Awards 2014



Marcus J. Molinaro, Dutchess County Executive

The Land Use Law Center is happy to announce that this year’s recipient of its Groundbreaker’s Award is County Executive Marcus J. Molinaro. The Groundbreaker's Award is given to a graduate of the Center's  Land Use Leadership Alliance (LULA) Training Program who has done exemplary work in a community or region using the types of land use and decision-making tools and techniques taught in the LULA program. County Executive Molinaro was selected from a prestigious group of other past LULA graduates nominated for this award.

Mr. Molinaro was elected as Dutchess County’s 7th County Executive in November 2011.  At 36, he took office as the youngest County Executive in county history. He was first elected to public office at the age of 18 in 1994, serving on Village of Tivoli Board of Trustees.  In 1995, he became the youngest mayor in the United States.  It was during this time that Marc attended the Land Use Leadership Alliance Training Program. During the graduation ceremony, Mark told his fellow graduates that the program had changed his attitude about being mayor. When he came, he said he was nearly burned out from “putting out brush fires.”  Because of the program, he was returning home refreshed because he understood that he a different role: that of stimulating dialogue about problems and “building community one conversation at a time.” It was these words, building communities one conversation at a time that would later be etched on every LULA plaque distributed over the next 20 years to over 3,000 LULA graduates across 6 states.

Marc was re-elected mayor five times and elected four times to the Dutchess County Legislature. In 2006, he brought his passion for public service to Albany when elected to represent the 103rd District in the New York State Assembly.    Governor Andrew Cuomo appointed him to serve on the Governor’s Mandate Relief Redesign Team.   

Marc has been leader on Open Space Protection and Farmland Preservation, an advocate to preserve the Hudson River Valley Greenway and a supporter of the Greenway Compact.    

As Dutchess County Executive, he has been committed to core leadership principles of Focus, Inclusion, Logic and Fairness to best meet the needs of county residents.

Marc has been active in numerous community and civic organizations.  In 2010, he was honored with the VV Anderson Award for Community Service by the Anderson Center for Autism.   In 2012, the readers of Hudson Valley Magazine voted Molinaro “Best Politician” in the Hudson Valley region.   In 2013, he was appointed to the Greenway Heritage Conservancy for the Hudson River Valley by the New York State Senate.

Through the County Executive Molinaro’s dedication to public service and his efforts in communication and collaboration between regional partners and stakeholders on numerous land use issues, Mr. Molinaro has been able to enhance the economic and environmental sustainability of the Dutchess County region.



John J. Saccardi, VHB, Inc.

The Theodore W. Kheel Center on the Resolution of Environmental Interest Disputes was launched in April 2008 to train lawyers and local leaders in environmental and land use dispute resolution. Located at the Land Use Law Center on the Pace Law School campus in White Plains, New York, the Kheel Center aims to promote the use of non-traditional forums to resolve environmental and land disputes. To further this mission, the Kheel Center bestows an annual Founder’s Award upon an individual or municipality that has worked collaboratively with a community and reinvented democracy to make change happen.

The Kheel Center and Land Use Law Center are pleased to honor John Saccardi with the 2014 Founder’s Award to recognize his work in furthering sustainable planning and development in the region. During his illustrious practice, John exemplified the type of collaboration and spirit that the Kheel Center celebrates. Both Centers were proud to have worked with John, who assisted numerous times in training programs, executive roundtable discussions, and conferences, volunteering his extensive planning and land use expertise. 

John spent his entire 46 year planning career based in Westchester, providing services primarily to communities and developers throughout the Hudson Valley and on Long Island. The signature features of his work can be summarized in two words: “balance” and “achievement.” Caring both about the quality of a development’s design as well as its development potential, John sought to guide projects in a manner that made them feasible economically while minimizing possible negative impacts on their surroundings. Thus, he was respected and sought after both by communities for assistance in planning for their futures and by property owners seeking to craft feasible and approvable plans. Succeeding at both is a testament to John’s ability to see both sides of a project and to use that understanding to reach a consensus…not always easy in this part of the world. John played a lead role in the Central Avenue Rezoning, Comprehensive Plans for White Plains, New Rochelle, Rockland and Orange Counties, the Village of Highland Falls and Town of Highlands among many others; those involved in these engagements and his work on promoting specific developments can testify to the countless positive impacts of his approach.

The second word - achievement - helps to explain why John was so often able to reach consensus in this fractious business.  His focus was on achieving good projects, not in waving a banner proclaiming the correctness of his position. Especially in the area of affordable housing, something he felt deeply about, his focus was on getting projects approved, funded, and built.  And that he did,  in Westchester working with the Community Housing Resource Center and numerous community leaders, and on Long Island where his work in Community Development and related programs resulted in thousands of new and rehabilitated housing units. John’s ability to forge working relationships among various public and private entities was also reflected in his work on the reuse of major properties, such as the former psychiatric hospital campuses in Rockland, Dutchess and Nassau Counties.

When the Westchester Municipal Planning Federation, of which John had been a long-time board member, presented him with its President’s Award earlier this year, it was noted that John had been a mentor not only to those who worked for him but also for the many municipal officials, developers and other professionals who had the opportunity to work with him; even those who found themselves on the opposite side of the negotiating table. As a result, John’s legacy of thoughtful and effective planning will live on.