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Hilltowns Archives —The Altamont Enterprise, June 28, 2007

Who should write Westerlo’s master plan"

By Tyler Schuling

WESTERLO — The town board and newly created planning board are at odds over who should write a master plan for land use.

The law creating the planning board in March gives the new board "the power to prepare a master/comprehensive plan."

Chair Leonard Laub says he and the new planning board members accepted their roles with the understanding that the planning board would be writing the master plan.

Councilman R. Gregory Zeh, at the June town board meeting, recommended the new planning board members "get their feet wet" and see more applicants before taking on the task of creating a master plan.

At a special meeting last Tuesday, Zeh recommended five members from the zoning board of appeals and another member from the building department serve on a committee with the planning board to create the master plan. Zeh was concerned about equal representation among Westerlo’s townspeople.

Councilman Ed Rash opposed committees and recommended words in the bill, which could be construed as the formation of an independent committee, "be stricken."

Before last week’s special meeting was adjourned, the town’s attorney, Aline Galgay was directed to remove that wording from the bill.

By including the wording in the bill, Galgay insisted she hadn’t done anything "underhanded," and pointed out that the law enacting a moratorium does not create a new board or committee. The section in which wording construed by planning board members as meaning an independent committee be formed to create a master plan was included in the legislative findings of the bill, explaining why the town is enacting a moratorium, she said. Galgay called the wording in the bill "a non-issue." When enacting a moratorium, she told The Enterprise, a town must give details and articulate why the town needs a moratorium.

If adopted this month, no large subdivisions within the town will occur for 18 months. Galgay said 18 months is a "justifiable" and "defensible" amount of time for a moratorium. One year, she said, is too short, and two years is too long.

The town board will hold a public hearing on the proposed law to enact a moratorium on major subdivisions for 18 months at its next meeting on July 3 at 7:30 p.m.

Dual roles

The town board had disbanded the planning board 15 years ago amid complaints from developers that it was slow and cumbersome. During that time, the town board served as a planning board.

For the last two years, several members of the town board have advocated revamping Westerlo’s outdated subdivision regulations or creating a comprehensive land-use plan.

Earlier this month, Laub updated the town board on the planning board’s first meeting, which included "unofficial," "off-the-record" applicants — one to develop the former Shepard’s resort in southern Westerlo and another concerning Lake Onderdonk.

At its first meeting, Laub said, the planning board also drafted a mission statement. The mission statement includes application procedures, which include a "pre-screening" process for applicants.

In order to be placed on the planning board’s agenda, applicants must first consult Edwin Lawson, the town’s building inspector.

"We don’t discriminate," Laub told The Enterprise, adding that all applicants will first consult Lawson. Laub said some applicants, before seeing the planning board, may not have enough information to complete their environmental review form. If an applicant doesn’t have all the information at the board’s monthly meeting, he must wait until the following month, "which burns up a lot of time," he said.

All planning board members knew when they were interviewed that they would also be creating a master plan, Laub said last week. The planning board, he said, will conduct open workshops and interact with the townspeople throughout the drafting process. Laub is looking for participation from as many residents as possible.

Last week, Galgay was concerned about the planning board having dual roles. Applicants will be coming before the planning board while its members are drafting new subdivision regulations and zoning laws, she said. If the planning board members also perform the role of the committee to form the plan, they cannot hold meetings for both on the same night, she said.

"You have to be very careful that those roles are kept separate," she said.

Galgay cited a lawsuit filed last year against the town when the town board was serving as a planning board. Residents Helene Goldberger and Paul Baitsholts are contesting the planning board’s negative environmental declaration — meaning an in-depth study is not needed — for a project known as Emerald Meadows, which would be adjacent to their properties. Goldberger and Baitsholts also alleged in their suit that the board was illegally constituted.

The issue, Galgay said, is: "How can you make an unbiased decision""

The town board is a legislative body. The planning board is not; it can draft a plan but cannot adopt it as law.

"I still disagree. I still think we need other people involved," Zeh said at the meeting’s end.

Family Day offers old-fashioned fun

By Tyler Schuling

BERNE — On July 7, on Family Day, area residents will celebrate community at the Berne town park.

Formerly Berne Heritage Days, this year’s event is also a fund-raiser for the new Berne Library, planned to be built at the park. Families Together in Albany County will sponsor games, rides, and fun for kids. Berne’s town historian, Ralph Miller, will set up his computer to conduct genealogy research.

A Model T car show is planned for the afternoon. Participants will have the opportunity to vote for their favorite car, and the top vote-getter will receive the "People’s Choice Award."

Burma Shave-style signs with rhyming jingles, once common sights along highways, will line both sides of Route 443 leading into Berne Town Park.

And fireworks will burst above the park that night.

If it doesn’t rain.

Last year, the annual event rained out twice. As rain fell once again last year on the event’s rain date, local author and president of the Warner’s Lake Improvement Association, sat at the park pavilion in Berne with copies of his book.

On Family Day, Osterhout will sell and sign copies of his latest book, The Journey Continues. Like its predecessor, The Journey Continues is a pictorial history of Berne from 1850 to 1950. The book is the largest in the trilogy, Osterhout said, and contains new photographs, stories, and recollections.

Two of the stories are of men who played parts in United States history.

One is of a young man, Seth Flint, who, at age 15, left his home in Berne in the middle of the night and walked barefoot to Albany to join the Union Army, Osterhout said. He then went on to join General Ulysses S. Grant’s army and saw the Civil War’s end at Appomattox, where he played taps.

Another is of John Butterfield, who left for the West at a young age, and formed a stage line. He went up against Wells and Fargo, but, after competing against one another, the three men formed a partnership and created the American Express Company, Osterhout said.

On Family Day, members of the Bassler family will ride in a 1914 Model T car, re-enacting the cover of Osterhout’s second book, Life Along the Way: A Pictorial History of the Hamlets of Berne, at 3 p.m.

Osterhout, who has spent six years collecting photographs and stories from the area, thinks this is the last book in the collection.

"It was a fun thing to do, but I don’t have anything further planned," Osterhout said.

Myriad activities

On Family Day, July 7, Cub Scout Pack 79 will hold a car wash at the Berne-Knox-Westerlo bus garage from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Hilltown Senior Citizens will hold a tag sale on Route 443 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

At Berne Town Park, Families Together in Albany County will sponsor kid’s rides and games from 2 to 5 p.m. The Friends of the Berne Library will provide food from 3 to 8 p.m. Osterhout will be signing his new book, The Journey Continues, from 3 to 7 p.m. The Berne Historical Society will display exhibits. A Model T Antique Car Show will run from 3 to 6 p.m. Participants will vote for their favorite car.

Traditional Strings and The Hilltown Ramblers will play from 5 to 9 p.m., when fireworks begin. The rain date is Aug. 18.

Also on Family Day, a town-wide lawn sale will be held in Berne from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Maps will be available at the Berne firehouse on Canaday Hill Road. No registration fee is required. For more information, or to have your sale included on the map, contact Lauri Motschmann at 872-0355.

A chicken barbecue and home-made pie sale, sponsored by the Berne Fire Department auxiliary, will also be held on July 7. Take-out chicken dinners include one-half chicken, a baked potato, coleslaw, a roll, cookies, and a choice of lemonade or iced tea. The cost is $9 for dinners and $6 for half a chicken. Pickup will be from 3 to 6 p.m. For reservations, contact Motschmann. The deadline for reservations in July 1.

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