G’town weighs in on 109-page plan for new plan

GERMANTOWN–Comments on the draft update of the town’s 2011 Comprehensive Plan addressed issues from lot size to language. And every person commenting at the June 1 public hearing thanked the volunteer committee for their months of work.

The meeting began with a bit of a kerfuffle from audience members who found it impractical to read on screen or print out the 109-page document or didn’t have a home computer. One copy had been provided to the Germantown Library June 1.

The committee extended the comment period to Thursday, June 8 and left five more copies of the draft at the library Friday, June 2.

Patricia Hinkein, proprietor of the real estate agency that bears her name, expressed concern that the draft update suggested an increase in some of the minimum lot acreages. “Don’t make parcels so large that people can’t afford them,” she said.

In response, committee co-chair Jason Shelton said that minimum acreage had not been a topic of discussion in committee meetings, and it was his understanding the minimums had not changed. He referred the group to Section 12, where the only suggested minimums are Rural Residential, two acres; Environmental Resource, five acres; and Agricultural Resource, 10 acres.

Ms. Hinkein also said, “All of Germantown is beautiful. All the roads have views. I’m not sure why a small area is designated for more protection,” referring to the Scenic View Overlay along Route 9G, looking west to the Hudson River and the Catskill Mountains.

“Zoning,” said planning board member Margaret Della Chioppa from the audience.

Joseph Guida, a member of the Zoning Board of Appeals, said, speaking of the ZBA, “We struggle with the notion of the viewshed on 9G because we don’t have enough guidance. We have definitive issues that we have to decide, but no criteria. It’s not your job to say what the criteria are,” he acknowledged to the update committee, adding, “but please recommend them.”

Kaare Christian, who serves on the town’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Program Committee, praised the update for taking “a long view” and discussing the benefits of a Conservation Advisory Committee. I’d love to see that as the top item,” he said.

“But now, to switch gears,” he noted that in a number of places the plan referred to “weekender” rather than part-time resident. He urged the committee to “try to use neutral language. Many part-time residents love this town the same way that full-time residents do. Many contribute their energy to the town, many are here more than weekends. The U.S. census,” he said, “doesn’t reflect the town’s full population.”

Pamela Wallace supported Mr. Christian’s comment about language. She also agreed that views in Germantown were beautiful everywhere, but, supporting the Scenic View Overlay, she said “9G has the best” views.

“We need the dollar store,” John Myers said from the audience, referring to a chain store Dollar General,which is proposed for Route 9G north of the hamlet. “The viewshed is okay when it doesn’t stop business.”

“I don’t want the 9G corridor to look like Route 9 in Greenport,” said another audience member, before the committee brought the hearing back to the subject at hand, which was not the Dollar General store, which is before the Planning Board.

Michael Serrapica, LCSW, who works for Columbia Memorial Health, asked if efforts were being made to attract medical and allied medical services to the town.

Mr. Shelton replied that the committee had discussed this possibility “many times,” and it was an example of a business “the community can use.” He expressed the hope that as residents continue to comment on the plan, they will say whether they would be interested in such a facility.

Ellen Jouret-Epstein, who served on the committee that wrote the 2011 plan, thanked the committee for an “update that endorses the plan” and allows the town to “move forward with a united effort.”

The weakness of the update was “also what we did in 2011. There’s a lot of information, but the dots are not connected.” She urged the committee to draft some “big headline items” or a bulleted list, as another resident had suggested.

For example, said Ms. Jouret-Epstein, the town has mostly surface water and groundwater. “We don’t have a great aquifer,” she said, “but there are places where we could have two or three wells as a municipal water source.”

She asked that the plan update suggest that the town do “whatever additional testing is necessary” to see if such a water source is possible, and then “find a way to raise the money for it. We can’t realize our economic development goals without municipal water,” she said.

The Route 9G corridor should be a headline issue of the plan, said Ms. Jouret-Epstein. “The town needs to get a vision of what that corridor should be. We don’t really know what we want there.”

In general, she urged the committee to include in the update “10, or five, immediate actions that you want the Town Board to take, within a year. Something that will get us moving.”

As for the updated plan, “moving” at this point means continuing required process. The committee will now review all comments, those recorded on June 1 and any written submissions. A final draft update will go to the Town Board for its review.

After reviewing and possibly revising the update, the Town Board will hold a Public Hearing on its version of the plan update. After considering and incorporating those comments, the Town Board is expected to approve an updated Comprehensive Plan.

Committee members Andrea Foley and Ralph DelPozzo were absent. All other members attended: Larry Cosenza, Faydra Geraghty, John Kukon, Martin Lueck, co-chair Norman Mintz, Mr. Shelton and consultant Alan Sorenson of Planit Main Street, Inc.

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