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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, March 29, 2007

Moratorium extended six months
No development in Northeast Quadrant as town looks at zoning

By Rachel Dutil

NEW SCOTLAND – The town is going to spend half a year reviewing zoning in its Northeast Quadrant, a largely rural area closest to the city of Albany.

After a lengthy public hearing, the town board unanimously voted to extend the moratorium on building in the Northeast Quadrant for an additional six months.

A handful of residents filed into Town Hall to voice their concerns at the March 14 public hearing, which spilled over into regular meeting time.

Six months ago, Councilman Richard Reilly sponsored the law that enacted the original moratorium on large-scale development in the medium-density residential (MDR) and residential conservation (R2) zones in the northeast corner of town.

Reilly, at the recent public meeting, said that the job has taken longer than the board originally anticipated.

The moratorium resulted from a petition that was brought to the town by the Northeast Neighborhood Association in October of 2005, requesting that the town rezone the MDR to R2, which requires residential lots to be a minimum of two acres.

The board agreed that rezoning to R2 was not necessarily the most appropriate way to handle residents’ concerns.

Reilly made recommendations to the town board about changes to the zoning law that would be most beneficial to the Northeast Quadrant, and the town.

The research and the technical changes have taken a significant amount of time, Reilly said at the public meeting.

"I find it very hard to come to a public hearing on this, when I haven’t heard any updates," said resident Katy O’Rourke. "I feel like we’re just being cut out," she added of the public.

Reilly responded by saying that the board welcomes public comment. He went on to explain that the process has different phases.

He said that there are some areas where public comment is appropriate, and others where "I am sitting at my kitchen table, night after night, trying to put in all these technical changes" Making sure that everything logically hangs together."

"We have significant public input," Reilly said. Other than a broad overview of the general goals, he said, "I don’t know what purpose detailed updates would serve."

"You have to be careful that you don’t give people the impression that you don’t think we’re capable of participating in a conversation about zoning and planning by not including us," O’Rourke said.

Robert Stapf, who chairs the town’s planning board, was present at the March 14 meeting, and responded by saying, "Once Rich has something finalized here, then he’ll go to the public" for public workshops and public hearings."

"To do that before the document is prepared, you’re not accomplishing anything," Stapf said. "The RPAC report is what Rich is using as a basis for making these changes."

New Scotland resident Edie Abrams said the Residents Planning Advisory Committee (RPAC), of which she was a member, suggested a charette, a visual brainstorming process used by architects. The process, Reilly told The Enterprise, allows residents a way to visually express their preferences.

"If you tell people we’re going to zone this area one thing, and another area something else, they don’t know what that will look like," Abrams said.

"We can’t have a picture of every possible use in a zone," Reilly told The Enterprise last week. "When you consider the fact that the zoning is a legal document, it has to be exact, and, to be exact, it has to be written," he said.

A large part of zoning, Reilly said, is procedure, and the process the applicant goes through. "You can’t draw those," he said.

Reilly told The Enterprise that he has spent a significant amount of time working out the language of the zoning law, making sure that the words used correspond with the definitions given.

Reilly has been working with Councilman Douglas LaGrange, Stapf, and Paul Cantlin, the town’s zoning administrator and chief building inspector.

"Everybody brings a different set of eyes," Reilly said. But, he said of the final document, "You want it to have one voice."

Status of the comprehensive plan

In addition to working on zoning changes, the town has been debating for months whether to update its 13-year-old comprehensive land-use plan.

A committee established in January of 2006 to make suggestions to the town board on what revisions, if any, should be made to the plan concluded that "little things could warrant attention just to clean it up," LaGrange told The Enterprise earlier. LaGrange chaired the committee.

The town was awarded a $22,000 grant in early January for planning, and it has since been discussing how best to use it.

"We all agree that, substantively, the comprehensive plan really doesn’t warrant any change," Reilly said at the March town board meeting. "We’re generally happy with it."

He went on to say that the comprehensive plan "sets a broad picture" of the town’s goals and objectives; and the "particular tools we use to get there are what appear in the zone."

A major aspect of the comprehensive plan is data, and some of that needs to be changed, Reilly told The Enterprise last week.

"While there may be some benefits to an update of the plan, there’s no need or basis for an overhaul," he said. "I don’t want people to get scared."

Reilly added that he isn’t planning an overhaul of the zoning either. Both the comprehensive plan and the zoning "can be updated based on current realities on the ground," he said.

Proposed changes

"Zoning and public policy, generally, should be driven by probability not possibility," Reilly told The Enterprise.

"Zoning should be progressive and it should be fair," Reilly said at the public meeting. "My goal is a zoning law that is fair," he added.

Town Supervisor Ed Clark was originally opposed to the moratorium. Clark, along with LaGrange, his fellow Republican, voted in opposition to the moratorium while the three Democrats voted in favor. Clark told The Enterprise last week that his objection then was due to a lack of a clear objective. "Doug and Rich now have a plan," he said.

