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Democrat Photo by Nathan Mayberg

WORKING ON BETHEL'S comprehensive plan earlier this week were people like Denise Frangipane (far back), planning consultant Tom Shepstone (speaking) and Town Board member Bob Blais (right).

Bethel Working
On Master Plan

By Nathan Mayberg
KAUNEONGA LAKE — January 27, 2006 – A 91-page comprehensive plan will be the guiding force behind the way the Town of Bethel looks in the wake of a recent wave of development and rebirth.
A meeting was held on the plan Wednesday at the senior center in Kauneonga Lake.
Copies of the plan are available at or by contacting the town clerk’s office at 583-4350.
The plan was formed by town planning consultant Thomas Shepstone with the input of town officials and the public at several community meetings, along with a questionnaire sent out to approximately 1,000 residents.
A master plan review committee is putting the final pieces of the plan together. Headed by Supervisor Harold Russell, the committee includes the rest of the town board, the planning board and several town citizens.
The final decisions of the master plan committee will require at least one public hearing. Their recommendations will also require implementation through zoning changes, cause for more public hearings.
Their decisions will have a large impact on one of the more rural towns in the county. According to a study by Shepstone, more than 65 percent of the town is forested. Exactly 40,614.35 acres out of the 57,593 acres in the town are wooded. In addition, 5,798 acres are used for agriculture. Only 3,373 acres are used for residential purposes, while 1,917 acres are meadows.
But times are changing. Many large developments have been going up over the last few years, and many more are being planned. The town has become one of the busiest in the county’s growing real estate market. Between 1990-2000, before the recent surge in construction, the town’s population rose 18 percent to 4,362.
The town board is considering a moratorium on all building on Route 17B until the master plan is approved and the direction of that corridor is resolved. Russell said he expects a great influx of interest in that section of town over this coming spring, before the opening of the arts center in July.
“We need to get a good pulse for what we want 17B to look like and what we want on it,” he said.
The committee met Wednesday evening at the Kauneonga Lake Senior Center and primarily discussed the future of Route 17B. The consensus appeared to favor zoning the busy thoroughfare as a largely commercial district, with the westernmost portion of the route being zoned for rural use.
As outlined in the plan, properties lined up on 17B would be divided into four sections. The southernmost section from the Town of Thompson line up to Pine Grove Road would be designated for the largest of commercial businesses, particularly auto-related uses. Pine Grove Road up to Route 55’s turnoff to Eldred would be designated the hamlet-commercial section.
However, Planning Board Chairman Leon Smith wants to divide the zoning of that area. The gateway commercial section will run from Route 55 to Perry Road. Finally, the town’s agricultural district will remain intact from Perry Road to the border with the Town of Cochecton.
The hamlet and gateway sections are designated to handle most businesses, aside from auto-related commerce. Hotels and motels could apply for special use permits.
The committee agreed that the road is not suited for housing. However, half-acre lots with sewer systems could have residential units built in the hamlet section. Without sewage, a one-acre lot minimum will be required. Smith and local resident Stacey Cohen advised against allowing multi-family housing in that section. Smith also argued against allowing greenhouses in the hamlet section, because it was too rural of a business.
Resorts and amusement parks will also not be allowed in that corridor. Churches and synagogues would have to apply for a special use permit.
Each district will have a one-acre lot minimum for all other building. Initially, two-acre lot minimums were proposed for the rural section. But Russell argued against it, stating that such zoning would only further eat up open space. Shepstone agreed that such zoning did lead to more aggressive development of the land. Planning Board member Bernie Greisberg also concurred that the current minimum of one acre was enough. Without further opposition, the one-acre minimum will likely stay intact.
Affordable housing was a shared concern for several on the board. Russell and Smith said encouraging affordable housing where working families could live was a priority. Shepstone suggested giving density bonuses to developers who set aside such housing.
Resident Denise Frangipane, who sits on the committee, said the housing being built currently in the town is unaffordable for most families.
Cohen voiced further concerns about high-density developments around local lakes.
Susan Brown, a town resident on the committee, was concerned about the possibility of wind turbines being allowed as a result of the new plan. She also brought up safety issues regarding yard sales on 17B and traffic related to boats and jet ski activity on White Lake.
Jennifer Teitelbaum, another resident on the committee, said she would like to see language regulating the operations of seasonal businesses. Frangipane added she wants the plan to address the way those outfits are closed after the summer. Shepstone agreed that the issue should be dealt with and would work on it.
The town’s plans to revitalize the Kauneonga Lake downtown business section may have one problem, said Russell – parking. He said a municipal parking lot such as the one in Jeffersonville would help the town’s efforts.
Away from 17B, Smith proposed 5-acre minimum lots east of Route 55 and south of Smallwood in order to protect eagle nests.
In another matter, Brown brought up the lack of cable/DSL connections for the Internet in some areas of the town.
Board members said that code enforcement was one of the top concerns voiced by town residents in the surveys returned to the committee.
Two residents not on the committee brought up the pending Planned Unit Development application in front of the planning board. According to Bob Barrett of the Smallwood Civic Association, 172 townhouses have been proposed for the old Smallwood Golf Course on 180 acres. A major portion of the parcels are reportedly comprised of wetlands.
Although the association has not announced a position on the proposal as of yet, he said there could be strong opposition. He asked if that project will be addressed in the master plan. A presentation by the developers proposed turning part of the wetlands into a public park, he said.
Barrett also raised water quality concerns due to the Kauneonga Lake sewage treatment plant possibly infiltrating Smallwood Lake downstream.
The next meeting is tentatively scheduled for Feb. 15 at 7:30 p.m. at the Kauneonga Lake Senior Center.

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