By Dan Hust
KAUNEONGA LAKE February 28, 2006 For a minute, no one responded to Bethel Supervisor Harold Russells call for public comment on the townships proposed Route 17B building moratorium at Thursdays board meeting in Kauneonga Lake.
Russell was about to close the public hearing when none other than Bethel Building Inspector Tim Dexter piped up.
I oppose this moratorium, said Dexter. There hasnt been a rush to development. . . . I havent heard a valid reason why [we need a moratorium].
Russell had previously explained that, until the towns comprehensive plan is complete, the board wanted to enact a six-month moratorium on new buildings on properties adjacent to Route 17B from the towns eastern border in Mongaup Valley west to the Evergreen Cemetery near Bethel.
But, said Dexter, that comprehensive plan doesnt change whats already zoned.
We need to determine what uses we want and alongside of what, responded Russell, using the potential of a daycare center located alongside a barroom as an example.
The comprehensive plan does include density requirements, added Councilman Bob Blais.
I dont think it hurts to wait, he said.
What 17B looks like is up to us, said Russell. They [the planning and zoning boards] need to have good direction.
The questions then started pouring in, with residents asking if they could add on to their homes or businesses on 17B during the moratorium (not if it requires a permit, said officials) or if they could work on property not adjacent to 17B but accessed through property that is (they likely could, as long as that access is pre-existing, since no new driveways would be allowed).
Russell said concept reviews would be allowed, where those wishing to develop 17B properties could informally discuss their plans with the town. No applications or permits could be filed, however.
I dont think people will bother to go through that [concept review], responded Councilman Richard Crumley.
Crumley turned out to be the lone dissenter on the four-man board (a fifth position remains vacant).
Russell, Blais and Councilman Daniel Sturm all voted for the moratorium.
But it wont last long, estimated Russell.
Its the intent of the board to try to be able to lift the moratorium by the end of the spring, he explained. Were not trying to say, Go away.
Indeed, said Russell, this is most prudent in a township widely recognized as the fastest-growing of any township in the entire state and one that faces even more growth with the opening of the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts this July.
Without a chance to review and modify town procedures, added Planning Board Chair Leon Smith, the town is handicapped.
Some residents didnt see anything wrong with current codes, but Russell was insistent.
We need to address it before we allow things to get out of control, he remarked. I dont want rowhouses on a nice, level part of a property and the back of the property drops off into never-neverland.
If someone is suffering a demonstrable financial loss from the moratorium, Sturm said there is a petition for relief that can be filed.
Considering construction season is close to beginning, several residents feared the town might be inundated with such requests.
But there are bigger issues of growth on the horizon, said Russell.
We have to present ourselves as an organized community, he explained.
Mirant Urged to Repair Dam
Later in the meeting, the town board unanimously adopted a resolution demanding Swinging Bridge Reservoir Dam owner Mirant make the necessary repairs to the dam, which suffered a sinkhole last year, resulting in a massive drawdown of water at the reservoir.
Blais expressed concern over potential private well problems should the reservoirs water level continue to be 50 feet below normal, and he didnt believe the hydroelectric company would do what was needed if it didnt have to.
I think if Mirant can get out of it [repairing the dam], theyre going to try, he remarked.
The board later amended the resolution to include language requested by Smallwood resident Bob Barrett, who said it should include the provision that Town Road 62 stay open as an access to the Mirant-owned Toronto Reservoir Dam, which operates under the same federal license as Swinging Bridge.
And Another Dam
Speaking of dams, the thorny issue of the dam that serves as the base of the northern end of Gabriel Road came up again, with resident Ira Liff lamenting the lack of closure on this longtime FEMA project.
The problem . . . is theres so many entities involved with that, responded Russell, adding that each has various requirements to repair the historic dam, but not one entity wants to give us enough money to buy one good cigar!
The result? Nothing, for now. The town doesnt have the funds to fix the dam, said Russell.
Getting Aggressive With Milfoil
Russell said Bethel is considering purchasing some insects to attack milfoil plants found in White Lake.
Milfoil is a non-native species that aggressively reproduces and starves other native plant species of oxygen, in addition to creating unsightly mats of vegetation that affect recreation on lakes.
Russell said the idea of introducing sterile carp into the lake was not popular with fishermen, who feared they would eat other, smaller fish. Thus the town is considering a fundraiser to purchase bugs that feed on the plants.
Tax Exemption Approved
Although some confusion reigned on the state legislation that created the exemption, the board unanimously approved an up to $3,000 property tax exemption for volunteer firefighters with five or more years of service.
Planning Board Alternates Sought
The board put out a call for alternate members on the planning board to serve when regular members cannot.
Letters of interest can be sent to the town planning board at POB 300, White Lake, NY 12786 no later than March 3.