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PAUL ZACCARI, WHO developed the Citgo gas station/convenience store on Route 17B across from Pine Grove Road in White Lake, showed off this plan for a Mega-Market next door consisting of a 50,000-square foot retail space and 20,000 square feet of office space..

Bethel sets public hearings on new zoning/subdivisions

By Dan Hust
KAUNEONGA LAKE — January 29, 2008 — At first, it appeared to be a case of sour grapes.
On Thursday, Town of Bethel Board members unanimously approved (minus an absent Bob Blais) making the township the lead agent and setting public hearings on proposed subdivision and zoning laws.
Produced by the Zoning Review Committee amidst a series of subdivision moratoriums, the laws – if enacted – would redefine what is and isn’t permissible to be built, renovated or subdivided townwide.
But former Supervisor Harold Russell, sitting in the packed senior center in Kauneonga Lake, criticized the board for approving the two legally required public hearings to be held on February 14 – just three weeks away.
Saying the Zoning Review Committee had had eight months to formulate its recommendations, Russell said residents needed their own “appropriate amount of time” to review the numerous pages of documents and maps.
“I think to hold a public hearing in three weeks is ludicrous,” he told the board.
Russell, of course, lost his seat on the town board last year when Councilman Dan Sturm successfully ran for supervisor, but Russell’s concerns on Thursday quickly became difficult to dismiss.
Denise Frangipane, a Bethel resident who often sparred with Russell during his leadership tenure, backed his contentions.
“I do think three weeks is a short time for people to get their minds around it,” she said.
Smallwood resident Jonathan Hyman added his voice to two others who were advocating for, at the least, a public presentation on the proposed laws several days before the scheduled hearings.
“It’s too late when we get to the public hearing” to ask informed questions, he contended.
More voices joined his, including Zoning Review Committee Chair Bob Davidson himself.
“It can’t hurt to have professionals [make a presentation] before the public hearing,” he stated.
But the board held firm, arguing that with the subdivision moratorium running out, time is of the essence.
“We’re going to have to get on the stick,” remarked Councilman Dick Crumley.
“This thing is ready to go to public hearing,” seconded new Councilman Ted Yeomans. “I can’t envision any major changes to this document.”
(He later admitted he hadn’t even read the documents yet, as they had just been delivered that day.)
Supervisor Sturm assured the audience that the Valentine’s Day hearings would allow them to ask any and all questions.
“We will not shortstep the process, if that’s your concern,” he told Hyman. “. . . And we still won’t be able to vote on it that evening.”
In the meantime, Town Clerk Rita Sheehan has made the committee’s recommendations available in her office in White Lake, online at, and at the Crawford Library in Monticello.
“Anytime beforehand, the document is available [and] I’m available,” said Sturm, adding that planning and zoning board members were each getting the paperwork that day.
And he promised that the future laws are “good and necessary . . . and will allow for the planned, orderly growth of the town.”
Both public hearings will be held on February 14 at the White Lake Firehouse, starting at 7:45 p.m. and lasting as long as necessary, according to Sturm.
In other town business . . .
Elsewhere in Thursday’s meeting, the board approved a $6 million bond to rehabilitate and upgrade the Kauneonga Lake Sewer District’s collector, pipes and manholes.
Board members also unanimously approved naming Bill Burns as Youth Board Chair, Eileen Morey as Co-Chair and former Town Assessor Richard Conroy as the newest member of the Board of Assessment Review.
Another unanimous vote occurred with an amendment to planning board procedure – all fees must now be paid in full before the town will sign off on final subdivision approval.
The only item the board disagreed on was Highway Superintendent Lynden Lilley’s request for a citizens advisory committee.
Though it was debated whether Lilley – a separately elected official – even needed town board permission to create a committee that he felt would help him identify and resolve highway issues throughout Bethel, board members Yeomans and Crumley voted against the request, citing concern over unelected residents making highway policy and setting priorities.
“If there’s something you and I can’t figure out, we have an engineer,” remarked Crumley, reminding Lilley that the board named Crumley to be the highway department’s liaison.
Though Sturm and Councilwoman Vicky Vassmer-Simpson did vote to approve his request (a tie vote means the motion fails), Lilley seemed unfazed by the decision, saying he respects board members’ feelings on the matter.
Preceding all of this, however, was a presentation by Paul Zaccari, who developed the now-popular Citgo gas station/convenience store on Route 17B across from Pine Grove Road, which leads to Smallwood.
Zaccari informed the board and audience of his plans for Mega-Market, a mini-mall with 50,000 square feet of retail space and 20,000 square feet for offices.
To be located near the intersection of 17B and Royce Road (next door to the Citgo station), the “green” facility would feature a 15,000-square-foot supermarket, a pharmacy and a bank, said Zaccari.
Though there would be room for other businesses, he expressed a desire not to have another gas station or restaurant on premises, considering the proximity of similar businesses.
“Basically it’s going to put a lot of people to work,” he stated.
Seeking input from the community as well as the township (the project has not yet been approved by the planning board, though a $40,000 traffic study is complete), Zaccari said he welcomes calls and comments.
“Whatever we have to do, it will be done right,” he promised.
If it does open, the mall could be a candidate for inclusion in the area’s newest chamber of commerce – or more accurately, a reinvigorated one.
Denise Frangipane told Thursday’s audience that the Bethel Business Association has been resurrected after a years-long dormancy, and a board of directors (which includes Frangipane) is eager to begin advocating for local businesses’ interests.
Those seeking more info or to join can call 583-4140 or attend the association’s next meeting on February 13 at 7 p.m. at Friends Restaurant in Smallwood.

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