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New Lebanon self storage debate continues into the New Year

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By DOUG LAROCQUE

John Trainor, Deb Gordon and John Rasmussen (pictured l to r) attended their last regular town council meeting on December 12. Mr. Trainor and Ms. Gordon are completing their terms and choose not to seek reelection. Former board member Mr. Rasmussen stepped up to fill a vacancy and also chose to seek office this past November. Photo by Doug LaRocque

NEW LEBANON – The December 12 edition of the New Lebanon Town Board monthly meeting started about 90 minutes late, in deference to the Jr/Sr high school’s annual Winter Concert. When it did begin with two public hearings, it showed some members of the public were not necessarily singing the same tune as perhaps the board had hoped to hear.

The Zoning Re-write Committee (ZRC) brought forth a number of proposed code changes earlier this year, one of which triggered some debate. That would have prohibited any new commercial self-storage units or the expansion of existing units. Those currently operating would be allowed to continue in their current capacity. Supervisor Tistrya Houghtling was initially the sole voice on the board in opposition to the change, citing what she felt was a need for such storage space and that most of the current facilities were at capacity. She convinced two other members to join her in sending the storage provision back to the ZRC to consider changes.

The ZRC then proposed to allow new construction or expansion, but with a strict set of guidelines. That proposal was drafted into a local law, on which a public hearing was held. Conrad Coon, who along with his son owns Coon Storage, spoke about a number of what he perceived as problems with these new guidelines. In particular, he spoke of building and roofing designs and levels of screening. He indicated any expansion he would do would be 400 feet off US Route 20, and not noticeable. Supervisor Houghtling indicated she was concerned the new guidelines could create a stark difference between new and existing construction.

When it came time to vote on the local law, the matter was tabled. The current board was hesitant to approve the changes, with three of its members leaving at the end of the year. They decided to as some in attendance put it “kick the can down the road” and let the incoming board make the decision.

The second public hearing was on a change in the Freedom of Information proceedings, sometimes known as a FOIL, as it pertains to the appeal process. Currently, if such a FOIL is filed but denied, the full town board acts as the appeal officer. The new law would make the town supervisor alone that appeal officer. Four people spoke against the change, feeling the entire board should consider appeals. The board felt the current process to be cumbersome and waiting for a board meeting to decide the issue, might not meet state-imposed deadlines for a decision. In the end, the board voted unanimously to approve the change.

Also at the meeting:

*An incident at the Town Hall earlier in the year, sparked a discussion about security. In October, the board debated whether to install four bullet-proof doors or go to a “ring camera” system, where anyone who wished to enter the building could be seen first. The Town Board decided to go with the bullet-proof doors, put the measure out to bid and reviewed those bids in November. None contained installation costs. That was then bid separately, but with no takers. It was decided to put the matter on hold and instead talk with the town’s employees on what they think might be the best approach.

During the first public comment session, William Benker spoke against the doors. He identified himself as the person in question involved in the security incident, but vehemently stated he did nothing criminal that day

*In November, when the board saw the final numbers on creating a new splash pad in Shatford Park, the proposal was scuttled. There is a current non-working water feature the board decided at that time to investigate repairing in such a way as to grandfather it in under new and more stringent NYS Health Department regulations. The board agreed to hire local engineer Paul McCreary, to handle the project, for a $6,000 fee

*The town is looking for public input for grant applications for the Walkable Downtown project. A form letter seeking these comments is being sent out

*The board agreed to continue outgoing Highway Supervisor Jeff Winestock’s health insurance as long as he remains a part-time employee or until he is eligible for Medicare, in honor of his 30 years of service. They will not, however, continue to pay for his cell phone

*A change order to pay for needed repairs for the pavilion kitchen was approved.

The swearing in of new town officials was set for January 2 at 5:30 p.m. at the town hall. The re-organizational meeting will follow.

New Community Center opens in town

NEW LEBANON – Thursday, December 21 brings about the opening of the New Lebanon Community Center in the former firehouse at 523 U.S. Route 20. The new center features a game room with foosball, ping pong, or hockey and pool, a video game area and a cozy corner for watching DVDs and TV and reading and hanging with friends.

The center will be open on Tuesdays from 6 to 8 p.m., Thursdays from 5 to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Special holiday hours include Saturday, December 23 from 9 to 11 a.m. where Santa hosts a pancake breakfast. Other special days are Saturday, December 30 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Tuesday, January 2 from 9 a.m. to noon.

Children 11 and younger must be supervised by someone at least 18 years of age.

The town’s Free Store is also moving to the new center and will be open Wednesdays from noon to 5.p.m and Sundays 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. – Doug LaRocque

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