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LYNN ELFERT OF Mileses is all smiles as she waits for the New York Philharmonic to kick off the inaugural season last July at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. The Bethel Town Board last Thursday revealed that the Philharmonic will again kick off this coming season.

New Laws Draw Little Comment in Bethel

By Dan Hust
KAUNEONGA LAKE — January 30, 2006 — Town of Bethel officials said they know who the opening act for this year’s highly anticipated Bethel Woods summer season will be, and it’s no surprise:
The New York Philharmonic.
Dates, times and other acts have not been officially announced, and Bethel’s board wasn’t talking at the regular board meeting Thursday in Kauneonga Lake.
What they did reveal from a recent meeting with the performing arts center’s staff is that issues from last year’s inaugural season are being rectified.
“We had a few glitches we needed to work out,” acknowledged Bethel Supervisor Harold Russell.
Most of them had to do with traffic, he added. Bethel’s board said Bethel Woods plans to put in an 800-foot-long, 24-foot-wide road on the back side of the parking lots so as to facilitate the flow of cars and pedestrians before, during and after concerts.
Such a road, said Russell, would take some pressure off the front part of the parking lots, which sit on Hurd Road – the only way in or out last year.
Extra staff will be hired to direct traffic, and flow patterns will be modified, added Russell. Also, food vendors may stay open past the concert time so as to potentially reduce the number of people leaving the grounds and exiting the parking area all at once.
“They know the problems… They were very cooperative,” said Councilman Bob Blais, who added that another meeting is planned, so residents should contact the board if they want certain questions answered.
New Laws Adopted
Cul-de-sacs will grow, kennels might not in the Town of Bethel.
The town board unanimously approved two new laws Thursday, one widening any to-be-built cul-de-sacs from 70 feet to 120 feet (paved), and the other eliminating kennels (five or more dogs) as a permitted use in the Rural Farm (RF) zoning district while simultaneously increasing restrictions on new kennels.
The cul-de-sac law, which featured a public hearing with just a few questions, was an outgrowth of emergency officials’ concerns about squeezing firetrucks and other apparatus into the town’s increasing amount of too-tiny cul-de-sacs.
The law also stipulates that cul-de-sacs cannot be more than 2,500 feet long or serve more than 50 dwellings.
The kennel law, which featured a hearing with even fewer questions, came about because of the board and residents’ concerns that kennels won’t mix well in the growing residential areas of Bethel.
Special licensing requirements will keep new kennels on a minimum of 10 acres and at least 300 feet away from neighboring properties, which will be screened from the kennels by rows of evergreens and other landscaping.
Barking for more than half an hour during the day (or more than five minutes at night) and other bad behavior will be considered violations of the law.
Annual reviews by the animal control officer are intended to ensure kennels are in compliance, including keeping dogs up to date on rabies shots.
Kennels, however, are still permitted in agricultural districts, and boarding/grooming establishments are not considered the same type of commercial establishment – and are thus under different regulations.
Currently existing kennels will be subject to this law should they decide to expand.
DEC Difficulties
Town officials updated a curious public on two issues from prior meetings.
Supervisor Harold Russell explained that the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) had visited the town’s sewer plant and found no major deficiencies, but he and other town supervisors and highway superintendents are mighty mad at the state agency.
“All of us agree that it’s wrong,” he said of the fines the DEC levied on Bethel and five other Sullivan County townships (plus the county itself) for alleged violations of DEC regulations last year.
Russell explained that Bethel’s $5,000 fine – though now paid – was unfair because it was assessed immediately by the DEC, with no window to fix violations to avoid the fine. The DEC simply threatened a $37,000-a-day fine if Bethel did not comply within the month.
Highway Superintendent Bernie Cohen said he fixed the violations the DEC noted at the town barn, but he agreed with Russell that a perfectly good gas tank had needlessly been unearthed by demand of the DEC.
“It was criminal, what they made us do,” remarked Councilman Richard Crumley, a former highway superintendent himself.
Cohen and Russell said they and their neighboring town counterparts will be lobbying the state to reduce the DEC’s power to assess fines so quickly.
“They should at least work with people before a fine is implemented,” said Russell.
The other update concerned surplus youth fund monies, which Russell said would indeed likely be used to help fund a community pavilion.
A Future for the Racetrack?
Promoter Bill Bartley and partner Jason Makarewicz attended Thursday’s meeting to talk with the public about their hope to operate the former White Lake Speedway, north of Kauneonga Lake.
Bartley said they plan to rename it the Bethel Motorsports Park to more accurately reflect a coming emphasis on family events beyond racing.
But it was the duo’s intention of offering Sunday races that caused some conflict.
The town board had already met with the two and informed them that such a plan would “be a tough sell,” said Russell, and two neighbors agreed that night, saying they didn’t want to put up with the noise and dust on a traditional day of rest.
Bartley said the intention is to make the track viable, as other area tracks already offer Saturday racing, and he promised that they’d “be a good neighbor.”
However, Makarewicz warned that the track might be replaced by a low-income housing development or other project if the property could not be retained for its current purpose.
And the partners are only leasing it for the year.
“If this doesn’t work out this year,” said Bartley, who owns a racing company and promotes others in northeastern Pennsylvania, “we won’t be back next year.”
Plans are to start activities at the track in March, running through November, but the necessary approvals have yet to be granted by the town.
New Town Barn in the Works
Towards the end of the meeting, Russell briefly alluded to a looming issue in Bethel: the ultimately inevitable replacement of the aging town barn, a deteriorating relic from the first half of the 20th century.
Currently, he said, new trucks can’t fit inside with the old trucks, so they must keep block heaters running to allow drivers to use the cold trucks at a moment’s notice. And that’s just one of several problems.
Russell said he’s looking into financing options and foresees a public vote on the project in the not-so-distant future.
“Bernie,” he said, turning to the highway superintendent, “do you have anything to add?”
“Yes,” replied Cohen dryly. “We need a new town barn.”

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