Election 2023

Four Vie for Two Seats on Putnam Valley Town Board

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Two seats are open on the Putnam Valley Town Board and voters will choose between two Democrats and two Republicans to fill the four-year terms. Democratic Councilman Ralph Smith is not seeking re-election, but Republican incumbent Louie Luongo is running to keep the seat he’s held since 2013.

Also on the ballot are Democrats Sherry Howard, who has been the town clerk for the last eight years, and Brooke Anderson and longtime resident Patty Villanova, a Republican.

Town Supervisor Jacqueline Annabi is unopposed.

Brooke Anderson

Relatively new to the community, and the youngest candidate on the ballot, Anderson moved to Putnam Valley from Utah six years ago with her husband Gabriel and their three young children. An entrepreneur and a small business award recipient, Anderson and her husband have opened six restaurants and ran a crepe and coffee shop in a small town out west before they launched the high-end interior design firm Dean & Dahl, recognized by New York galleries and furniture companies in Manhattan. Her children, ages eight, 10 and 12, attend all three schools in the Putnam Valley School District.

Anderson said she wants to work to bring in outside dollars to the town by making Putnam Valley a tourist destination.

“I would love to see us holding more festivals such as a maple festival or hold trail races. That means doing a lot of networking throughout the Hudson Valley,” she said. “We need to create the perception that we are a welcoming community where people are glad to spend their money. What’s going to shift energy here for businesses and tourism is getting outside money, which we need for small businesses to thrive and to help alleviate the tax burden on our older residents. That’s a huge goal for me.”

An advocate for transparency in government, Anderson said she has seen what she called “antiquated” practices in the town.

“I would definitely want to know what’s going on. There are so many problems that come along with not being transparent, but they are all solvable.”

She also supports term limits for elected positions.

“It’s good to get new people into office. Change is good and so is giving others an opportunity to serve,” Anderson said.

Short-term rentals and Airbnbs should be allowed but require some type of town regulation, Anderson said.

“My stance is that we need to be more welcoming and short-term rentals being available will help that,” she said. “But there needs to be strict guidelines in order to keep the community safe.”

Anderson recalled how she and her husband came to live in Putnam Valley, a place where she felt was ideal to raise her children.

“I researched the Putnam Valley school system for my children and I’m so grateful they are being educated here,” she said. “We sought out this locality and I’m privileged to be raising my kids here.”

Thinking creatively about the economic success of the town is what energizes Anderson to run for Town Board.

“I’m excited to share this beautiful town,” she said. “I’m the right person to be on the Town Board because I have experience working with a conservative culture and making things work. Here the possibilities are endless.”

Sherry Howard

Howard has been Putnam Valley’s town clerk and tax collector for the last eight years and is the only Democrat running endorsed by the Conservative Party.

She started working for the town in 1999 as senior clerk at the Parks & Recreation Department. Before that she worked six years for the school district.

Howard has been an active volunteer in the town for many years, including serving as president of the Putnam Valley Historical Society, overseeing the town’s Sunset Series of concerts for 16 years and starting a widow’s group after her husband died four years ago. She has lived in Putnam Valley since 1980, where she and her husband raised her two children.

“I am running because with my experience I can serve the town very well and I care very much about town,” she said. “As tax collector, I know how important every tax dollar is. People say it’s hard to pay their taxes and I want to do my job to see that every tax dollar is spent well.”

The connection between the Putnam Valley School District and the town has been questioned over the years for not being as strong as it used to be. Howard advocates to strengthen the town’s ties with the schools.

“When I worked for the Parks & Rec department, the town and the school district used to have a project together every year,” Howard said. “The town gave half the money and the school district gave half the money and they did some really nice projects together. I’d like to bring that back again. It kept communications open. It’s a very important relationship.”

Howard supports regulating owners who have short-term rentals or Airbnbs.

“We have no choice in regulating them, they are already here,” she said. “The issues include noise, roads being blocked with parked cars that could impede emergency service vehicles. There are also limited capacities with septic and well water to consider. Regulations are unavoidable so nothing gets out of control and we can learn to live in harmony.”

She said a town should consider if a one-acre property is suitable to be an Airbnb, especially if the property is adjacent to another small property.

If elected, Howard said she will raise the issue of term limits. Currently, Putnam Valley elected officials can serve for as long as they like.

“I don’t think term limits are awful and these jobs shouldn’t be career jobs,” Howard said.

Attracting more businesses to the small commercial hub at Oregon Corners means reaching out to possible retail stores not currently located in Putnam Valley.

“I’d like to see more businesses come to Putnam Valley,” Howard said. “I’d also like to be in contact with the building owners at Oregon Corners to discuss sprucing up the building with fresh paint and flowers to make it more appealing. That might help. Perhaps a new hair salon or a bridal shop would do well here so folks wouldn’t have to drive all the way to Danbury.”

