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TLC, Residents
Debate Plans

By Jeanne Sager
JEFFERSONVILLE — August 27, 2004 – Jeff residents have found there’s a lot to learn about starring on national TV.
The folks who showed up at Wednesday night’s public hearing before the village planning board and zoning board of appeals got an earful from True Entertainment – the company producing “Town Haul,” a decorating show that will air on TLC this winter.
True staff were on hand to get approval from both boards to build an apartment in Russell and Peggy Johansen’s Center Street garage to house “Cowboy Bob,” a local veteran who rides his motorized wheelchair around the village.
But they were also bombarded with complaints from local residents concerned with plans for a teen center in the upstairs of the village hall.
At the crux of contention was True Entertainment’s decision to make changes in the village without requesting resident input. Coupled with that was a perception that the company was getting special treatment because they are putting the village on television.
True staff showed up at Wednesday’s meeting without drawings or blueprints for their projects – they said they were there to find out what they needed to present to the boards, and promised to return with everything necessary to obtain variances and permits legally.
But a number of residents said they want to know if the letter of the law is really being followed.
Jeffersonville resident Pete Galbert said he’s been trying to get a variance from the town for three months – he’s respected the time it takes for the process to be completed.
“There’s a process here that everyone in this community follows,” Galbert said.
“Is this just because a TV show’s coming in and ‘Boy, don’t we want this publicity, we’re going to let this slide through’?” he asked.
The variance for the Johansens’ garage rehab, which is required to allow a three-family dwelling in a residential zone, sounds OK – but is this something that will open up residential areas in Jeffersonville to numerous requests to make apartment buildings?
“If I come in with a camera and want to make my garage an apartment, will that be OK?” Galbert asked.
“You people aren’t prepared to even submit a blueprint,” said village resident Jerry Brown. “To me, this is disrespectful to the board.”
True’s general contractor, Ray Romano, said he agreed it would seem so, but their intentions are to comply with village law.
“As soon as we know the breakdown of what your town expects, I’ll be glad to provide it,” he said.
“We’re not asking for any special treatment,” Romano noted.
Zoning Board member Leo Glass said the True representatives will have to make good on their word.
“Let me put your mind at rest,” he told the concerned audience. “This applicant will have to jump over all the same hoops as you.”
The meeting continued with concerns from the public that True’s choices weren’t necessarily what’s best for the village.
“We appreciate your coming,” said Village Planning Board member Greg Brewer. “I think the problem is what you decided to do . . . the projects are the problem.”
Other projects listed by the True representatives – including facade work on Main Street, awnings that will be added to businesses along the main drag and rehabbing of the Lions’ Field – will be a great asset, he said.
But the townspeople should have some input on whether they want a teen center, Brewer explained.
Residents of the area surrounding Center Street said it’s only going to exacerbate the problems they already have with rowdy teens who litter and make noises late into the night.
“The language on these kids is filthy,” said village resident Walter McKean.
Challenged by Mayor Ed Justus, who asked if he’d ever reported his numerous complaints, McKean said he knows the kids need somewhere to go.
“But it doesn’t belong upstairs,” he said.
Western Sullivan Public Library Director Sue Scott said she’s already dealing with kids hanging out right outside of the Jeffersonville branch – and that’s connected to the village hall.
Galbert, Scott’s husband, said his wife has cleaned feces out of the book drop and had to chase young hooligans away from the building.
“She’s the library director and she’s got kids outside,” Brewer pointed out. “Why aren’t they inside?
“I think you’re going to have the same problem with a teen center,” he noted.
Other residents said they’d like to see a teen center, but they want more information.
“I think the village very much needs a youth center,” said Eleanor Bucar, who lives across the street. “It’s a long time coming.
“But what will they do?” she asked. “They need an outlet.”
Justus said a youth committee has been appointed, and they will be responsible with setting the hours and rules of the center. He hopes to have ping-pong, billiards, cards and other games available – but that is up to the committee.
There will be “100 percent adult supervision,” Justus said.
Asked if this was something planned before the TV crews came to town, Justus said there was simply no money to make it happen before.
Hearing that, Brewer turned to Executive Producer Aimee Nowland and asked if the village hall would still be “overhauled” if the teen center was a no-go.
“Yes,” she said, but when questioned later, Nowland said only the downstairs of the building would receive attention if the teen center idea was nixed.
“There’d be no story there,” she said. “It would just be an empty room.”
Nowland said she would consider revamping the upstairs to hold town meetings and said the work will be mostly cosmetic – if the teen center doesn’t work out, the village would still have a “beautiful space” for other events.
Nowland was asked if she’d been to the boards before to find out what needed to be done – so the public could put in their two cents before it was a “done deal.”
“Let me tell you how we came to choose Jeffersonville,” she said. “We looked at 60 towns. They needed to be relatively close to NY. . . . We liked the people of Jeffersonville.
“As far as the projects are concerned, we went through the town – we are trying to do a cosmetic improvement of the town, not to redefine the town.”
Nowland said the aim is to unify the look of Main Street to make it look more attractive.
“Not that it doesn’t,” she said, backtracking. “It’s on its way.”
There will be landscaping, work on certain stores – Kelly’s Kones was mentioned as a possibility, with a new deck – although details weren’t revealed.
“It will look beautiful because that’s what we do for a living, and we’re good at what we do.”
“But who gave you permission to do this?” Galbert asked. “You run a TV show – that’s what you do.
“We’re townspeople, that’s what we do,” he noted – and that includes abiding by the rules and zoning of the town.
“We talked to Ed,” Nowland said.
Her answer put the mayor back on the firing line – open to comments from people who said this project was being rammed down their throats.
“It’s obvious you’re going to shove it down our throat,” McKean said. “You want it, we’re going to have it.”
Justus said the village meetings are always open to the public, and the teen center was listed right on last month’s agenda, a claim substantiated by village trustee Peggy Johansen who stood up to encourage people attend board meetings to keep abreast of the situation.
“Unfortunately we have a lot of people my age and older here tonight,” Justus said. “I could have packed this room with kids – let’s give them the chance . . .”
“I don’t think TLC is coming to do any harm,” added village resident and business owner Kelly Sattler. “We are condemning a youth center we haven’t even tried yet.
“I think everybody should just have fun with this.”
The hearings closed on a positive note – with a request from Cochecton resident Greg Swartz to have open communication in the village about any and all plans.
The boards delayed deciding on the variance and change of use for the Johansen property until Sept. 7, allowing True time to put together the necessary paperwork.

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