Ancram can’t get over ridgeline conflict

ANCRAM—A ridgeline protection regulation, the last piece of the Zoning Revision Committee’s multi-year mission to bring the town zoning ordinance into line with the 2010 Comprehensive Plan, still remains out of reach.

Yet another public hearing on a proposed ridgeline protection regulation took place prior to the November 21 Town Board meeting.

Deputy Town Supervisor Jim Miller conducted the two public hearings (the other on the 2014 budget) and the meeting. Town Supervisor Art Bassin was present, but his voice was not. Without the ability to vocalize with any meaningful volume, Mr. Bassin retained the gavel, which he banged when a shouting match broke out.

During the ridgeline protection public hearing, Jamie Purinton, chair of the town’s Conservation Advisory Council (CAC), said in a statement prepared by the council that the latest ridgeline protection proposal failed to uphold the environmental components of the Comprehensive Plan. She said the ordinance had been reduced and was now not adequate to protect ridgelines.

Choral Eddie, a CAC member speaking as a private citizen, said the latest proposal had “gutted all the work and thoughtful planning” previously done by the ZRC.

Real estate agent Barbara Hermance said the Town Board might want to seek the advice of council before enacting a law with different standards for major and minor subdivisions.

Don MacLean, former Planning Board chair, who also served on the Comprehensive Plan Committee, the ZRC and Ridgeline Identification subcommittee, said that the recent ridgeline mapping efforts undertaken by ZRC Chair and Councilman Hugh Clark along with Supervisor Bassin and mapping consultant Don Meltz “led to the commendable idea of increasing the protected ridge lines by including highly visible steep slopes below the ridge.”

Reading from a prepared statement, Mr. McLean said that the new maps “should have been sufficient evidence to support the proposed Ridgeline Map of April and to rebut any claims that the work of the ZRC and the Ridge Line Identification Subcommittee was somehow arbitrary. It is only when the ideas of a median elevation of 740 ft. and road visibility of 6 miles were introduced as map criteria that a broad eraser wiped out almost all of the proposed designated ridgelines, leaving just a trace of the original proposal and reducing the affected area to only 27 parcels representing 18 owners.”

Originally 170 parcels were designated for protection.

Mr. MacLean said the recent revision of the ridgeline proposal/map should be abandoned. He said the ZRC’s April map draft should be sent back to that committee for change and refinement.

ZRC member Donna Hoyt said the proposal needs to apply to both major and minor subdivisions. She said minor subdivisions that are done in a piecemeal fashion may eventually become major subdivisions, but will not have to comply with the ridgeline protection law.

Ancramdale resident Mary Murfitt said in an email read into the record by Town Clerk Monica Cleveland that the Town Board had “dismissed the ZRC’s original work and with No input from the ZRC, basically started from scratch to create their own law.” She criticized an email suggestion by Supervisor Bassin that a law be adopted that would “encourage everyone to voluntarily comply with a set of guidelines designed to protect the scenic integrity of the town.” The suggestion she said was “naive at best and misguided at worst.”

Town Justice Bob Wilcox said that while visitors to Ancram are overwhelmed by the town’s scenic qualities, the ridgelines, which are really a series of small rounded hills, are only part of it. The terrain also includes broad valleys, creeks, ponds and wetlands. He said the “series of semi-high ridgelines are not a key piece” but open land is.

Later during the regular board meeting, Mr. Clark said given comments made by some ZRC members during the public hearing, he got the impression that the ZRC would be willing to take up the ridgeline protection regulation again. CAC Chair/Planning Board member Purinton asked that input be sought from the Planning Board.

In other business:

*Heard Councilperson Madeleine Israel bring up the issue of the Roe Jan Library funding referendum which failed in Ancram by 20 votes. She proposed that the town increase its annual contribution to the library next year to $10,000 from $5,000.

Mrs. Hoyt said the funding of the library should not be solely on the backs of property owners. Adrienne Citrin said schools are funded the same way and that she has to pay school taxes even though she has never had a child in the school system. Councilman Chris Thomas said that by building a new library for more than $3 million, the library board was living “outside of our means.” He also said he had been told by two library proponents “to keep my mouth shut” about his views against the library prior to the funding vote. “The town voted it down,” said Mr. Thomas, so the town’s contribution should not be increased.

Councilman Clark said he could support an increase to $7,500, not $10,000.

After it was brought up that the board had already conducted a public hearing on the 2014 budget which contains a $5,000 contribution, Mrs. Israel withdrew her motion. She said she was “ashamed” that the town had voted down the library funding proposal. The 2014 budget was subsequently adopted.

*Authorized Town Highway Superintendent Jim MacArthur to spend $2,250 on a used bucket truck. Mr. MacArthur said it would beat trimming trees while standing in the loader and be useful in putting up Christmas lights.

The board meets next December 19 at 7 p.m.

To contact Diane Valden email .

 

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