By Nathan Mayberg
SOUTH FALLSBURG August 1, 2006 Less than a year after public anger at large-scale developments brought out huge turnouts at planning board and town board meetings, a change in the zoning density, and an independent candidate for supervisor, the Town of Fallsburg has created a new master plan.
Over a period of eight months, the committee met twice a month with Rock Hill planning consultant Alan Sorensen to develop a plan which intends to protect the towns rural character and natural resources while reinvigorating its hamlets.
The committee was a diverse group consisting of Ken DeMars, Kalman Freidus, Vic McCarthy, Tim Pantel, Steve Proyect, Bruce Sabinsky, Ken Schmitt, Kim Sutton and Eugene Walkowiak. They were assisted by Helen Budrock, Assistant Director for the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development, and Town Engineer Will Illing.
Sorensen is still working on the zoning changes, which will include a planned resort development district for property owned by SYDA and old hotels such as Browns, Pines and the Raleigh. He will also be preparing the definition of a townhouse.
Some areas currently zoned for residential and business use will be zoned strictly for residential (such as Route 42 near Kiamesha Lake). Higher-density developments will be targeted near the hamlet centers, where water and sewer service is in place.
Three commercial business districts are being proposed, including a neighborhood commercial zone which would allow for small-scale businesses and a mixed-use district where residents could live above shops.
The committee is seeking to block the construction of gas stations on main streets. The committee wants to create a pedestrian feel on its main streets and bar chain-link fences.
Another recommendation to the town board is to approve buffers along the Neversink River, which was likely done out of concern for the environment as well as for safety, since the river has flooded twice in the last year.
The agricultural zone would increase the minimum lot size to five acres. The recreation districts, which cover the largest geographic areas in the town, would require a minimum lot size of 3 acres. Residential districts would range between one-half of an acre to three acres. The hamlet residential district would allow for construction on as little as 12,500 square feet of property.
Historical preservation, farmland protection, and support for Rails to Trails are all part of the plan. At the same time, there are designated areas for light industrial parks.
New design standards are a major part of the new plan. An architectural design review board and strict signage regulations are among the committees new suggestions.
A chart inside the plan shows that the towns population has steadily increased over the years, from 11,445 in 1990 to 12,234 in 2000, up to 12,714 in 2004. As of 2000, the town was 75 percent white, 15.6 percent black and 14.5 percent Hispanic. The median family income was $39,216, slightly less than the $43,458 average in the county.
The first public hearing on the plan was largely devoid of criticism, although one woman expressed concern for clear-cutting for a development at Laurel Avenue and Park Place in South Fallsburg, where apartment buildings will be going up on a property encompassing more than 40 acres.
Another woman used the public hearing to complain about the killing of geese to clear the local golf courses. Levine said the town received a permit to kill 40 geese, since there were hundreds of them interfering with the courses. He said another permit may be issued.
A second public hearing will be held August 22. Sorensen is expected to complete the zoning changes within a couple months, after which the town board can adopt the plan.
Kenny DeMars, who formed Fallsburg Watch in response to the high level of developments in the town and ended up running for supervisor last year, was extremely pleased with the new plan he helped create.
He said there was a broad consensus among the whole committee about the direction of the plan. He gave accolades to Sorensen, who worked extremely hard, commented DeMars.
He is full of energy and enthusiasm. He is tireless.
One of the aspects of the plan that he is proud of is a provision recommending the planning board take a serious look at requiring a full environmental impact statement for any project proposing more than 100 homes.
Everything I called for last year is in here. To me, that is very satisfying, he said. Its democracy in action.
Town Supervisor Steve Levine said the plan was much needed. It brings the town into what is really happening in todays world. Some of the zoning has to be changed because there is more residential development.
The full master plan can be reviewed at the Town Hall in South Fallsburg, the library across the street, the towns Website (www.townoffallsburg.com), or Sorensens Website (www.planitmain street.com).