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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, September 3, 2009

Berne surveys residents to update master plan

By Zach Simeone

BERNE — Town residents got a special delivery this month when the comprehensive plan survey appeared in their mailboxes. The 10-page document asks the people of Berne what they want to see in the soon-to-be-updated comprehensive land-use plan; the current plan was developed two decades ago.

“This fall, we hope to be talking to various groups on different topics to learn about what people think are the needs and issues in town,” said Nan Stolzenburg, founder of Community Planning and Environmental Associates and a consultant hired by the town to help facilitate and develop the comprehensive plan. “Once that’s done, then we develop a vision statement and a set of goals for the town.”

Town Clerk Patricia Favreau said this week that the deadline for submitting your surveys to the town is Friday, Sept. 11.

The 41-question survey seeks opinions from residents about a wide range of topics, including: what types of housing are needed in Berne; encouragement of agriculture; town government; infrastructure; community services; community character; renewable energy; cultural, historic, and recreational resources; the importance of preserving open space; and commercial and economic development.

On Saturday, Sept. 19, a public workshop will be held at the senior center on Route 443, to discuss and develop the “long-term vision for the town,” Stolzenburg told The Enterprise this week.

James Cooke, a Berne resident and chairman of the comprehensive plan committee, said this week that he is “hoping to have a good, town-wide turnout for that workshop.” Cooke also encourages all Berne residents to attend the comprehensive plan committee’s regular meetings, held on the fourth Thursday of every month, at 7 p.m. at the town hall.

Another meeting, to be held in October, will be to discuss with farmers the future of agriculture in Berne, Stolzenburg said this week.

At its Aug. 12 meeting, the town board accepted an estimate from Stolzenburg on the cost for tabulating the responses to the survey. The estimate was between $950 and $1,500, Favreau said this week, depending upon the volume of responses.

A comprehensive plan is important, said Stolzenburg, “because the strength of a comprehensive plan comes from its being built from the ground up. It’s not something that’s imposed on a community — it’s developed by the community, and the survey gives every household in town an opportunity to have their say.”

Cooke agrees with her sentiment.

“It’s important because it’s an open process, and it’s supposed to be all about what residents and landowners think their town ought to be like,” Cooke said. “Without that input, the plan just doesn’t have any credence at all,” he said.

The town is in the early stages of the plan, said Stolzenburg, who also lives in Berne.

In addition to the meetings in September and October, Stolzenburg said, “The committee is working on several topic-oriented meetings. We’d like to meet with our senior citizens, to go into our school and talk to our youth, set one up on wind power, and also one with business owners in town.”

The process for developing the plan, she said, will take place in three stages.

“The first step is identifying issues and concerns, and taking stock of the current conditions in town,” she said. “The second step is understanding where the community wants to go. And the third step is coming up with that body of recommendations.”

Those recommendations will include changes in zoning, “to make sure zoning and land-use regulations don’t put obstacles up for farm operations,” Stolzenburg said. “One major emphasis of the plan is developing agriculture,” to harness grant money from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, she said.

“Of course,” Cooke concluded, “there are some issues that are probably going to be a little prickly, but we’ll have to wait and see.”

Other business

In other business at its regular August meeting, the town board:

— Announced that the town received a letter from New York State Senator Neil Breslin, which stated that a $30,000 member item had been approved for design and engineering services for the new and long-awaited library, to be housed in the senior center. Favreau said this week that the town will put out a request for proposals (RFP) for an evaluation of the building;

— Voted unanimously in favor of spending $2,675.50 on materials from Curtis Lumber for construction of a building, attached to the town park pavilion, with a kitchen and bathroom; and

— Authorized Highway Superintendent Ray Storm to spend more than $2,500, if necessary, to repair door hinges on his town-owned truck.

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