Highland: The year in review and looking forward

Downtown Highland. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

Downtown Highland. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

The Town of Lloyd crossed several things off its to-do list in 2013, including the rezoning of the Gateway Hamlet and the adoption of a new Comprehensive Master Plan, a new bulkhead and boat launch at the Bob Shepard Highland Landing Park along the Hudson River and various upgrades at the heavily used Berean Park.

The newly created Gateway District is an attempt to connect the half-million annual visitors to the Walkway Over the Hudson to Lloyd’s hamlet, from Haviland Road to Milton Avenue. Utilizing new zoning, the town hopes to attract more businesses and create a more walkable and bikable path between the Walkway and the hamlet.

And with the state-of-the-art bulkhead and docks at the Bob Shepard Park along the Hudson River nearly completed, Matt Smith, chair of the Highland Landing Park Association, has already been laying the groundwork for a proposal to install a “skyline” or gondola that would take people from the riverfront to the Walkway Over the Hudson.


In 2012, with its Comprehensive Plan being woefully outdated, the town appointed a diverse committee to completely rewrite a town-wide plan that attempts to keep the small-town, rural atmosphere of Lloyd, preserving farms and open space, increasing recreational opportunities and utilizing zoning to attract a greater commercial base to help offset property taxes. Although the plan came under heavy criticism from Scenic Hudson and some environmentalists in the town for creating zoning that they believed would erode rural character and create sprawl, the town still adopted the plan unanimously.

A controversial decision was made with a 3-2 vote to cease using a civilian court officer at the Lloyd justice courts and instead utilize an armed part-time police officer. This suggestion made by supervisor Paul Hansut, a retired police officer himself, was supported by chief Daniel Waage but strongly opposed by the town’s two sitting judges, who claimed that there was no reason to bring in an armed officer, that they felt safe in the 27 years that they’ve been at the bench. This was supported by two board members. In the end, a police officer was appointed to the court, and every month since March, when he took over the position, the police reported numerous weapons being confiscated by those entering the courts by the police officer.

Lloyd is a small town that is literally the crossroads among three cities: Newburgh, Poughkeepsie and Kingston. As such, the Lloyd Police Department teamed up on dozens of occasions with URGENT and successfully cracked numerous drug and prostitution rings in the town that were led by people residing elsewhere. The town also experienced a devastating act of vandalism to the Highland Cemetery on Sept. 4, when more than 130 gravestones were pushed over, many of them broken and damaged, and American flags next to veterans’ graves broken in half. The police have yet to solve this case, but Chief Waage said that the investigation is “ongoing.”

Mountainside Woods, a 162-unit residential project by David Weinberg on approximately 30 acres of land near the base of Illinois Mountain, received final site plan approval to begin construction.

Recently, the Casa Mia Restaurant was demolished to make room for Sawyer Savings Bank, which is looking to move from Vineyard Avenue in the Highland hamlet to Route 9W. The plan called for the demolition of the existing 6,500-square-foot restaurant and then the construction of a new, one-story 4,185-square-foot branch building with one drive-up teller lane and one drive-up ATM lane.

A 38-year employee of the Town of Lloyd, assessor Elaine Rivera retired in August, leaving a big gap to fill — particularly as the town is slated to begin its revaluation of all private and commercial properties. The town did hire Jennifer Mund, who, according to Supervisor Hansut, has “been doing an excellent job” in her new position.

Like Gardiner, the elections in Highland were intense, with voter turnout high and some of the races too close to call until all of the absentee ballots were counted a week later by the Ulster County Board of Elections. The Republicans held the majority, with Supervisor Hansut soundly winning his reelection bid against Democratic challenger Mike Guerriero, also a town councilman. Veteran Democrat town clerk Rosaria Peplow held onto her seat by a large margin, as did Republican councilman and deputy supervisor Jeff Paladino and Democratic highway superintendent Richie Klotz.

The tight races came with the vote counts for three of the four candidates for two seats on the Town Board being too tight to name a victor. In the end, incumbent Republican councilman Kevin Brennie remained the second highest vote-getter. Recently the Town Board voted to appoint Mike Horodyski, president and CEO of Wallkill Savings Bank, to fill the seat left vacant by Herb Litts III, who won his bid to serve as a county legislator for District 9.


Highland schools

Following the second deadliest school massacre in U.S. history, the Highland Board of Education voted to bring in a school resource officer in early 2013. That cop — a Town of Lloyd policeman — would end up making national headlines.

Sean McCutcheon, the officer in question, accidentally discharged his .45-caliber service weapon on March 5 — firing off one round in the Highland High School hallway. While the bullet didn’t hurt anyone, it eventually cost McCutcheon is job. He was placed on suspension, pending an investigation. Once “officer error” was determined as the case of the gunshot, he resigned.