Thursday, October 23, 2008

Woodstock Town Board meeting, October 14

This article appeared in the Townsman, October 16 edition

The general tenor of comments made at the Woodstock town board's public hearing on its proposed 26 page single spaced amendment to the zoning law to create a permitting process for development near wetlands and watercourses seemed to suggest that the board, in the words speaker Michael Stock, was "headed in the right direction, but you have a long way to go." Stock, like many speakers, praised the board for its environmental effort, but maintained that the document needed much "fine tuning" and above all "make it shorter."

Joe Liuni, who is a member of the Wittenberg Sportsman's Club and also sits on the Ulster County Environmental Management Council, went through a long list of what he described as unsupported assertions, inconsistencies, problems and even provisions that in his opinion hurt rather than helped wetlands. He cited provisions that he claimed would make it more difficult to rid watercourses of the invasive species that actually damage the environment. "Don't tie the hands of people trying to protect wetlands," he advised the board. He also mentioned that the so-called "wetland protection" laws adopted by the townships of New Paltz and Milan, from which Woodstock has modeled its law, were both thrown out by the courts. "You have to be careful," he advised the board. Liuni was instrumental in having the first wetland law in Woodstock thrown out by the court several years ago.

Former councilman Bill McKenna asked the members of the land use subcommittee, councilpersons Chris Collins and Liz Simonson, for a list of the "considerable acreage" of wetlands that had been lost, as alleged in the law's findings, reminding them that he had made a similar request almost two years ago. No list is available, he was told. He also pointed out that as defined in the law, every ditch along every road in the town could be considered a "watercourse," requiring the permitting process for any adjoining property.

Planning Board member Paul Shultis Jr asked the board if they had considered the financial impact to the taxpayer. The law would require the services of a "wetland delineator" and "wetland inspector," with no current town employees having credentials as such. The answer was no, even though Simonson stated that in her opinion the Town, not the applicant should pick up the costs of administering this additional regulation. Shultis also pointed out that the town's building department and the planning board were already backlogged with applications, and wondered what the impact of these new regulations would have on their functions. There was no answer,

David Boyle was first to make the point that before adopting the amendment a map would be necessary so that property owners would be aware of the regulated areas under the new law. Several subsequent speakers made the same point, and Collins and Simonson promised to provide one before closing the hearing. Boyle also took the board to task for considering such a major regulation of land use in the absence of a town comprehensive plan. Collins and Simonson have been struggling with such, as well as this proposed amendment, for almost three years.

Joan Schwartzberg received assurances from the board that future revisions of the law would be indicated by strike-throughs and underlines for easy comprehension. She also felt the document was riddled with inconsistencies.

Michael Pacut, Dan Weeks, Justin Volker and planning board member Laurie Ylvisacker made brief statements in favor of the document, Volker suggesting that chain saw users be required to use environmentally friendly canola oil for their equipment when working near water bodies or wetlands.

The board has not yet determined the environmental significance of the proposed legislation.

The board recessed the hearing, promising to notify the public when it comes up again on the agenda.

Paul Shultis Jr, wearing his hat as chairman of the skate park task force, reported that the committee has abandoned an earlier proposal to build a skate park facility in the Andy Lee Field, and is now suggesting that sound deadening improvements to the existing park may go a long way toward alleviating the annoyance of noise to the immediate neighbors. The previous supervisor had made such suggestion last year.

In other business the town amended a 1979 local law regarding dog licensing which will not allow the Town to establish license fees by resolution instead of the more cumbersome local law process.

A public hearing on a local law to prohibit the installation of out door wood burning boilers was scheduled for November 18 at 9:00 pm at the Community Center. The town of Hurley has such a local law now, which Woodstock will use as a template. The town of Gardiner is also working on such a law.

The board accepted New York City Department of Environmental Protection's (DEP) proposed uses for a recent land acquisition, but tabled a motion to accept the DEP's proposal to loosen regulation of public access to their lands because the DEP permits trapping animals in ways the board feels are inhumane.

Authorization was given to the highway superintendent Mike Reynolds to purchase up to $260,000 worth of highway equipment.

The next meeting of the town board will be October 21, when public hearings regarding the water and sewer districts will be conducted along with the monthly business.

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