By Nathan Mayberg
LOCH SHELDRAKE March 10, 2006 One after another on Wednesday, Fallsburg residents expressed their love for the scenic tranquility and rural nature of their community during the opening planning meeting for the towns new comprehensive plan.
Coordinated by Alan Sorensen and Helen Budrock, over 100 residents were asked to state what they liked most about their town and what they would like to see more of. Many denounced new developments with homes built on top of each other in the same ugly model. They said they wanted to preserve the open space and rural character of the town.
Some said the town needed more commercial development or light industry. Bob Belcher called for a clothing store, while Town Councilman Arnold Seletsky suggested a grocery store.
Councilwoman Ann Prusinski said the town could use more of the arts. Councilman Mike Weiner said the town must attract more businesses in order to offer the youth more jobs so they will stay here.
Residents like School Board President Robert Scheinman said there was too much residential housing being built, while former town councilman Joseph Perrello said there wasnt enough year-round housing.
Among those in attendance was Town Supervisor Steven Levine, who said he wants to see the hamlets come back. Its good to see people coming back [to the town], because for many years they were leaving. What youre doing here is very good. The [town] board is listening to you.
Ceil Cohen of Woodbourne, who leads that hamlets Sullivan Renaissance efforts, also professed her enjoyment of the areas natural beauty but said the town was too dirty.
Were not manicured, she said.
There is too much litter out on the streets, she added.
Several people recommended more activities for youth. One lady said the town lacked a central location for youth to get together. Without activities for youth, she worried that they will be attracted to drugs and alcohol.
Seletsky reminded the crowd of the community enrichment program held at Fallsburg High School every Saturday, where residents can partake in a host of activities from athletics such as swimming and basketball to the non-athletic, like computers and cooking.
Among the developers in attendance were Jeremy and his father Jerry Gorelick. The two have proposed a 425-unit development in Woodbourne. The younger Gorelick addressed some of the concerns voiced by residents over high-density development. He asked them if they would rather have McMansions on large tracts of land or a community of homes at a higher density.
One resident said the town was hurting, while another said the town had come a long way over the past 20 years.
Finally, Steve Proyect, echoing a few others, passionately called for residents to support local businesses with their patronage.
At the end of the meeting, Sorensen prepared several dozen slides of different communities up and down the East Coast. The crowd was asked to fill out a survey rating each picture.
The shots ranged from rural farms to suburban sprawl in Orange County where homes were built identically with little room in between them, ordinary-looking gas stations, beautifully landscaped businesses, worn-down main streets, decaying bungalow colonies, the dilapidated Concord Resort, and a forest.
Sorensen also displayed old postcards of the town from the 1930s and 1940s which advertised the towns natural beauty. One of the postcards featured the gateway on Route 42, which was marked by many tall trees and loads of green grass.
We can still make it look that way, he said.
The committee will meet again Sunday, March 26 at 1 p.m. at Fallsburg High School. From then on, the committee will get together on the second and fourth Monday of every month at the town hall in South Fallsburg.
Among the topics that Sorensen intends to cover is how the town can reconnect to the Neversink River, which runs through its eastern areas. Can the town improve Route 42? And should it adopt design standards for development?
Once the comprehensive plan is put together, there will be a date for public comment. The master plan will be the guide for all future town development. Town zoning codes must be in compliance with the comprehensive plan. The town board will have to adopt the plan and make any appropriate changes in the code.
Sorensen said he is hopeful the town can follow the model set by Saratoga. Twenty years ago, the city was the pits. But a revitalization plan was followed with determination by locals, and now it is thriving, he said.
One of the more unique aspects he noted about Fallsburg is its high rate of residents who rent their homes. Forty-two percent of the town rents, which is significantly higher than most towns and resembles a more urban area, he said. The town also has the highest rate of tax-exempt properties in the county.