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Hilltowns Archives —The Altamont Enterprise, February 16, 2006


Call to eliminate gas stations in Berne

By Matt Cook

BERNE — As the town board voted last week to form the Berne Sewer District, some residents continue to find fault with the town’s plans for their hamlet.

About 40 residents signed a petition asking the town to eliminate gas stations in the hamlet of Berne from the town’s zoning ordinance, an issue that has been visited several times in the past few years.

In January of 2005, the town adopted a controversial zoning plan. It splits the hamlet into two zones, one allowing gas stations and the other not. In the petition, residents asked that gas stations be removed from the zoning of both zones.

"Being in a highly-populated area, we’re concerned for a number of reasons," said Susan Hawkes-Teeter, who submitted the petition to the town board at a meeting last Wednesday. "Our primary concern is a potential risk to our drinking water...Even a small amount of leakage can contaminate our water supply."

All gas storage tanks in Berne are subject to inspections by the town, and state and federal agencies.

The town board will forward the petition on to the planning board. To eliminate gas stations from the zoning, said town attorney William Conboy, "You would have to amend the zoning ordinance. You would have to redo the whole process."

Since the rezoning passed, one gas station, Stewart’s, has tried to move into the hamlet. The company gave up, saying it was not able to meet strict zoning requirements meant to preserve the historic nature of the hamlet.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Supervisor Kevin Crosier asked the petitioners what the town should do with the already existing gas tanks in town.

"We wouldn’t want to hurt that business," Crosier said.

Hawkes-Teeter told The Enterprise that the signers of her petition were all from the hamlet, but not all from the zone where gas stations are allowed.

Later in the meeting, the board voted unanimously to create the Berne Sewer District. The state comptroller’s office approved the town’s application.

The district will provide sewer service to residents of the Berne hamlet. It was created in response to contamination in the Fox Creek.

Some of the same residents who opposed the rezoning have questioned the sewer district. At Wednesday’s meetings, some asked if the town had a plan for what would happen if the construction went over its $2.5 million price tag. Conboy said the town is not authorized to spend more than $2.5 million on the project.

"There are sewer districts all over the state of New York," he said. "We’re not doing anything new."

Other business:

In other business at the Feb. 8 meeting, the Berne Town Board:

—Voted unanimously to allow Boy Scout Andrew Cortese to design and build a outdoor grill for the town park. The grill will be six by four feet wide with a 10-foot high roof, Cortese said. The project is part of the requirements for Cortese to become an Eagle Scout.

"The charcoal pit will be a great addition to the park," Crosier said.

Once the weather warms up, the town will stake out a location for the grill in the park, Crosier said; and

—Heard from Crosier that he is going to meet with the Center for Economic Growth and other Hilltown supervisors to discuss Tech Valley.

Last year, Berne declined to contribute to a fund for promoting the Capital District as Tech Valley. Crosier, however, said he thinks the town can still use Tech Valley to its advantage.

"I think, if we partner with Tech Valley, we might be able to accomplish some of the things we want to accomplish here in the Hilltowns, that is, keeping our rural character," Crosier said.

Councilman James Hamilton suggested that Crosier bring up the issue of broadband Internet with the Tech Valley leaders.

"We don’t even have cable for 60 percent of the town of Berne," Hamilton said.


Knox researches law to muffle ATV’s

By Matt Cook

KNOX — The town may consider passing a law to quell noise and dust caused by gatherings of all-terrain-vehicle riders.

In September, a Thompson’s Lake Road resident, Timothy Thompson, told the Knox Town Board about the sounds of motorbikes and all-terrain vehicles racing on a property adjacent to his. He showed a video on which the sounds of the machines were audible even inside his house.

Thompson also complained about the dust kicked up next door.

"I’ve got grandchildren coming up and I can’t have that because they’ve got allergies," Thompson said.

Since then, Supervisor Michael Hammond said at a town-board meeting Tuesday night, the town has received several similar complaints from the Thompson’s Lake area and also near Witter Road.

It’s unclear whether or not the ATV gatherings are competitive, Hammond said.

In the fall, the town declined to provide The Enterprise with the names of the property owners where the gatherings were taking place. The town’s zoning administrator was dispatched to investigate. The town does not regulate the use of ATV’s on private property, town attorney John Dorfman said at the time, but it does have a noise ordinance.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the town board voted unanimously to charge the planning board with investigating the possibility of adding ATV and dirtbike regulations to the town’s laws or zoning ordinance.

Hammond said he has researched how other municipalities have handled the situation, including Clifton Park, Kingston, Queensbury, and Rensselaer County. He is handing his research over to the planning board.

