GERMANTOWN—In a one-hour public meeting Monday, May 18 the greatest amount of time was spent on a subject the Town Board had put the kibosh on in its last two meetings.
Speaking during the public comment period, Ellen Jouret-Epstein addressed the of the town’s Comprehensive Plan, saying, “There is a great deal of support among residents for reestablishing a committee and undertaking a review—not an update—of the plan.”
Ms. Jouret-Epstein served on the 2007 Comprehensive Plan Committee that developed the current plan. That plan can be found on the town’s website, germantownny.org.
“I’m not advocating a moratorium,” said Ms. Jouret-Epstein, adding that “no one’s saying: Let’s challenge the ability of businesses to come into town.
“But I think we have sufficient reason for a review,” she said, advocating for a review committee of from five to seven people and a timeline for the review.
Councilman Donald Westmore said he found Ms. Jouret-Epstein’s case “compelling.”
“I’ve never been against a review,” said Councilman Mathew Phelan. “But if it appears there’s a motive, I’m against that.”
In response, Ms. Jouret-Epstein said the town could have a standing review committee, but most towns don’t. Germantown’s Economic Development Committee could do the review, but while economic development is important, “it isn’t the only representative view,” she said. The Town Board could do the review, the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals could do it, but “I hope you’re not afraid of townspeople taking part in this,” she said.
The board members said they weren’t.
“I’m in favor of a review committee,” said Councilman Michael Mortenson, “but the board may change at the end of this year. I wouldn’t want a new board to be saddled with what was done here.”
Mr. Mortenson’s term ends this year, as does Mr. Westmore’s.
“I would want the committee’s report to come to the board after the Dollar General application is settled,” Mr. Mortenson said.
Dollar General has a site plan review before the town Planning Board for a retail store on Route 9G, north of the Main Street intersection. Planning Board secretary Jami DelPozzo said Tuesday that MNTM, the engineering firm for Primax Properties, the developer, had missed the May 18 deadline to have information to the Planning Board for its May 28 meeting and the Planning Board will not be considering the site plan review May 28. But as far as Ms. DelPozzo knew, the application is still active.
Ms. Jouret-Epstein, who expressed hope there would be no “radical disagreement” over the matter regardless of the election, also said she hoped the board “would not drag its feet until January.”
She called for the board to look at “ownership, existing zoning, and come to some consensus” about what the town wants with input from the public.
“Stuff is going to happen,” said Ms., “whether you do this or not.”
Kay Abraham “seconded” what Ms. Jouret-Epstein had said, reminding the board that she and Ms. Jouret-Epstein have frequently alerted the board of the need to review the plan. “So this plea is not in direct response to any issue,” said Ms. Abraham, “but to establish a process to consider the comprehensive plan.”
Sally Saul, who also served on the 2007 Comprehensive Plan Committee, added her voice “to those advocating a review.” She noted that Route 9G is also dotted with residences, and with careful planning compatible businesses could be established in and around those homes.
In other business:
- The board approved a resolution authorizing Columbia County to be lead agency for the state Government Efficiency Program. Each taxing district—county, town, library, fire—must save 1% of the tax levy each year for three years. The towns can piggyback on the county’s plan, which involves several large-scale savings, even as Germantown does its part with shared services with nearby towns
- In “really old business,” said Supervisor Joel Craig, sidewalk construction bids were sought as of May 16 and bids are expected back June 9. New and replacement sidewalks have been “a long time coming,” he said, “but it’s going to happen”
- Martin Overington thanked the Highway Department for help with the 18th annual Riversweep, which collected 980 pounds of garbage plus 7 tires along the riverfront from North Germantown to Cheviot
- Town Historian Susan Raab reported that among several activities this year, she will lead a historic bike ride on Saturday, June 20 (details to be posted on the town website); and the regional Palatines to America (Palam) German Geneology Society would meet in Germantown in October, the 305th anniversary of the town’s settlement
- Property Assessment Grievance Day is Tuesday, May 26 from 2 to 4 p.m. and from 6 to 8 p.m. at Town Hall. Those with questions about their assessment should first talk to assessor Ralph DelPozzo, said Mr. Craig, and come to Grievance Day only if their questions are not answered
- Memorial Day, May 25 observations begin with a 9:30 a.m. ceremony at the War Monument and continue with a 10:30 ceremony at the cemetery. The parade lines up at 11 a.m. on Main Street. Details are on the website.
All board members and a dozen residents attended this week’s meeting. The board holds a workshop meeting Monday, June 15 and its regular meeting Monday, June 22, both at 7 p.m. in Town Hall.