Clark said that the town’s goal with the moratorium is to "allow more flexibility in the zoning to accommodate the comprehensive plan." It is important, too, he said to not stray from the town’s goal of "preserving the rural character" of New Scotland, he said.

The moratorium is still an idea that Clark is not crazy about, he said. "We could probably have gone ahead without the moratorium with what we’re doing, but this probably makes it easier," he said.

Reilly is proposing a senior residential housing district, he said. It would be a floating zone, he explained.

"The town recognizes the need for additional senior housing in town," Reilly said. "We want to encourage the development of it."

The district would be available throughout the town and would not be attached to a piece of land, he said. The zone would attach to a parcel if a submitted proposal is approved, he said.

"Because we recognize it as a need" we want to encourage creative proposals, so we haven’t attached it to specific areas on the map," Reilly said.

Vollmer Associates, the town’s engineering firm, created maps of the northeast corner of town, some of which indicate the slope of the land, Reilly said. (See accompanying map.)

"When you look at the map, you see how the land has already been subdivided. It’s not as though you have 300-acre parcels," he said.

Looking at the slope of the land, he said, "You see how much of it just couldn’t be developed based on geography."

New Scotland is different than the neighboring towns of Guilderland and Bethelehem, Reilly said. "Twenty percent of the town is the escarpment," he said of the Helderbergs.

Septic and sewer have always been major problems in town because of the bedrock, Reilly said.

The town is in the midst of working out an agreement with the neighboring town of Bethlehem for municipal water. In addition, New Scotland needs to rezone the parcel of land abutting Bethlehem which will house about a quarter of the proposed Vista Tech Park; the other three-quarters will be in Bethlehem.

"We want the zoning to be consistent with our zoning and consistent with Bethlehem’s zoning," Reilly said, stressing the importance of "protecting our interest."

Reilly also said he is hoping to address alternative energy in the zoning changes he is proposing. It will fall in the "special regulations section," he told The Enterprise.

Tuesday night, the town’s zoning board granted a temporary-use permit to Henry Digeser allowing him to install a 40-foot wind turbine on his property in the southeast of town for 12 months, with one 12-month extension.

"Time has out-paced the zoning," Reilly said. In 1994, when the comprehensive plan was drafted, there wasn’t an interest in alternative energy.

"My hope is that we can have a good, productive debate about some of these issues," Reilly said.

Clark said that he looks forward "to seeing some innovative thinking."

"I think there’s a lot more that could be done, but it’s a lot more expensive," Clark said. "We just don’t have the money right now to accommodate the new planning theories."

Other business

In other business, at its March 14 meeting, the town board:

– Honored Ronald Von Ronne for his 20 years of service on the town’s zoning board of appeals;

– Announced that the Voorheesville Area Ambulance Service annual breakfast will be held on Sunday, April 1, at the Voorheesville American Legion Hall from 8 a.m. until noon;

– Announced that Electronics Day will be on Saturday, April 21, from 7 a.m. until 1 p.m. at Taft Furniture on Central Avenue. Residents can bring items like computers and televisions to be recycled;

– Addressed the need to realign a section of Clipp Road that has a treacherous curve, so that the road runs behind a barn instead of in front of it;

– Approved the probationary membership for Eugene Paquette and Robert Paquette in the New Salem Volunteer Fire Department; and the membership of Charles Edward Sullivan Jr. in the Onesquethaw Volunteer Fire Company;

– Authorized the purchase of two literature racks for Town Hall;

– Announced that the toy exhibit at the museum will end on April 4, and the new exhibit on the world wars will open on April 29, and at least three vintage vehicles will be on display;

– Announced that the Clarksville Heritage Day will be on Aug. 4;

– Approved the Time-Warner Cable Franchise renewal agreement for five years with a 3-percent franchise tax;

– Entered into executive session to discuss contract negotiations. No actions were made following the session; and

– Announced that next month’s meeting will be held on April 4.

Coughtry mourned
Perpetual Boy Scout, wood-worker, mountain climber

By Rachel Dutil

NEW SCOTLAND – Howard C. Coughtry – a master carpenter, dedicated Boy Scout, and friendly, knowledgeable Christmas-tree farmer – died on Tuesday, March 27, 2007, at his home on Hilton Road in New Scotland. He was 86.

Mr. Coughtry was an avid outdoorsman who enjoyed camping, hiking, and bicycling. "His greatest joys were the many adventures he has shared with generations of Scouts," said his son, Robin Coughtry.

Mr. Coughtry was born in Albany on April 19, 1920 to the late Frank and Julia (Flagler) Coughtry, and spent most of his life in New Scotland.

He met his wife, Jannette Kling Coughtry, at Voorheesville Elementary School. "He dated her for a long time," Robin Coughtry said. The two were married in 1948 after Mr. Coughtry returned from the service.

He served during World War II in the United State Army Air Corps, delivering supplies to the air fields, Robin Coughtry said.

"My father was a gentle man," said his son. He was very much into reasoning, he said.

