The town and village boards met May 15 to discuss the new Comprehensive Plan. Some minor changes were made to the document, and a public hearing was set for 6:30 p.m., June 5 at the senior center.
A comprehensive plan, or master plan, is a series of goals and statements meant to form the basis for future laws.
Most of the changes board members proposed at the meeting on Wednesday, May 15 were relatively minor, but Saugerties Supervisor Kelly Myers was able to get agreement to add a section on public safety and emergency management. She will write the section and refer it to the boards at the next joint session. Councilwoman Leeanne Thornton suggested that the public access television station, which is now capable of live streaming on the Internet, be added to the list of resources for emergency response. The channel was active in previous disasters, but could only reach cable subscribers.
A proposal by Myers to make the meeting a public input session rather than a hearing on a completed document was rejected because it could negate the work already done. However, village Trustee Jeannine Mayer suggested that such a session, known as a “charrette,” would be a good idea for the committee that drafts the next update to the plan to use as a starting point.
The plan addresses the types of housing the town should consider. Myers said she was particularly concerned about sections that encouraged the use of so-called garage apartments or conversion of single-family homes to multiple dwellings. “I think we should place a high value on retaining single-family homes,” she said. With about half the housing in the village consisting of rentals, “I would like to preserve the single-family homes that we have,” she said.
Mayer said that the clause was included to give people an option that might make the difference between being able to afford to keep their homes and forcing them to sell.
Myers said she doesn’t object to the addition of apartments in owner-occupied buildings, but “then they sell the building, or they move, and what happens is they become multiple units, sometimes with absentee landlords.” She said that some of Saugerties’s beautiful old buildings are being chopped up.
Myers suggested the addition of some wording encouraging owner-occupied buildings.
“If I run out of money and can’t pay my taxes, I would want to put apartments in,” said Joe Gavner, a member of the village Zoning Board of Appeals.
Councilman Fred Costello said he would not like to see people whose lifestyle or situation favors apartment dwelling, such as young couples just starting out, come to believe that Saugerties wants everyone to live in a single-family house that they own. In some parts of the town, it may be appropriate to limit apartments because of the charm of the housing and the historic or old-fashioned feel of the area. “I would like the market to decide the type of housing we need,” he said.
The boards agreed to remove a sentence that reads, “however, a lack of qualified and able workers in certain occupations may be limiting the value of this asset [Kings Highway industrial corridor].” Myers said the town has a good, skilled work force, and if training in specific skills is needed the administration at Ulster County Community College has offered to tailor courses to training workers in the needed skills.