HILLSDALE—Roads, local housing and cable television contract renewals dominated the regular June Town Board meeting on Tuesday, June 9.
Town Supervisor Peter Cipkowski informed the board that a change in protocol regarding speed limit change requests requires the request to go to the county engineer before the state Department of Transportation gets involved. For that reason the board voted again on previously passed resolutions asking for speed limit changes on town roads within the perimeter of the hamlet.
The board unanimously approved requests for a reduced speed limit to 25 mph on sections of Old Town, Cold Water and Maple and all of Poole Hill and Anthony Extension. The board also approved a reduced speed limit request to 35 mph on Wolfe Hill and to 30 mph on Mitchell Street.
There was some disagreement about how much such a request would cost. Board member Robina Ward said the town would be charged $1,000 per road speed change request. Mr. Cipkowski corrected her, saying that there is no charge unless towns decide to conduct their own study on their own time.
In the absence of Highway Superintendent Richard Briggs, Ms. Ward reported on a recent meeting with town engineer Tom Field, Mr. Briggs and herself regarding structural changes to Phudd and Whippoorwill roads and Maple Street. Ms. Ward said that the Phudd Road project would be the “most costly” but would benefit the town by “eliminating a sharp right turn.” A homeowner on Phudd has offered to “chip in” on costs because after heavy rains the road’s current layout floods his garage.
The section of Maple Street that extends from Hamlet Park’s parking lot to the intersection with Anthony Street would be the least costly. Improvements to Whippoorwill Road would require the town to acquire additional land to avoid the new entry from crossing a homeowner’s driveway. Mr. Cipkowski added that there would need to be a determination if a current parcel owned by the town would be sufficient for the needed improvements or would the town in fact need to acquire more land.
Also at the meeting, Housing Committee chairs Ellen Levy and Janis Smythe reported on the current state of housing opportunities in Hillsdale. At the start of the presentation Ms. Levy noted that the town’s comprehensive plan requires Hillsdale to provide “a variety of housing opportunities.” Highlights of the report include:
• 25% of Hillsdale households spend 30% of income on housing
• Less than 25% of Hillsdale housing stock are rentals, down from three years ago
• A rental vacancy rate of 5%
• The average cost of a house in Hillsdale is $400,000.
Ms. Levy added that conversations with three local real estate salespeople confirm quick turn-arounds and that properties for sale are not staying long on the market. Referring to the Covid-19 pandemic, Ms. Levy said, “Everyone is trying to get another house to have an escape.” Also, “It’s getting more and more expensive to build in Hillsdale.”
Mr. Cipkowski asked if a Habitat for Humanity dwelling was an option in Hamlet Park. Hamlet Committee member Bart Ziegler said dwellings in parkland would require legislative approval, which he did not think likely “in our lifetime”; Ms. Ward said that the town did not have financial resources to invest in public housing.
Co-Chair Smythe countered that there was a “lot of misinformation” regarding homes in Hamlet Park and counseled that all the town’s committee members should meet and brainstorm on “Hillsdale’s future direction.”
In other business:
• Broadband Chair Steve Tiger expressed great frustration with both Consolidated and Charter companies, whose cable television franchise agreements with the town expire this year. He said that the firms were refusing to renegotiate. The franchise agreements only cover cable television, not phone and internet service.
• Parks Chair Jill Sims-Elster reported that she would be meeting this week with parents regarding summer camp plans. Summer camp in Hillsdale would start the “second week in July.” The meeting is to make clear social and physical distancing guidelines that summer camp participants are expected to follow
• Town Clerk Kathi Doolan reported that document shredding bins will be accessible to June 26. Persons wanting to use the service should make appointments with Ms. Doolan as Town Hall remains officially closed to the public
• Mr. Tiger asked that meeting minutes be made available to board members one week prior to the next meeting. He and Ms. Ward were not able to vote on accepting the minutes due to not having time to read them and/or not receiving them. Acceptance of the May board meeting minutes passed with three “yes” votes and two abstentions.
The next board meeting is Tuesday, July 14 at 7 p.m.