BOARD REJECTS CHIP PLANTS

MICHELE MORGAN BOLTON Staff writer
Section: MAIN,  Page: A1

Date: Friday, October 15, 1999

Hundreds of residents opposed to a plan to bring a pair of multibillion-dollar computer chip manufacturing plants to the Rensselaer Technology Park cheered and hugged Thursday when a majority of their elected officials voted to kill the plan after a heated two-and-a-half-hour debate. In a 3-2 vote, Democratic councilmen Al Spain, Dennis Nagengast and Bill O'Neil voted to terminate the environmental review of the pair of chip-fabs, as they're called, that are the subject of an aggressive state initiative to bring high-tech industry to New York.


A resolution to suspend the review process brought forth by councilman and Democratic majority leader Jim Flanigan failed.


The Tech Park parcel is one of nine sites statewide being considered for the plants, which could cost $3 billion each to build.


Chip-fab supporters who said the plants would bring a wealth of jobs, a windfall of tax revenues and abundant prosperity to the entire Capital Region just shook their heads in disbelief.


Flanigan's counter-resolution, supported only by Republican Supervisor Roy Wright, would have declared the review incomplete and effectively suspended the process until a particular applicant came forward with some interest in locating in the town.


``I only agree with Al's last paragraph (of the resolution),'' Flanigan said. ``We need more dialogue. My resolution leaves the door open to that dialogue. Al's closes the door.''


Spain listed pages of reasons why he thought the project didn't fit into the character of North Greenbush. Among them was the assertion that the chip plants are inconsistent with the original zoning and standards established by the tech park calling for only light industry.


Spain also called for an immediate halt to all town funding of the project.


The Town Board has the authority to reject the proposal because it is lead agency for the state's environmental review of the project.


Supporters, including attorney Bob Sweeney, representing the Center for Economic Growth, said not allowing the review to complete its course would open up the town to a legal challenge.


Heavy hitters in business, education and politics gathered Tuesday at Hudson Valley Community College to put an 11th-hour spin on the chip-fab plan, claiming rejecting it would seal the economic destiny of the entire Capital Region.


Spain said he was rankled by their arrogance.


``I thank them for their advice,'' he said. ``But we can take care of ourselves.


``Rensselaer County had the ability to withdraw this proposal when they knew our positions,'' he said. ``But they chose to test our resolve.''


Spain described what he called the manufacturers' propensity to enter a town with promises of prosperity and then leave abruptly in an industry downturn or when another community makes a sweeter offer.


That means layoffs, he said.


``This is not an industry in which you retire,'' he said.


Flanigan said he would never support anything that would harm the place where he has served as a councilman for 22 years.


``I've put a lot of time and energy into this community,'' he said.


Many participants Thursday hissed at Troy resident Maxine Cairns when she chastised them for thinking only of themselves.


``This is a Capital District problem,'' she said. ``I am sick and tired of this `not in my back yard' stuff. We have poverty in Troy because you people don't want to change.''


But then residents like John Newhart, who termed Spain's resolution thoughtful, comprehensive and civilized, said, ``I wish I could support this plant. But I believe it is a very short step across a very deep divide. This would not be the same town.''


Earlier in the day, Gov. George Pataki said he would not attempt to influence -- or even comment on -- the local issue of whether the plant should be in Rensselaer County.


``I don't want to tell a community what they should or should not do with their zoning,'' Pataki said. ``Obviously, we have undertaken the chip plant initiative because we think, for the state of New York, it would be an enormously positive development. But each community has to make its own decision.


``When I was a mayor,'' Pataki said, ``I wouldn't want somebody from another town coming in to tell me what our zoning should or shouldn't be. We'll leave it to the people of the town.''