Bethel approves comprehensive zoning law
By Dan Hust
KAUNEONGA LAKE Bethel’s most sweeping changes to its zoning laws hit the books Wednesday evening.
That’s when the town board, minus absent member Richard Crumley, voted unanimously to adopt the new zoning code, which had been in the works ever since the township adopted its comprehensive plan three years ago.
Several new zones were created Smallwood Residential and Forest Conservation among them while other existing zones saw their boundaries changed.
Minimum lot sizes, hillside construction and density requirements also saw changes, all designed to shunt commercial development toward the 17B/55 corridors and provide for a manageable rate of residential growth in areas as rural as Briscoe and as built-up as Smallwood.
The process met with much opposition but also much support from residents, businesspeople and developers, and Supervisor Dan Sturm told Wednesday’s small crowd that the new rules will encourage more affordable housing, retain Bethel’s community character, and preserve the local environment.
To those who see these regulations as just another burdensome layer of government that will discourage much-needed development, he pointed out that the zoning code now allows for an amount of housing 10 times beyond what is currently available townwide.
“I think we can all breathe a little bit now,” expressed board member Denise Frangipane, a key influence on the new laws.
She urged the board to now focus on administrative procedures how the town asks for and verifies the information it receives on building permits and the like.
“If they were a little more specific,” she argued, “maybe some of those gray areas wouldn’t be so gray.”
She got a lukewarm response from the rest of the board, obviously wearied from a decade of rewriting the comprehensive plan, the zoning code and other core town goals.
Regardless, a smattering of praise was forthcoming from the audience.
“I’m really proud of you as a town to see how progressive you’ve been,” County Legislator David Sager said. “... I think this is a huge step in the right direction.”
Building may be razed for new literacy center
Also at Wednesday’s meeting, the board unanimously authorized the expenditure of up to $3,500 to draw up plans for the new youth/literacy center.
The initial plan was to renovate an existing garage next to the justice court in Kauneonga Lake, but the first round of bids came in too high as did the second round, which Sturm said was $100,000 over the $120,000 figure the town had estimated.
So the town has switched gears.
“We have been pondering the possibility of removing the building that’s there and replacing it with a modular,” he explained.