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Zzzzoning by attrition, town completes task


COPAKE—The journey has been slow, fraught with upheaval and head-butting and even a do-over, but finally, the newly-revised rendition of Copake Zoning Code is complete and available for public viewing on the town’s website.

In October 2011, the month following the adoption of town’s new Comprehensive Plan in September 2011, the Copake Town Board appointed an 11-member committee to review zoning regulations to insure their compliance with the newly-adopted Comprehensive Plan. In its resolution to form the committee, the board declared the committee “should be free from any political influences.”

But in February 2012 a majority of Town Board members, all Democrats, none of whom are current board members, voted to abolish the original committee, much to the dismay of the volunteer committee members and the general public.

The following month, a multi-partisan majority of board members voted to create a new zoning review committee, invited all the members of the previous committee to come back and added two more member slots to the roster.

The newly-named Land Use Review Committee (LURC), which initially had 13 members appointed in March 2012, finished up its work with only three remaining members, but handed over its zoning revision draft to the Town Board in April 2015.

Since then the Town Board has invited other boards and committees to weigh in on the proposed revision and has been meeting regularly with the LURC to get questions resolved and wrinkles ironed out.

The result is a 130-page document which is the first total overhaul of the code since it was enacted in 1972. Portions of the original law have been added-to, updated, revised and enacted since then.

Bob Haight, town Planning Board chairman for the past six years and LURC chair for the past five years, told The Columbia Paper this week that the new zoning code has become more business-friendly.

The process has been made easier for businesses—streamlined so they might not have to go before the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) after they go to the Planning Board, he said.

In particular, parking-lot-size regulations in the hamlet that have created past problems have been done away with in the new code.

In general, existing non-conforming lots will become buildable as long as they meet all setback requirements.

The allowable size of sheds has become bigger in the new code. Sheds greater than the allowable size still have to be reviewed by the Zoning Board of Appeals, he said.

Many more definitions have been included in the new code and where regulations were conflicting or vague the committee strived to “clear all that up.”

The size of new building lots around Copake Lake and other watersheds have been increased from three-quarters of an acre to three-acres, while the size of existing lots are not affected, Mr. Haight said.

Minor subdivision rules which previously permitted up to a maximum of five lots to be created before being declared a major subdivision will now allow an additional one-lot subdivision every five years.

Regulations in place since 1972 call for 60% of the land associated with a major subdivision to be placed in a land conservancy or the deed must specify no more additional building on 60% of the property, he said.

The number of LURC committee members, which Mr. Haight characterized as “a diverse group” that sometimes engaged in “heated discussions” dwindled over the years, due to members moving away, taking on other commitments, becoming ill, dying or just plain quitting.

At the April 12 Copake Town Board meeting, Supervisor Jeff Nayer thanked the remaining stalwart members: Mr. Haight, Frank Peteroy, a ZBA member, and Chris Grant, a Planning Board member, for their tireless work, which involved twice-a-month meetings and some Saturdays for three years. Initially, the review project was expected to take about one year. Consultant Nan Stoltzenberg was hired to help guide the process.

Mr. Nayer said by phone following the meeting that it didn’t make sense to fill member vacancies after the committee had started its work.

Also, zoning districts under the new code have changed, some are renamed, some have different boundaries and one new one was created.

The Town Board will conduct a special meeting Saturday, May 5, 9 a.m. at the Town Hall, 230 Mountain View Road to provide information on the proposed changes to the Zoning Ordinance to the public. Those interested can review the new code on the town website ( or look at a hard copy in the Town Clerk’s office, only a few copies are available.

A public hearing will be scheduled at a future date, which may produce some changes to the ordinance, which still must be submitted to the Columbia County Planning Board for review before the Town Board can adopt it.

To contact Diane Valden email

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