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Bethel's Summer
An Interesting One

By Nathan Mayberg
KAUNEONGA LAKE — August 16, 2005 – The Town of Bethel put at least one of its toughest episodes behind when it re-adopted Town Road 62, the Toronto Dam Road, on Thursday.
The road was one of the major sources of contention amongst local residents, the board and Steve Dubrovsky, of Woodstone Lakes LLC. Dubrovsky had attempted to block local access to the Toronto Dam through that road, which runs straight into his upscale Chapin Estate development. Residents claimed the road belonged to the town, as it was maintained by the town for many years.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission stepped in and reiterated its stance that two public accesses to the reservoir are legally required to be provided by the Mirant energy company, which operates the hydroelectric dam.
So Dubrovsky voluntarily built a new road and officially donated it to the town, which accepted it last week.
Bob Barrett, the President of the Smallwood Civic Association, thanked the town for bringing an end to the “tortuous event.”
“This is an end and a beginning,” said Town of Bethel Supervisor Victoria Simpson.
The board agreed to hold a ribbon cutting ceremony on the road sometime in the future.
In a series of motions, the Town of Bethel Board unanimously approved a $3.7 million 2-mile-long sewer line extension to the Kauneonga Lake Sewer District, which will hook into the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts and surrounding homes who choose to join.
The town will bond the funds for the line. Simpson estimated that the not-for-profit corporation will pay over $160,000 a year for capital, operation and maintenance costs.
Jonathan Drapkin, the executive director of the Gerry Foundation, stayed throughout the lengthy proceeding and thanked the board for their efforts.
He said there are currently 125 workers at the site. He also told the board of the company’s recent agreement to continue paying their full share of taxes through the Sullivan County Industrial Development Agency, even though they do not have to due to their tax-exempt status.
The town’s new comprehensive plan was introduced by their planning consultant, Tom Shepstone.
The plan, which will revise the town’s zoning, was put together through a steering committee. It will be the first update to the master plan since 1960, said Shepstone.
Shepstone outlined how the town had changed over the last decade, seeing an 18 percent population increase, while absorbing a significant housing construction boom.
The municipality remains a bastion of retirees, who make up 27 percent of all residents. The land is largely wooded – 40,000 of its approximately 58,000 acres are wooded, said Shepstone.
“Before we get too concerned about growth, remember that,” he said.
He released the results of a community survey which said that residents were concerned primarily with just that. Their number one desire for the master plan was that it ensures a clean and green environment. That was followed by the need to preserve historic sites, protect farms, increase commercial activity and “better development.”
Residents said they wanted to slow the spread of large-scale, high-density developments by limiting buildings to 1-2-acre lots. They also wanted to minimize construction on flood plain areas, wetlands and eagle habitats.
The highest density projects would be reserved for the Town of Thompson/Pine Grove Road section of the town, said Shepstone. He said the airport was also a target for development.
He is preparing the environmental assessment which will be passed on to the county’s planning department for review. Multiple public hearings will then be scheduled.
Shepstone also recommended the town require impact and traffic studies from developers.
In another matter, Simpson said that help may be on the way for the residents of Plank Road, who have been complaining about a dangerous bus stop at the intersection of Route 17B.
The parents, led by June Lombardi, have been calling on the Monticello Central School Board of Education and administration to make a stop on the road itself, to no avail.
Simpson said she has met with the school and Mirant on the matter several times. Mirant has agreed to allow the town to build a turnaround at the end of the road.
Town of Bethel Highway Superintendent Lynden Lilley said his staff will clear some trees in order to make the stop safe. He will first meet with the head of the school’s bus garage, Martin Gershowitz.
During public comment, the treachery of Route 17B was the target of anger from a number of residents and board members.
Les Kristt, who moved to the town over two years ago, said Route 17B has become busier and more dangerous. After one of the most “hideous” accidents in Sullivan County’s history, he said it was time to do something about the road.
He suggested a light at the Citgo station near Smallwood, which is currently one of the toughest spots to pull out of and has been the source of many accidents. He also complained about the plethora of yard sales off 17B, which he believed are dangerous to motorists and pedestrians.
He called on the town board to contact the state about placing a stop light at Citgo or lowering the speed of Route 17B. The board and Simpson agreed to put together a package cataloging a list of accidents that have occurred on the road and what they think should be done.
Simpson and the board said they had contacted state representatives and the New York State Department of Transportation before. They were able to get Congress to place a flashing light in front of the Citgo station not long ago.
Chris Klein, a spokesperson for the regional office of the DOT in Binghamton, said that the department has not been made aware of any accidents near the intersection of Pine Grove Road and the Citgo station since the flashing light was installed.
The department has no plans to make it a full signal, she said, but no formal study has been conducted.
A speed reduction has been studied on 17B more than once, but there are no plans to lower the speed, widen the roads or take any other extra measures at this time.
In other business, the town bonded $175,000 to purchase four one-ton dump trucks for the highway department.
They also passed a bond resolution of $28,000 to obtain a 2006 Crown Victoria for the town’s constables. The town currently has six police vehicles for a two-man department. Simpson said she plans to get rid of three of them.

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