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My Notes on the 2 Public Hearings 7/22/2013

Notes on the 2 Public Hearings  7-22-13

This was a long evening—from 6 PM to 9 PM with few pauses.  I have 11 pages of handwritten notes, so please excuse any omissions and short cuts that I may take.

I am presenting the two Hearings first, below:

Roy Brown opened the Public Hearing at 6:00 PM Everyone present: Mike Mortenson, Don Westmore, Joel Craig, Supervisor Brown, Joan Snyder, Charlene Diehl, the Town Clerk, and the Attorney, Tal Rappleyea.

The first Public Hearing was on the proposed Zoning change from Hamlet-Residential to Hamlet-Mixed Use for the properties along Main Street from Church Avenue eastward to Hover Avenue.

After explaining the reasoning behind the proposed change Roy opened the Hearing to the public for comments.

The Town Engineer Mr. Mastriani had done the short form SEQRA report and, going through step by step, he outlined the criteria he checked to gauge any environmental impact on the area affected by the Zoning change, ending up with a conclusion that the level of impact was that no negative effect would be caused by the change..  And this constituted a NEGDEC—a negative declaration that would not prevent the proposed change from taking effect.

First to speak was Corrine Curry, Co-Chair of the Economic Development Committee:

She said that this proposed change was an appropriate an essential change that would lead to greater economic activity without harming the neighborhood.  The 2011 Zoning Law changed all the properties along Main Street from Church Ave West to Route 9G. to the Mixed Use zoning designation.  This proposed change would “…extend the Mixed Use  [Zone] east of Church Street to Hover, unifying the Main Street of Germantown for its expanded potential and clarity.”  She cited the current businesses operating in the area and the other businesses in the past.  Her statement ended with “ The change in designation of these 17 parcels on Main Street to MIXED USE ….is an initiative of the GEDC [Germantown Economic Development Committee] with a vision of appropriate and essential growth for a vital Germantown.  It is the logical extension of the residential and business district.”

Alyssa Raugalis rose to speak: She was primarily concerned with an increase of traffic and a shortage of parking that might develop if there were more businesses there.  Could Town lower speed limit?  She was also concerned that there were no sidewalks for kids going to school.

Roy responded that since Rt 8 (Main St) was a county road and since any change of speed limits had to go through the NY DOT it could be ages before any such action could be accomplished.  He said that, as far as school children’s safety there is a fund for “ School Pedestrian Safety” where funding could be sought if it was determined to be hazardous there.

Attorney Rappleyea said that the Zoning change would not give carte blanche for increased traffic because of regulations that are included in the Zoning designation.

Bill Dougher spoke: Why are we doing this at all? If there is no pressure from businesses lining up to buy property why do it?  Roy responds that [because of the better economic climate] the Town wants to be poised for in-coming businesses.  Don Westmore says that the Comprehensive Plan requires that any development should be in balance with the concept of the rural community.  There certainly is no rubber stamp for any business that comes along.  The Planning Board has many tools to set requirements.

Dawn Breeze spoke: Why was this area not included in the changes for the Zoning Law in 2011? Joel says that at that time there wasn’t much interest in continuing the Mixed Use designation out eastward to Hover Avenue. The economy was bad—Otto’s was not there then.  We want to be more pro-active.

Ms Breeze asks what about all the parking required?  More asphalt will appear and lawns disappear to become parking lots.  Joel says the Planning Board has Site Plan Review and also there is a percentage limit of how much land can become parking. He says that between the Comprehensive Plan and the powers of the Zoning Board the town can guard the Town’s quality of life. Roy says that any request to develop will be subject  to Planning Board scrutiny and neighbors will be notified of any change that might affect their property, [and can make their voices heard at the hearings.]

Dan Raugalis spoke, noting that there was a “permitted use” of animal husbandry.  Would the change keep them from raising their chickens? He was assured that it would not affect his right to raise chickens  He asks if the water and sewer lines would be extended?  The Board looked at each other [ruefully] and Roy responded, “No, just in our dreams”

Charlene Diehl read a letter to the Board from Ellen Jouret-Epstein asking the Board to make every effort to make sure the residents understand the consequences of the change.  She took no position pro or con, but was concerned that the greatest understanding should be achieved before the vote was taken.

Attorney Rappleyea noted that the County had approved the proposed change.  Charlene read the letter from the County that basically was another Negative Declaration of Impact on the county and the neighboring towns.

The Public Hearing was closed at 6:43 PMThe Board voted to accept the NEG-DEC for the SEQRA report—all Aye.  They decided to vote on the adoption of the Zoning Change at the next Town Board Meeting on August 19th.

The Board immediately opened the second Public Hearing about the Town taking over ownership of the Powder Mills Spring Dam.  [I’ll set the stage for this:  The small dam on the south side of Rt 8, east of Town, has been found to be in danger of failing.  Partly because of its age and partly because of the excessive rainfall in the past two years. it has become decrepit. The approximately 5-acre pond behind the dam is known as the Fire Pond, and, years ago, as the Ice Pond.  The fire department uses the water in the pond. When they will have no water source near a fire they fill up a truck with the pond’s water and take it with them.

The family  (McGraths) that purchased the land next to the dam thought the town owned the land, dam and the Pond, and was responsible for maintaining it.  It turns out that the sliver of land where the dam is located is  actually part of the  McGrath property.  They have no means to repair the dam, which could cost thousands.  There is funding that is not available to private individuals, however, a municipality can apply for and receive grants.  The Town and the McGraths have discussed the town taking over the small piece of land but there are legal hurdles to such a transaction.  Also, the town will have to decide to take on the additional burden of repairing and maintaining the dam from now on, at considerable cost, even if grants are received.  If the dam should fail it could cause quite a bit of damage to the nearby neighbors downstream, to say nothing of County Route 8 which would easily be washed away, resulting in road closure for a period of time. Doing nothing about the dam could result in considerable damages, so the Town may have to bite the bullet and take ownership of the dam.]

The Town Engineer said that they should do a study of its condition and the feasibility of repairs or, if needed, re-construction.  The cost of an engineering study would be around $19,000. but nothing could be done without it.  The DEC has a system of categorizing the condition of small dams, and that might determine the funding limitations. Don Westmore asked where the money would come for that initial study?  Roy responded they would take it from reserves and from the Hazardous Mitigation fund, while they sought aid from the State or the Feds.

Aylissa Raugalis, who lives across the street from the dam, said she had noticed the disrepair of the dam, and was concerned because she sees children playing around and on the dam at times.  She is also concerned about Route 8 being damaged and closed.

The Board decided to go over their options and will vote  on the issue at the next Board Meeting

The hearing was closed at 6:58  Please go to the entry of Notes on the Town Board Meeting of 7/22/2013 for the rest of the meeting that evening.

Kay Abraham

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