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Dan Hust | Democrat

THE BETHEL TOWN Board honored town employees with at least 20 years of service during Thursday’s meeting. From the left are Assessor Marguerite Brown (28 years), Constable Ray Neuenhoff (33 years), Housekeeper Madelyn Weiss (46 years), Registrar Marion Vassmer (46 years) and town board members Ted Yeomans, Bob Blais, Dan Sturm, Vicky Vassmer-Simpson and Dick Crumley. Not pictured are Doug Ketcham (30 years), Carol Foster (45 years) and Cathy McFadden (26 years).

Bethel headed for another moratorium

By Dan Hust
KAUNEONGA LAKE — April 1, 2008 — The Town of Bethel is poised to enter yet another moratorium.
Though the current one is not set to expire until May, town officials finally agreed that an environmental impact statement (EIS) is needed for the proposed zoning and subdivision law changes.
And that, said Supervisor Dan Sturm, will take at least 4-5 months to draft.
Town Attorney Rob McEwan confirmed at Thursday’s town board meeting that Bethel’s sweeping changes to its decades-old zoning and subdivision rules are a Type I action in the eyes of the state.
In other words, significant environmental impacts are possible as a result of these changes, and state law requires a detailed analysis of those impacts.
And if done wrong (or not at all), the town is susceptible to lawsuits that could void the new rules – a situation that has already been alluded to in “litigation correspondence” Sturm said the town has received from those opposed to the changes.
The necessary environmental reviews, however, will likely be expensive and time-consuming.
“It may require the town to hire a consultant or engineer to assist with that,” said McEwan.
According to Sturm, it will also require another moratorium on the creation and development of major subdivisions (5 or more lots). Otherwise, development could continue under the current rules.
While the proposed moratorium would last six months and be renewable for four more, Sturm pointed out that the moratorium, as is the case now, would not affect commercial development or seven of the township’s 11 zoning districts.
The town board unanimously agreed Thursday that their course was set.
“If everything we do is going to be thrown out by lawyers because we didn’t do this… it’s a no-brainer,” remarked Councilman Ted Yeomans.
“We want to make sure the new zoning law is properly and legally complete,” said Sturm.
“We need to get it right,” agreed Councilwoman Vicky Vassmer-Simpson, “… and if it takes a little longer, then it takes a little longer.”
“I totally agree with what has been said,” added Councilman Dick Crumley. “… A few more months are not going to make that much of a difference.”
Three audience members, including one representing Preserve Smallwood Country Life, agreed, and the motion to set a public hearing on the moratorium passed unanimously.
That required hearing will be held on April 24 at 7:45 p.m. during the town board’s regular meeting at the Senior Center in Kauneonga Lake.
Should all go as expected, the board will then vote at that meeting to enact the moratorium, which will become effective as soon as the current one expires.

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