The Mid-Hudson Sustainability Planning Consortium unveiled its strategy to the public for a regional growth project, called the Regional Sustainability Plan, at SUNY Orange in Newburgh on Monday evening.
Funded by about $10 million from NYSERDA and part of the Cleaner, Greener Communities program put into action by Governor Cuomo last year, the consortium has until Christmas of this year to present an economic roadmap for the seven-county region that will promote job growth as well as reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The group's planning teams are broken down into categories like agriculture, energy, materials management, transportation and water, and will meet throughout the year to create ideas aimed at accessing the up to $90 million in funding New York State will provide for local projects next year.
According to one of the consortium's co-chairs, Orange County Commissioner of Planning David Church, planners will report to the recently created regional economic development councils, which will grade the quality of a proposal on a 20-point scale.
"The state is going to establish a funding mechanism early in 2013 that projects go to. We just need to find out from folks that are here what are some good ideas that we should advance that the state should consider in the future," said Church.
While they are comprised of county governments and municipalities, the consortium is not a governmental body, but an ad-hoc arrangement of groups funded by contributions from utility companies dedicated towards the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, he explained, called Renewable Energy Group Inc. (REGI) funding.
Some attendees were skeptical of the group's motives, saying the group was going over the head of local planning boards and legislatures. Glenda Rose-McGee from Olivebridge, and a few other disgruntled audience members, called it a push for public housing that will achieve energy usage mitigation through mixed use zoning.
"How do you possibly try to disguise this complete subversion of democracy with this phony green mask…you're coming here with predetermined conclusions. Our elected officials aren't here, so my power is being stolen by a shadow group of non-governmental organizations," Rose-McGee decried.
Public housing, however, was never mentioned in the presentation even though several officials, including Assemblyman Frank Skartados and Orange County Legislator Christopher Eachus, were present.
The consortium plans to return to Newburgh in October to present a draft plan to the public, and encourages anyone who wants to be involved to attend its workshops and group meetings. They utilize social networking features on their website, EngageMidHudson.com, to allow anyone to submit, comment and vote on ideas in eight key development areas.