TAGHKANIC-The town’s Zoning Commission met Saturday, June 9 to share with the public some of the issues it must contend with as it updates zoning code to conform to ideas expressed in the 2009 comprehensive plan.
Town Board member and Zoning Commission Chair Joyce Thompson said of the meeting, “We wanted to explore the question: What does rural character mean to people? and to get more people more involved in the process. We’ll have fewer problems in the future if zoning is based on public input.”
Taghkanic’s comprehensive plan emphasizes the importance of retaining the town’s rural character. Three experts that the zoning board has consulted spoke at the meeting on the subject of wildlife habitat and how to protect it.
Peter Paden, executive director of the Columbia Land Conservancy, said Taghkanic is the least developed town in one of the most sparsely settled counties in the triangle formed by New York City, Boston, and Philadelphia.
Karen Strong, outreach coordinator for the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s Estuary Program, identified “awesome, high quality forests” as the most significant habitat in the town. She said the town’s wildlife habitats include Lake Taghkanic’s hardwood northern forest, its high quality stream that is part of the network of upland streams that are part of the Hudson River watershed, and a host of woodland pools and wetlands.
To protect its forested lands, Ms. Strong recommended encouraging responsible forest management through zoning code planning regulations and suggested town officials consult the DEC publication A Municipal Official’s Guide to Forestry in New York State.
“Zoning and planning boards are faced with the task of how to translate information from Karin into actual techniques,” said Ted Fink owner and president of Green Plan, a planning agency in Rhinebeck that consults with the Zoning Commission. Mr. Fink showed maps to illustrate different zoning scenarios, including one that used traditional five-acre zoning, and another that implemented habitat conservation and clustered housing in places that are neither prime agricultural land nor important habitats. Mr. Fink said that Taghkanic zoning code currently permits cluster housing but has no governing standards for its placement. Mr. Fink said the public should act to protect its “high quality biodiversity resources.”
“Taghkanic’s current building standards cover buildings, driveways and conventional development. If zoning leads to development with no protection, habitats and farms will disappear,” he said.
Mr. Paden spoke about how the private landowners who own the bulk of land in Taghkanic can protect habitats with voluntary conservancy easements that prevent future development. Of 156 protected parcels that cover 21,900 acres across the county, three are in Taghkanic. Mr. Paden said his organization is currently in discussion with 30 Columbia County property owners and may add 1,000 acres of protected land before the end of the year.
Debora Gilbert, a regular contributor to The Columbia Paper, is a member of the Taghkanic Town Board.