Eli Ruiz | Democrat
Town of Liberty Supervisor Charlie Barbuti poses with his town's zoning map, to which he hopes to make changes.
Seeks 'business-friendly' zoning
By Eli Ruiz
LIBERTY March 19, 2013 “Fix it or ditch it?”
That’s exactly the question Town of Liberty supervisor Charlie Barbuti hopes to answer regarding the town’s zoning maps and permitted land use guidelines last updated in 2011 by the previous administration of Supervisor John Schmidt at a special Thursday joint meeting of the Town, Planning and Zoning boards at the CVI building in the Liberty hamlet of Ferndale, scheduled for 7 p.m.
Also slated to be in attendance at the special meeting are two zoning committees: the Zoning Regulations Committee commissioned to work on getting Liberty’s zoning code correctly written and clearly defined; and the Hamlet Committees consisting of residents of the four separate hamlets that are a part of the Town of Liberty: Swan Lake, Ferndale, Parksville and White Sulphur Springs.
Barbuti’s goal in creating the Hamlet Committees was to solicit ideas on zoning and land use possibilities from actual residents of the affected areas.
Thursday’s meeting holds much more meaning and importance to the first-term Liberty supervisor and Sullivan County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) member, who took office in 2012 on an economic development platform.
But regardless of which route the town ultimately decides to take in regards to its zoning and permitted land use issues, Barbuti stresses, “Either way, no matter what’s decided, it’s still going to entail a tremendous amount of work.”
Barbuti’s ultimate goal is to strike a “happy balance” between the area’s rural sensibilities and industrial/ economic development.
“Economic development is the number-one issue that I’m trying to address as supervisor… we desperately need to increase our [tax] assessments in the town,” affirmed Barbuti. “We need for [business] people to come, and the more that come and the more assessed value that we develop, the less the impact of any tax increases will be on anyone.”
As a point of reference Barbuti cites the disparities between the Town of Liberty and the Town of Thompson, saying, “Thompson’s School tax rate is 50 percent lower than ours here in Liberty, and our town taxes are double what Thompson’s town taxes are. It’s because they have the racetrack [Monticello Motor Club], they’ve got the WalMart and the Home Depot.”
Barbuti went on to describe all of this development in The Town of Thompson as “Ka-Ching,” and added, “We need some of that ‘Ka-Ching’ here in Liberty.”
Barbuti continued, “We need to [set] up the correct zoning so that we can encourage developers to come in. If a developer comes in now and says, ‘We want to do A.’ I want us to be able to say ‘Here you go, we’ve got a program for you.’ But I can’t have them come and say that they want to develop a business in a certain area and I go to my zoning and [the answer is] can’t do it, can’t do it.”
In March of 2011, the previous administration’s board adopted a new Town of Liberty zoning map along with a new chart of possible land-uses, scrapping the previous more “business friendly” maps and land-use charts. The 2011 changes left more than 40 percent of the town’s land zoned AC (agricultural/commercial).
Barbuti says that the 2011 changes to the town zoning maps and land use permissions were directly motivated by Liberty’s 2008 Comprehensive Plan. The Plan, which Barbuti agrees did have input from residents, called for more viewsheds, farmland and forest.
“That’s what they wanted,” said Barbuti. “But I think that that committee… was heavily into that, and not into what I call ‘Ka-Ching.’ Trees don’t pay taxes and farmers get all types of exemptions. There’s just no revenue stream for towns to continue to exist unless you have enough IC (industrial/commercial) to attract new revenue streams.”
Barbuti hopes to see a very strong turnout at Thursday’s meeting and hopes to hear every resident’s opinion on the matters of zoning and land use permissions.
“The number-one thing in getting economic development going is getting your zoning correct, that’s exactly what I want to get done, affirmed Barbuti.
All documents pertinent to Thursday’s meeting, and even Barbuti’s planned Power Point presentation, can be found at the Town of Liberty website at www.townofliberty.org.