My name is Peter J. LaGrasse and I reside in Stony Creek, New York. I am a graduate architect and worked as an engineer. I am Chairman of the Stony Creek Board of Assessors, and have been assessor since 1976, and am Captain of the Emergency Squad of the Stony Creek Volunteer Fire Company.
As an assessor for over twenty-five years, I know the impact of assessment and taxation. It is important to keep in mind one basic thing.
"The power to tax is the power to destroy."
If your Erie Canalway Heritage Corridor is successful, a new culture will replace the current culture and different people will move into the area. Property values will increase. As new people more into the area, assessments will change. The people who live in the area now will not be able to pay the taxes and to continue living there.
If this scheme succeeds, there is no way to protect the indigenous population
If the economic development that you plan kicks in, it will destroy lives. Instead, there will be new lives. Different people will be living in the area, people who can afford the taxes.
I want to also point out the extreme limitation in the protection from liability. Owners of property where trails are located need to have this information. The state law protects a very narrow range of activities from liability.
Swimming is exempted from recreational liability protections. For example, along the Rondout Creek, a bike trail is being built. A person wanted to go for a swim. He became a paraplegic after somehow hitting the rocks in the creek. He sued the owner of the property along the opposite shore.
A man is using a kayak and it flips. The shoreline owner is sued.
Two men are coming out of a bar. There are going to relieve themselves along a public trail. One of them falls in the dark. The property owner is liable because their activity using the trail is not classified as recreational activity.
When property is offered for sale, the liability that the property carries with it on account of the trail will affect the valuation. As a professional assessor, I would take into account the effect of the liability on the value of the property.
You should realize that what is planned for this scheme has the potential for two profound impacts.
I am an engineer; I like canals. I appreciate locks and all that is entailed in the construction and use of a canal. But the canal is already there. This plan is not a plan for a canal.
This is a Heritage Corridor. It is a plan for a total change in cultural orientation.
It is proposed very lightly, for individuals, and by individuals who have no idea of the impact this will have on the community.
If the scheme is successful, the indigenous population will not be able to continue to live in the area.