"He would sit you down and talk to you," Robin Coughtry remembered. He could make you understand the rights, wrongs, and consequences, he said. "He was always very easy-going," he added.

"We had to really, really work at it to make him angry," Robin Coughtry said with a chuckle.

Robin Coughtry began working with his father at an early age, he said. He, too, is a master carpenter. "He just loved working with wood," Robin Coughtry said of his father. "It was his way of expressing himself."

Mr. Coughtry took great pride in everything he did, his son said. "He was very talented. He built some of the most beautiful homes in town.

"He liked showing people what he could do with wood," Robin Coughtry said. The home that Mr. Coughtry and his son shared has boards lining the walls and ceiling that Mr. Coughtry harvested and then hand-planed himself.

Mr. Coughtry did most of his woodworking in the 200-year-old house he turned into a workshop in the front of the Hilton Road property.

Robin Coughtry said that his father would often work late into the night when he and his brother and sister were young. But, he said, "He always came down to tuck us in."

"Iron man"

Throughout his life, Mr. Coughtry was fascinated with the Boy Scouts of America, Robin Coughtry said. When he was young, he didn’t have the money to buy a uniform, his son said.

Mr. Coughtry’s son, Alan, joined the Boy Scouts in 1961, when he was 11. "Dad joined shortly after and never left," Robin Coughtry recalled. "He loved the program," he said of his father’s admiration for the Scouts. "It pretty much meant the world to him."

Robin Coughtry spent a lot of time with his father. "We did an awful lot together," he said. He became his caretaker in later years, after Mr. Coughtry suffered a stroke. "I loved camping with him, being outdoors with him" We just had a lot of fun," said Robin Coughtry.

Mr. Coughtry "loved adventure," his son said.

One of his adventures took him cross-country on a three-speed bicycle to visit his daughter, Susan, in San Francisco. Mr. Coughtry was in his late-60s when he embarked on the journey, Robin Coughtry said.

"Howie was rugged on a bicycle," said Bob Shedd, a friend of Mr. Coughtry for 50 years.

Mr. Shedd recalled that his friend took very little with him on his bicycle voyage. "Every night he would wash his clothes, and hang them to dry as he slept." If they were still damp in the morning, Shedd recalled with a smile in his voice, "So be it" He was an iron man."

Ray Ginter has known Mr. Coughtry "since I was a boy," he said. "He was one-of-a-kind," he said.

Mr. Ginter is a Scout leader with Troop 73, with which Mr. Coughtry was deeply involved. The troop, Ginter said, was chartered in 1920, just less than two months before Mr. Coughtry was born.

Mr. Coughtry "dedicated his life to the Scouting program," Mr. Ginter said of his friend. "He was always there for the kids."
Mr. Coughtry wore his uniform proudly, and encouraged the kids to do so, too, he said.

Mr. Ginter remembers many winter camping trips in sub-zero weather with Mr. Coughtry. He would always get the fire going to keep us all warm and dry, Mr. Ginter recalled.

"He was quick-thinking," Mr. Ginter said of his friend. "He always had a way to resolve a problem."

"He was a man of many talents, an excellent craftsman," Mr. Ginter said. "A lot of troop awards over the years were hand-crafted with care by him and his son," he said.

Mr. Coughtry was the author of many articles submitted to The Enterprise on behalf of the troop, Mr. Ginter said. "Every week, he had an article," he said. He detailed Scout adventures and waxed philosophical on life.

Mr. Coughtry opened his home to the Scouts and other organizations, Mr. Ginter said.

There were no "Posted" signs on Mr. Coughtry’s property, Mr. Ginter said. He welcomed anyone to come and enjoy his property, but to please not hunt, he said.

Many local families looked forward to an annual trek to the Coughtrys’ land to select the perfect Christmas tree.

The Coughtrys equip their customers with a buck saw and a sled to haul the tree back with, and the customers head into the woods to search for their tree. Robin Coughtry said that the business has never been about money. "It was fun doing it with my father," he said.

"We don’t sell the trees with the roots, because when they’re gone, we’re left with the holes," Mr. Coughtry himself told The Enterprise last winter.

"He was always giving of himself," Mr. Ginter said of Mr. Coughtry. "His friendship and his leadership will be missed most," he added.


Mr. Coughtry is survived by his two sons, Robin Coughtry of New Scotland, and Alan Coughtry of Hawaii; and his daughter, Susan Sullivan, and her husband, Craig, of California. He is also survived by his two grandchildren, Casey and Kelly Sullivan; and his brother, John Coughtry, of California; and his sister, Jane Rauch, of Voorheesville.

His wife, Jannette Kling Coughtry, and his brother, David Coughtry, both died before him.

Funeral arrangements will be private at the convenience of the family, and will be handled by Reilly & Son Funeral Home in Voorheesville.

Memorial donations may be made to Boy Scout Troop 73, Care of Ray Ginter, 83 Voorheesville Ave., Voorheesville, N.Y. 12186.

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