Hillsdale tallies its many natural resources

HILLSDALE–Planning Board issues dominated the regular monthly meeting of the Town Board, Tuesday, March 10. Conservation Advisory Council (CAC) member Gretchen Stevens started the meeting with a slide show presentation of the Hillsdale’s Natural Resources Inventory (NRI), an 18-month long project the council has developed. Ms. Stevens and CAC Chair David Lewis, asked that the board adopt the NRI as a local law and not let the document “sit on a shelf.”

The NRI includes maps and descriptions of the town’s natural resources and their importance to the people of Hillsdale. It also discusses the threats to those resources from climate change, including invasive species and loss of farmland. And there are recommendations for sustainable fees.

Ms. Stevens and Mr. Lewis described the NRI as an information resource for people planning to build in Hillsdale and expressed the hope that “real estate agents will use it.”

Town Supervisor Peter Cipkowski said the town’s attorney, would need to review the document; nevertheless the Town Board approved a resolution to adopt the NRI as local law if the town attorney agrees. Ms. Stevens said that several Hudson Valley towns have adopted their NRIs as local law. There will be an open meeting about the NRI on March 25.

In the public comments portion of the meeting, local businessman Mark Dellea spoke about his experience before the Planning Board regarding a homeowner’s driveway on Whippoorwill Road, where he worked to bring the driveway into compliance with the town code. The slope of the driveway made the house inaccessible to fire trucks.

Mr. Dellea said that he was faulted for proceeding without prior planning board approval adding that he was made to “feel like a criminal for making an honest mistake.”

He also criticized Planning Board members for visiting the site on a Sunday without giving him sufficient notice, and objected to a CAC recommendation to the Planning Board “to stick with the old driveway.”

According to Mr. Dellea, Highway Superintendent Richard Briggs told him the work was “perfect” and the house was “now safe.” Mr. Briggs clarified that he is authorized to approve curb cuts.

In an effort to mediate the dispute between Mr. Dellea and the Planning Board, some of whose members attended the meeting, Supervisor Cipkowski stressed that the Planning Board is “autonomous” and not governed by the Town Board. However he agreed that members are not allowed to access sites without owners’ permission. The driveway issue currently is before the town’s engineer.

In the county update, Mr. Cipkowski said that towns supervisors are likely to vote on a resolution opposing a proposed 30-Day Amendment to the state budget. Cipkowski characterized the amendment, “heralded by the governor” as a “bypass” of municipal law and heavily favors a Chicago energy company’s proposed 60kilowatt solar project on 700 acres, mostly in Copake but spilling into Hillsdale too. The amendment would exempt the company from doing an environmental impact study. Mr. Cipkowski said that the Town of Stuyvesant already has approved the resolution.

In other business before the Town Board this month:

• The weather has not been good for road repairs, but Superintendent Briggs reported that it has been excellent for tree cutting. He said that a lot of dead trees have been cut on Hunt and Wolf roads

• Joe Hanselman reported that 13 fire trucks from local companies and Massachusetts responded to a blaze at the mall in the 2800 block of state Route 23. The fire destroyed the section of the building that housed Hillsdale Healthcare which, served a large number of seniors. According to Mr. Hanselman, there was concern that the entire mall would be engulfed. Other businesses in the mall are Four Brothers Pizza and Coldwell Bankers.

The next Hillsdale town board meeting is Tuesday, April 14 at 7 pm.

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