By DOUG LA ROCQUE
NEW LEBANON — Anytime you talk about zoning (a law that spells out what can or cannot be built or operate in certain sections of a municipality) there is bound to be a difference of opinion. That was certainly the case with the New Lebanon Town Board at their Tuesday, June 13 meeting.
The town has a zoning re-write committee (ZRC) which was initially scheduled to present its final review that evening, but that has been pushed back until the July meeting, with one item in particular the ZRC wanted some clarification from the Town Board and eventually Town Attorney John Tingley. That item is storage facilities. Supervisor Tistrya Houghtling was in agreement with a clause that would prevent any new facilities within the town’s borders but would like to see a provision that would allow existing storage units to possibly expand, under a strict set of guidelines administered by the Planning Board. This was brought before the board in a previous motion, which was defeated with only Supervisor Houghtling in support.
The revisit to the issue was prompted by a request from Coon Storage, located on U.S. Route 20 in the western portion of the town. They would like to add more storage buildings in stages and presented the idea to the board back in April. Supervisor Houghtling feels if they have the available land on the same parcel as the existing structure, it should be considered, but allowing the planners to consider many aesthetic improvements, such as the design of the buildings and screening, including appropriate size shrubbery to screen the site from view. The legality of extending new conditions to cover existing construction was raised and left in the hands of the attorney. Councilman Norm Rasmussen, who was not a member of the council at the time of the first vote, indicated he saw the logic in that. Councilwoman Marianna Anthonisen refered back to a public hearing on a proposed storage facility that drew a large crowd in opposition, which she feels translates to an overwhelming number of residents opposed to any further construction, including on an existing facility. Other board members wondered if the amount of opposition was related to that particular application site or storage units in general.
After 30 minutes or so of back and forth discussions of the merits of allowing controlled expansion, the council voted 3 to 2 to ask Attorney Tingley to incorporate that into the final draft. Joining Ms. Houghtling in support were Mr. Rasmussen and John Trainor. The no votes were cast by Ms. Anthonisen and Deb Gordon.
The town has hired Lamont Engineering to investigate the feasibility of creating a wastewater (septic) and drinking water system. Lamont is preparing to issue a request for quotes, none of which would be binding on the town. Lamont is also seeking state and federal grants to help pay for the project, which they have now agreed to write the applications at no charge. This is still in the discovery and early planning stages and is in no way a “done deal”.
The board agreed to rebid for construction of a walking trail in Shatford Park. There was discussion about looking to include a playground update via a grant, but in the end, it was decided to stick to the trail for now. The trail would include some possible workout options and would be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). As far as the playgrounds go, it was mentioned that an as of yet unidentified non-profit agency is considering donating some new equipment, which the town would only have to install.
Also at the meeting:
*Broadband (internet) service installation is proceeding and the fiber optic services should be available on all roads by the end of the year
*The town’s electric vehicle charging stations have been open for use free of charge for two years, thanks to reimbursement of electrical charges by New York State Energy Research and Development Agency (NYSERDA). That program expires at the end of the month and the town will become responsible for bills. It was decided to charge 35 cents per kilowatt hour starting July 1, to cover the town’s cost
*About 70 people attended the second walkable downtown session at the New Lebanon High School. One of the decisions the town must make is whether to pursue sidewalks on both sides of Routes 20 and 22, or to go for a wider pathway on just one side of the road, that could accommodate bicycles. It was decided to focus on the sidewalks at this time
*All the work on the zoning re-write is proving to be a bit costly, so the council decided to add another $1,500 a month to the attorney’s budget line
*There is still an opening on the planning board. If interested, contact the town clerk.