Ghent closes in on commercial zoning changes

GHENT–The Ghent Town Board has extended by three months a moratorium on new commercial construction in the town. The extended moratorium, which also temporarily restricts business and industrial development in the town with exemptions for existing businesses, doesn’t expire until the end of May, although it could end sooner if the board amends its zoning code.

The board adopted a six-month moratorium last year while a Commercial Zoning Review Committee appointed by the board prepared recommendations for amendments to local commercial zoning that would reflect the guidelines in the town Comprehensive Plan. The committee has completed its work and the board has incorporated those suggestions into proposed zoning amendments. The public can comment on those amendments at a hearing scheduled for April 7 at Town Hall at 6:30 p.m.

Once the amendments are adopted, the moratorium will expire.

The original six-month moratorium did not allow quite enough time for completion of the process, and that led to the board to call for extending the temporary ban on new commercial construction by three months. And because a moratorium is established as a local law, extending it required a separate public hearing. That hearing took place February 18.

Former Councilman Richard Sardo was the only voice against the moratorium at the hearing. He rose to speak of his displeasure with the extension. He said that the moratorium made sense for the winter months, but that it would cripple building projects scheduled for summer months.

After speaking, Mr. Sardo left the meeting before Councilman Mallory Mort addressed the audience, saying that limiting the restriction to six months was never guaranteed and that there are no new projects awaiting approval, so the extension was appropriate for the moment.

Once the board closed the February hearing Councilwoman Patti Matheney moved Resolution No. 16, Local Law #1, to extend the building moratorium through the end of May. The motion was seconded by Councilman Peter Nelson Sr. and approved unanimously by the board.

The town website, www.townofghent.org , has copies of the changes and other information explaining what the board proposes for business, commercial and industrial zoning in Ghent. The notice for the April 7 public hearing advises readers that the session is for public comment on the zoning proposals and “is not a question and answer session.” But members of the Commercial Zoning Review Committee will make “a brief presentation” answer questions submitted in writing to the Town Clerk by March 30.

When the public hearing is closed, the Town Board will hold a special meeting to consider adoption of the proposed law. Copies of the proposal are available from the Ghent Town Clerk.

Also at the February 18 Town Board meeting:

•The board discussed a petition calling for a speed reduction on county Route 21C submitted by a group of residents who live along the route who requested that the speed limit be lowered from the current 45 mph. They said 45 mph can be a dangerous speed because of the twists and turns on the mountain road.

Town Highway Superintend Benjamin Perry, asked his opinion, said that motorists traveling at the currently posted speed limit would be going too fast and a reduced speed limit might inspire drivers to take it easier. The petition does not suggest a new, lower limit; the state Department of Transportation and county officials will determine whether a new limit is needed

•Town Supervisor Mike Benvenuto appointed a Citizen Broadband Committee to meet regularly in response to the possible Time Warner merger that could bring cable TV and cable broadband Internet access to the area. Councilwoman Matheney will sit on the committee as the Town Board representative

•In response to a concerned citizen bringing up the potential impacts of climate change on the town, the Town Board announced that a Climate Smart Workshop will be held April 7, 2016 during a regular board meeting to discuss adopting a Climate Smart Communities pledge. The Towns of Kinderhook, Hillsdale and Chatham, and the Villages of Valatie and Chatham have already joined the state’s Climate Smart Communities initiative.

The next Town Board meeting is Thursday, March 17 at Town Hall on Route 66 in the hamlet.

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