"We’ll take a look at how other communities have handled this kind of thing and see if it’s something we would want to do," Hammond said.

"We’ve already started on it," said planning board Chairman Robert Price. "It can start as a local law and morph into something on the zoning ordinance."

The planning board is to report back to the town board with recommendations.

Other business

In other business at the Feb. 14 meeting, the Knox Town Board:

—Appointed Carol Barber as the planning and zoning secretary. Barber was recommended by Price and zoning board Chairman Earl Barcomb;

—Announced that the Albany County Health Department will host a rabies clinic at the Berne Highway Garage on March 18. Owners of dogs, cats, or ferrets can get their pets inoculated for a $5 donation;

—Voted unanimously to purchase a new International truck off of state contract for $146,668.87. The truck is an identical model to the truck purchased last year for the transfer station, said highway Superintendent Gary Salisbury.

"This way, all of our parts are going to stay the same from truck to truck," Salisbury said.

Salisbury said the truck will replace a 1990 truck, which will become a reserve truck.

The purchase is subject to a permissive referendum, Hammond said. That means residents are allowed to petition for a town-wide vote on the purchase;

—Discussed updating the town’s road specifications to match the state’s. The board unanimously voted to charge the planning board with the task;

—Voted unanimously to allow the town’s youth committee to purchase goal posts, nets, corner posts, and benches for the new soccer field for no more than $3,000;

—Heard a report from animal control officer John Norray. Norray said he answered 208 calls in 2005, forty more than the previous year.

Also, Norray said, "Just in case you had any doubts, there is a mountain lion up here. I had a call on it;" and

—Heard from Price that Dennis Colliton is resigning from the planning board for personal reasons.


R’ville nixes moratorium, sets up committee

By Matt Cook

RENSSELAERVILLE — The town board used an idea from a losing candidate for supervisor and decided against a moratorium on major subdivisions and certain developments.

At a meeting last Thursday, the town board held a public hearing on the proposed six-month moratorium, which was intended to give the planning board time to revisit the town’s comprehensive land-use plan. After the hearing, rather than enacting the moratorium, the town board voted unanimously to hand the comprehensive planning reins over to a committee instead of the planning board.

The first to suggest a committee was David Bryan, a Democrat and former supervisor who ran unsuccessfully this fall against Republican Supervisor Jost Nickelsberg. After the board heard a number of comments from the packed audience wary of the moratorium, Bryan said the town should form a committee of people representing the various stakeholders in the plan, including large landowners and residents of the town’s hamlets, "so people won’t be angry."

Resident Philip Pearson noted that section 270 of the state’s town law allows for such a committee to be formed for comprehensive planning, and the town’s attorney, Bill Ryan, said Pearson was correct. Earlier, Pearson had said that the process would take much longer than six months, a concern repeated throughout the hearing by many other residents.

Others against the moratorium accused the town of trying to tell people what to do with their own property and creating an economic hardship for large landowners looking to subdivide to ease the tax burden.

Planning board Chairman Allyn Wright defended the moratorium. The plan wouldn’t stop minor subdivisions—the bulk of subdivisions in the town—he said, and all the planning board meetings on the issue would be open and publicized.

"No matter how we do it, you’re welcome to come," Wright said.

The moratorium would have stopped all subdivisions of over three lots, any building or development within 200 feet of a ridge line, and "any non-residential development, or alteration encompassing a land area or structure greater than 2,000 square feet in size."

With a halt on these projects, Wright said, the planning board could take a break from its usual duties to look at the comprehensive plan.

"We’ve got to just designate the time to do it or we’ll drag this on for three years," he said.

Though most were against it, a few residents at the hearing did speak in favor of the moratorium.

"With some clarification of the purpose [of the moratorium], you would see that all of your concerns are going to be addressed," said resident Jeanette Rice. "The moratorium isn’t going to stop building." Of the planning board, Rice said, "They’re the people who know the comprehensive plan the best as far as I can tell."

After a very brief deliberation, the town board, which has three Republicans and two Democrats, voted unanimously to form the committee.

"I think that, what we would like is as many people from the town to volunteer," Nickelsberg said.

Other business

In other business at the Feb. 9 meeting, the Rensselaerville Town Board:

—Approved, unanimously, a contract for the town attorney;

—Heard a presentation from Jacob Warner, of Giant Solutions. Warner will be assisting the town’s communications committee on planning for wireless communications; and

—Passed a resolution to ask the state comptroller for an audit of the town’s finances. The comptroller recommends periodic audits, Nickelsberg said, and it has been a while since Rensselaerville had one done.


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