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Ancram finds it takes a town to revise a law


ANCRAM—During the season of giving thanks, this small rural town is taking stock of its many gifts.

On the top of this gift heap is an army of volunteers who make a lot of good things happen around here.

In recognition of these donors of their time and knowledge, town officials invited a bunch of them out for an evening of food, drink and a healthy dose of appreciation at The Pond restaurant November 15.

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Among the town’s volunteers and friends honored at a special celebration November 15 were (l-r, back) John Ingram, John Lyons, Nan Stolzenburg, Hugh Clark, Jim Miller, Dennis Sigler, Terry Boyles and Art Bassin; front, Bonnie Hundt and Jane Shannon. Photo by Diane Valden

Ancram Fire Company volunteers and town employees were among those invited to this inaugural volunteer celebration which was aimed at the men and women who took on the mighty task of revising the town’s zoning ordinances. Town Supervisor Art Bassin promised the event will become an annual celebration honoring a different volunteer contingent each year.

For the 70 in attendance, the evening started and ended the same way, with socializing over drinks and munching on tasty hot and cold delicacies.

Chafing dishes and serving platters lined clusters of tables laden with stuffed pork, mussels, eggplant rollatini, chicken tenders flounder Francaise, shrimp ravioli, chicken Tuscany, meatballs marinara, onion rings, crudités, salad and cheese and crackers.

About an hour or so into the festivities, Mr. Bassin introduced Hugh Clark, who in addition to being a town councilman, also served on the Comprehensive Plan Committee and was chair of the Zoning Revisions Committee (ZRC) and the Subdivision Regulations Revision Committee (SRRC), a specialized planning subset of the ZRC.

After the adoption of the Comprehensive Plan in early 2010, the ZRC was formed to bring the town’s zoning laws into line with new plan’s goals, objectives, principles and policies for the future. The last time the zoning had been revised previously was in 1972 and the forebears of at least a couple members of the modern-day ZRC worked on the laws put into place 43 years ago.

The most recent revision took five years to complete.

Mr. Clark said there had been 131 Monday meetings total, each averaging 2 hours.

He said the 13-member committee had spent 262 hours in meetings, which did not count all the extra emailing, studying and prep time.

Translating those hours into work days, Mr. Clark said they amounted to 33 work days or almost 7 work weeks.

Based on a minimum wage of $8.75/hour, he said, each committee member’s contribution to the town in terms of money would equal $2,292.50 apiece and add up to a grand total of $29,802 by all 13.

At one point Mr. Clark wheeled out a red wagon piled high with loose-leaf binders, stacks of notes and cardboard boxes of meeting minutes which represented at least part of the paperwork connected with the ultimate 238-page zoning revision document, 40% of which was just definitions.

Mr. Clark introduced all of the 13 members on the committee and provided summary characterizations of each one and their unique contribution. He also introduced ZRC counsel Attorney John Lyons and Consultant Nan Stolzenburg of Community Planning & Environmental Associates. Mr. Clark said he probably spent more time with Mrs. Stolzenburg during the zoning revision process than her husband did.

ZRC members Bonnie Hundt and Jane Shannon saluted Mr. Clark for the thousands of hours he had devoted to the project, and both he and his wife, Sheila’s sacrifice in terms of time together.

Each committee member was presented with a framed document written in the form of an official resolution containing many phrases beginning with “Where as…” signed by the town supervisor and stamped with the town’s official gold seal.

A passage on each document read, “The people of the Town of Ancram hereby celebrate and honor your exceptional service and dedication to the community.”

Town Councilwoman Madeleine Israel handed out the certificates to recipients: John Ingram of the SRRC, Kyle Lougheed, Bob Mayhew, Don MacLean, Jim Miller, Bob Roche, Dennis Sigler, Jane Shannon, Terry Boyles, Barry Chase, Hugh Clark, Donna Hoyt, Barbara Gaba and Bonnie Hundt. Not all were present.

Consultant Stolzenburg congratulated the town on having a celebration to honor its volunteers, praised Mr. Clark for his attention to detail and said the task could not have been accomplished without his organization and precision. She said the committee challenged her to think about better ways to do things because committee members came armed with the knowledge of what they wanted for themselves and their town. “Thank you for trusting me to help you plan your rural community,” she said.

Attorney Lyons said the biggest attribute the committee shared was its love and care for the community. He said Ancram residents live in one of the most beautiful places in the world and rightfully want to protect it.

As the evening wound down, Supervisor Bassin opened the floor to spouses of committee members asking if they had anything to say about the arduous process. When no one spoke up, Mr. Bassin called on Janice Miller, wife of councilman and committee member Jim Miller.

Mrs. Miller said it was not nice of Mr. Bassin to put her on the spot, but she did manage to find a bright spot, noting she did not mind having her husband out of the house those evenings, because “I got to control the remote.”

To contact Diane Valden email dvalden@columbiapaper.com




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