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Dan Hust | Democrat

ROBERT GORDON STANDS in front of the footings for his planned 6,000-square-foot BMH Metal Products Factory near Kauneonga Lake, which would employ around 30 people to manufacure metal parts and research new methods.

Bethel, Business Owner Tangle

By Dan Hust
KAUNEONGA LAKE — July 31, 2007 — Town of Bethel officials and entrepreneur Robert Gordon admit they’ve wearied of each other.
But the two sides are gearing up to once again wrangle over Gordon’s proposed tool and die company along Sullivan County Route 141 north of Kauneonga Lake.
Gordon, owner of a 50-year-old company called BMH Metal Products, received a permit from the Bethel Planning Board last year to construct a 6,000-square-foot factory on 2 acres near the former Kauneonga Speedway.
He also received a permit to rehab a next-door dilapidated house his grandfather bought 47 years ago.
But in July of 2006, the permits were revoked when Gordon didn’t clean up tools scattered around the property and, according to Supervisor Harold Russell, allowed the house “to disintegrate.”
In a presentation delivered Thursday at the regular town board meeting, Gordon said he cleaned up the tools (though the house is still in poor condition) and that the planning board only gave him three weeks to do the work.
“It was more than three weeks,” replied Councilman Bob Blais. “It went from January all around to June or July.”
Gordon, however, wasn’t there to argue the point so much as to ask the town board to require the planning board to restore the revoked permit.
“We already paid thousands of dollars for the old permit,” he explained.
But the town board, uninterested (and legally unable) in forcing the planning board’s hand, insisted Gordon reapply for the proper permit.
“We do it your way, it would take months and possibly jeopardize the project,” Gordon lamented. “… The money is in the bank to finish the project!”
It’s a project, he said, that would revitalize a company that has lain somewhat dormant for the past seven years since having its Mongaup Valley location foreclosed upon.
The new factory – whose footings have already been poured – would employ around 30 people in the manufacture of metal products, including nanotechnology, said Gordon – “something that would be meaningful for the community and future generations.”
Empire State Development Corporation, a business grant arm of state government, has indicated BMH could reap about $70,000 in state assistance should it be up and running by July of next year.
Town officials were confident that Gordon could meet that goal even with having to reapply – and they did as much as they were legally able, waiving the $1,700 reapplication fee.
“But please, this time cooperate and do exactly what they want you to do,” admonished Councilman Richard Crumley.
Shepstone moves on
While Gordon’s application will once again be in front of the planning board, Planning Consultant Tom Shepstone won’t be – at least not as much as in the past.
On July 19, Shepstone sent a letter to the town board saying he was stepping down as the township’s longtime planner. He was paid $450 a month to attend every planning and zoning board meeting and advise town officials accordingly.
In addition to Bethel’s recent hiring of an engineer to review every major project in front of the planning board, Shepstone’s concerns included recent “public sentiment,” according to Russell – referencing accusations that Shepstone was being paid by developers while representing the township on the same projects. (Shepstone denied any such arrangements ever existed.)
Shepstone’s letter, however, avoided placing blame or making accusations, instead saying the time was right for such a move and that he would continue to be available to the township on a per diem basis – and that if any perceived conflicts arose, Rock Hill planner Alan Sorensen would be a recommended consultant.
“He’s helped us in many, many ways throughout the years,” said Russell of Shepstone. “I’m sure the town will continue to use him on occasion.”
Discussing parkland fees
Councilman Dan Sturm surprised the town board Thursday by discussing parkland fees, something that up till then had been under consideration only by the Zoning Review Committee.
Sturm pushed for increasing the current fee of $50 per lot to $1,000 per lot for major subdivisions (five or more lots). Such fees would go to the town’s development of parkland and related programming.
“It is legal and allowable… and a perfectly acceptable fee to ask for,” he said, basing his comments on a similar setup in the Town of Mamakating.
Russell, who could not recall the last time Bethel collected the $50 fee, said such a dramatic increase should be reviewed thoroughly first.
Councilman Andy LaPolt agreed, arguing that the Zoning Review Committee should not be pre-empted in this matter.
Ultimately, every board member expressed support for increasing the parkland fee in some fashion, and the board unanimously agreed to have the town attorney research the issue.

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