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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, August 6, 2009

Planning board against extending moratorium

By Saranac Hale Spencer

NEW SCOTLAND — Remaining consistent on its stance regarding the town’s moratorium on large-scale retail development, the planning board voted, 5 to 1, to recommend against an extension.

First introduced in May of 2008, the moratorium was a response to Sphere Development’s plans to build a shopping center in the town’s commercial district, which is currently used primarily for agriculture.  At the time, the planning board, in a 4-to-2 vote, recommended that the town board forgo the moratorium.  Since then, the hold on large-scale development has been extended once and is nearing its end date in September.

The town board is considering extending the moratorium until Feb. 1, since it has made little progress in updating its zoning laws — the committee it appointed a year ago that had been charged with making recommendations on the zoning fell apart without completing the task. 

By February, the make-up of the town board will be different, since Councilwoman Margaret Neri will not be seeking re-election and both Councilman Douglas LaGrange and Supervisor Thomas Dolin are being challenged in the fall election.  Although the town board voted unanimously to enact the moratorium, Neri has been part of the three-member majority of the board that takes a different view of the development issue than LaGrange and Dolin.

“My driver’s license goes until 2017… let’s just extend it until then,” said planning board member Cynthia Elliott at the start of discussion on Tuesday.  Elliott voted against recommending the initial moratorium.

“I still think that the moratorium was premature,” said planning board Chairman Robert Stapf, who also voted against recommending the moratorium over a year ago, but voted in favor of an extension last fall, while the committee was still working.  “I’m going to go back to my same original comment,” he said on Tuesday.

The pair, with planning board member Robert Smith, expressed concern over possible lawsuits that the town might face as a result of a further extended moratorium.  The planning board’s attorney, Louis Neri, husband of Councilwoman Neri, told the board that a length of one year is the rule of thumb for a moratorium — an extension until February would be 18 months.

Other business

In other business at its Aug. 4 meeting, the planning board:

— Held a workshop meeting to discuss design standards for the commercial zone.  The town board had asked that the planning board come up with recommendations as part of its effort to revamp the zoning code in that area, the route 85 and 85A corridor. 

Most discussion, at this and the previous workshop, centered on talk of quaint-looking retail centers seen by board members in other towns or states.  During the July workshop, though, Smith briefly praised Huck Spaulding Enterprises, which makes tattoo-related equipment, asking the board members present if the town wouldn’t like to have another light industrial manufacturing company with well-maintained grounds.  At the last meeting, there was also some discussion about roof types, with those present agreeing that there should be various materials used;

— Heard from the engineer and lawyer for the Kensington Woods residential development project and heard that Stapf plans to declare the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the project complete at the board’s next meeting;

— Voted, 5 to 0, with Kevin Kroencke absent and Charles Voss abstaining, to grant Greg and Mary Ferentino’s request to extend the time for two special-use permits;

— Heard from a representative for Stewart’s Shops that the company would like to outfit the store located at 1936 New Scotland Rd., near Olsen’s Nursery, with signs for Sunoco gasoline.  Stapf asked that he also look into the light fixtures under the canopy, since the original intent was to have them flush with the roof, rather than dropping down, which is how they are currently situated. 

After some discussion that concluded the more colorful parts of the requested signs should be pared down, the board voted, 6 to 0, to recommend to the zoning board of appeals that the store be allowed to put the signs on the pumps and put a sign on the end of the canopy with a minimal amount of blue in the background, leaving the rest of the canopy white — the initial request had been to color the canopy with rainbow-type stripes;

— Heard from David Moreau, who wants to align where his actual driveway has been built to where it appears on the map of his lot.  The board will hold a public hearing; and

— Voted, 5 to 0, to grant Guy Hazen’s request to allow the town’s building inspector to renew Hazen’s building permit for a third time.  He is working at a deliberate pace on a second-floor addition to his home on Clarksville South Road.

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