and out.”
Pizzuto said the traffic solution the Views has proposed to make South Chapel Hill a two-way street will kill people and is “never going to happen. We told them that they’re not running their traffic through the [nearby] subdivision. It’s sacrosanct, you’re not going to start running not only trucks and service vehicles but all the people in and out; you’re not going to upset the character of that neighborhood.”
Pizzuto said the developer of the Views was informed of these issues “going in but he bought the property thinking they were going to get in and out on Route 9W and they can’t. They can get in but they can only get out going south. The onus is on them to figure that out.” He pointed out that the state already rates the intersection of Route 9W and Chapel Hill Road an F without anything being added.
Pizzuto ticked off other projects proposed for this area of town: a hotel behind the Walgreens, a gas station, a two-story residential/commercial building and maybe an Urgent Cafe facility. In addition, there is a proposal for another phase for the Golden Hill senior living facility, an Auto Zone parts supply store and a Stewarts Shop.
“It’s like an explosion within 1,000 yards of the [FDR] Bridge and Chapel Hill Road,” he said.
Pizzuto stressed that passing a six-month moratorium, with two possible 3 month extensions, is not aimed at stopping all development but is designed to allow, “the whole town to take a big deep breath and try and figure out what’s the best course and what works for the Town of Lloyd because 25 or 50 years from now, if they get it wrong, it’s here, it’s not going anywhere, it’s done.”
Pizzuto said the town code was changed in the 2012-13 time frame, “to allow all of this and you almost want to step back and wonder if there was a design element afoot because it all got changed and then this all came.” He said his guiding principle is to make sure that development is good for the taxpayers in the town and not what benefits developers. The core issue for Pizzuto is how to grow the town in a way that people want to live here and can afford it.
Pizzuto said he has heard county and state officials say at meetings on development that, “developers flat out lie to you and they don’t tell you everything. The town has the ability to say no we’re not doing it and for years we were told that it’s zoned for it, you have to [approve it] or you’re going to get sued. So what.”
Over the last few years the Town Board has been able to keep taxes low and has met the tax cap. Pizzuto said he will continue to generate a monthly report that gives Town Board members a snapshot of where the town is at financially. He noted that a significant number of grants will benefit the town: $675,000 for the sidewalks in the hamlet, $200,000 to repave the original section of the Hudson Valley Rail Trail, nearly $700,000 for the John Burroughs Black Creek Water Trail and a $125,000 member item from NYS Assemblyman Jonathan Jacobs to construct a stage/facility at the Town Field.
Pizzuto said he understands the criticism of Highland’s finances the was issued in a report by the NYS Comptroller. He said because towns have been able to borrow at 1% to 2%, towns have been encouraged to borrow rather than spend the town’s cash while being careful to not overtax the residents.
“You don’t want to have the fund balance increase to the point where you’re over taxing people and you have extra cash vs. you’re long term borrow for capital and fund it that way and not affect your reserves,” he said.
Pizzuto said this will be dealt with in more depth in the fist few months of 2020. The town has a new full time bookkeeper as well as a part-time bookkeeper that will bring the town’s finances in compliance with the Comptroller’s recommendations.
Pizzuto said he would like to establish and open door ‘Supervisor Saturdays’ to allow the public to come to town hall and speak with him about any issue of concern. He believes this will help to inform the public on town issues and solicit their opinions on how to move Lloyd forward into the future.
“Highland’s a great place to grow up, it’s a great place to live and a great place to retire and how do you maintain all of that going forward in this crazy world,” he said.