After two years of work, the volunteer Comprehensive Plan Committee voted May 7 to adopt the third draft of a plan meant to serve as a vision of the future for the town and village.
Since the first draft was released late last year, significant revisions have been made, particularly to sections relating to casino gambling, rentals and affordable housing (to which speakers at public forums were largely opposed).
The town and village boards will meet Wednesday, May 15 at 7 p.m. in the lower level of Town Hall to discuss what happens next. Eventually, both boards have to approve the plan. A comprehensive plan, or master plan, does not carry the force of law, however town and village actions are expected to conform to its tenets. Proposed laws often make reference to goals outlined in a town’s comprehensive plan.
Supervisor wants wider focus
Town Supervisor Kelly Myers said she’d like to get a lot of public input in the next phase. She also had some questions about the focus of the plan. She noted that it is primarily concerned with land-use and development, and while this is important, it leaves out a lot of issues that affect people’s daily lives.
“I was on the Village Board when the plan update began, and I insisted that we needed public meetings as part of the process,” she said. “The committee has put in a lot of work, but I think the public needed to be more involved. I think [the committee] should have sponsored a charrette (an open discussion at which all ideas are considered).
“There was a lot of public comment about land-use, and as a community we are involved with more than just land-use,” she said. For instance, “We’re living in a post 9/11 world, and safety and security are primary issues.” While the plan addresses climate change, the issue of more frequent flooding, partly caused by releases from New York City’s reservoirs, is an issue that needed more discussion and inclusion, Myers said.
Unemployment and job creation are issues that deserve discussion and should be part of our planning process, and the need to create a strong economy, said Myers. Also, “I didn’t see anything about community groups and the need to support them. I would like to see something that supports them (in the plan).”
The town has incredible sports facilities for a community this size, Myers said. She noted specifically the excellent ball field complex and the ice arena, which should be listed among the assets of the community, Myers said.
Much of the infrastructure, especially in the village, is more than 100 years old, and the question of upgrading it should be included in the Comprehensive Plan, Myers said. “We have a real challenge to modernize our infrastructure,” she said.
The plan could gain from a greater emphasis on education, as this is very important for the town’s future, Myers said, adding that she has attended meetings of parents’ groups and found the members well informed and active.
While the committee was working on an upgrade of an existing plan, and on two drafts that had been discussed in public hearings, some of the changes made after the second hearing aroused heated discussion, said committee chairman Patrick Fitzsimmons. In particular, the section on casinos was “the most controversial,” he said. But “if you were to say the majority was against gambling, that would be an honest statement.”
Section 9:20 on gambling originally cited the potential tax and economic benefit of casinos, and suggested that only after an analysis that demonstrates these benefits should casinos be allowed and that negative social and environmental impacts are fully mitigated.
This statement has been replaced with: “The possibility of development of gaming casinos poses significant potential impacts on the community. Such impacts include social, fiscal and environmental effects. Any decision regarding casino development can only be determined after further detailed analysis of such impacts in general and those of any site specific proposal, in particular, as well as a thorough opportunity for consideration of the opinions of the citizens of the Town and Village.”
While the lower section of Partition St. between Dock and Clermont streets has seen several new shops opening and renovations begun on several others, a sentence in the plan encouraging business to “locate/remain/expand in the lower Partition St. area of the Village business district” was amended to refer to the Village Business District as a whole. The recommendation was included in Goal Nine, “Diversify Economic Base.” This section received a number of changes, including creation of an economic development plan; ensuring that new business, in addition to being compatible with nearby land uses, “enhance the small town character;” and creation of an overall development plan.
Several amendments to the traffic planning section of the document include the replacement of a recommendation for discouraging strip malls as a way of reducing traffic congestion to a recommendation that adjacent residential developments be linked through roads connecting the developments, reducing access points on major roads. Also added was a recommendation to incorporate the “Complete Streets” plan into Saugerties road development. Complete Streets is based on a concept of roads designed to accommodate pedestrians, bicyclists and other users of low-impact transportation rather than just automobiles.
One of the most contentious sections of the plan in public discussion involved housing, especially low-income housing. However, the section encouraging support of “the Saugerties Public Housing Agency and other organizations, such as the Senior Housing Project and Better Community Housing for Saugerties, as they work to maintain housing for qualified low-moderate income residents of the Town and Village” remains unchanged. (Previous drafts had already expunged more enthusiastic references to the need for a diversity of housing for all income levels.)
Read the plan
A copy of the plan can be downloaded from the town or village websites (saugerties.ny.us and village.saugerties.ny.us) and copies are available in the Saugerties Public Library and the Town Hall. The latest version of the plan is dated April 29. Changes made since the earlier version was circulated on Feb. 5 are highlighted in red to make the edits clear. While the new plan contains much that was not included in the town’s first Comprehensive Plan, adopted in 1999, a statement on the opening page notes that the plan “incorporates and builds upon the goals, recommendations and strategies set forth in the 1999 plan. Therefore, it should not be viewed as a change of direction but rather as a refinement of the course already established.”