Louis Luongo

Luongo has been a full-time Putnam Valley resident since 1984 and works for Metro-North Railroad. He started working for the town in 1978 as a maintenance worker, a laborer and a driver at the Highway Department. He has volunteered for 40 years for the town’s fire department and ambulance corps and is on the board of directors of the fire department.

Luongo said the top reason he is running again is his deep ties to the town.

“My parents were here before 1979, and I enjoy being a public servant,” Luongo said. “I pay my taxes and look at both sides of projects as they come up.”

Revitalizing the town’s business district is a major concern for Putnam Valley retail owners. Luongo said the town is planning on building a municipal parking lot in the center of town.

“That will help attract more businesses. Currently there are empty buildings there and we have to see what kind of businesses will fit, and we need to decide if our sewer district needs to be expanded,” he said.

Recent floods have closed roads and bridges and have forced the town to consider how to strengthen the town’s infrastructure.

“We are looking at new remediation from the damage the floods caused and to prevent any more damage,” Luongo explained. “There is money in the budget through FEMA, but we don’t want to improve the roads without making needed repairs first so we can try to slow the water getting to certain areas.”

Most contentious has been regulating short-term rentals. The town has held a few public hearings, and Luongo said the town is expected to vote on a regulation sometime in November. His concern is with how Airbnbs overburden septic systems.

“Local AirBNBs will need an annual inspection, which must be applied for by the owners,” Luongo said. “The inspection will tell us if septic overuse could cause overflowing, which could seriously mess up the environment.”

Luongo said when owners of short-term rental properties are approved there would be a user’s tax reflecting the income from the rental.

“The onus is on the property owner to apply to the town as a business,” he said.

As taxes rise, more seniors are forced to move out of their longtime homes. Luongo said this year the town raised the income eligibility limit another $15,000 for seniors to receive tax breaks.

“This will help include more seniors for the tax breaks,” he said.

Luongo said the town has considered incentives for the day camp run by the Parks & Recreation to help families and children.

There are no term limits for those on the Town Board. If Luongo is victorious next week, it will be his third term.

“I haven’t really thought about term limits too much. Everybody has different aspirations,” he said.

Patty Villanova

Villanova has lived in Putnam Valley since her family moved to town in 1955. She and her husband Louis, a semi-retired plumber, built their home in in 1988. She has been a small business owner and a paralegal researcher.

Villanova is concerned with escalating taxes and she supports increasing the senior tax discount so older people can afford to live in Putnam Valley.

“There are two parts to the senior discount on taxes, age and income,” Villanova explained. “At a certain point in one’s life there, maybe during your 70s and 80s, there should be senior discounts that are not based on income. At a certain age you should get a tremendous discount [off taxes] of around 50 percent off. I can’t see people in their 80s and 90s living in their homes being burdened by this.”

Villanova has publicly decried how in 2016 the Putnam County Fire Department allowed illegal dumping of 17,000 cubic yards of contaminated construction debris where the new firehouse is being built. It cost the town $2 million to remediate the contamination, which was required by the state Department of Environmental Conservation. According to Villanova, the town has never acknowledged who paid the $2 million.

“I don’t think the fire department is allowed to print money so let’s not be so disingenuous and pretend that that money did not come directly from the taxpayers,” she remarked. “I’ve brought this up and it’s been like omertà. Nobody wants to talk about it. This is one of the biggest scandals in this town and it’s a disgrace. If elected, I will demand that the state comptroller investigate and audit that $2 million and why they got away with it and why we got stuck paying the bill.”

Villanova said one of her biggest concerns is the health of local lakes that have been suffering from toxic blue green algae, forcing lakes to close to swimmers for most of last summer.

“I helped form the Lake Oscawana Aquatic Plant Control District in 1987 and it was the only time I’ve advocated to raise our taxes,” she said. “There are great new technologies out there to clean our lakes, particularly Lake Peekskill. It’s not right for this community to be paying taxes when you can’t use the lakes.”

Bringing new businesses to Putnam Valley will require strengthening the town’s infrastructure.

“This is a bedroom community and we don’t have the roads to support new businesses,” said Villanova. “The most successful business in Putnam Valley is the gas station on Bryant Pond Road and we gave them a tax abatement for 10 years. If we want to attract businesses, they need to pay taxes so the tax burden isn’t always on the homeowner.”

When it comes to short-term rentals and Airbnbs, Villanova sides with the rights of property owners.

“As long as we are not violating the law or intruding on the rights of others,” she said. “I’m a property rights advocate and not in favor of the proposed Airbnb law. We have rules in Putnam Valley on accessory apartments that are already on the books and they are very flawed. Also, this town has a rotten history of selective enforcement of its laws, and if they pass a new law that doesn’t mean they will enforce it properly.”

Villanova is in favor of term limits for Putnam Valley elected positions.

“There are term limits for county legislators and we need the same thing,” she said. “Incumbents with no term limits have tremendous advantages once they are elected and it’s very hard for them to get knocked out. This is not an autocracy nor is it a meritocracy. We can’t keep having the same people in office.”

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