In 2018, the Town of Shandaken will address such projects as sprucing up infrastructure in Pine Hill, continuing to work on flood resilience, reapplying for funding for the Phoenicia Water System’s High Street Loop, and revisiting the town’s Comprehensive Plan, including policies for Airbnb rentals. Rob Stanley, starting his ninth year as town supervisor, outlined the prospects for the coming year.
“Our Comprehensive Plan hasn’t been updated since its inception in 2005,” explained Stanley. “The State Department recommends reviewing it every five years or so. With all the zoning and planning board issues that have come up lately, our zoning code may need updating, and hopefully the comp plan will lead in that direction. Some definitions are outdated or in need of a better description. If you went through the code, you could probably find something about stagecoaches.”
Short-term home rentals like Airbnb, for instance, are not addressed in the code. The planning board has had discussions about how to regulate such rentals but is waiting for Ulster County to come up with overall guidelines for dealing with noise and safety issues. “The comp plan is just a blueprint,” said Stanley, “not a binding document, but it indicates where the town would like to go. My biggest concern with Airbnb is that you lose a sense of community when you have a lot of homes with transient residency. Then there’s also the affordable housing situation. Local young people can’t afford to stay here. That shack down the road that people used to rent for a couple bucks a month is now up for a couple bucks a night. We have to get a better handle on it.”
A Pine Hill revitalization project has stalled pending a parking study. One goal is to widen Main Street and have new sidewalks put in. The current sidewalks are made of bluestone, installed in the early 1900s and now close to street level due to the many repavings of the street adding layers over the years. Finally the sidewalks too were paved over to raise them slightly above the road. As the street is widened, some parking spaces may be lost; hence the need for a parking study, to be funded by Catskill Watershed Corporation (CWC).
The town remains committed to flood mitigation endeavors in Pine Hill, in Phoenicia, and now, especially since a Local Flood Analysis (LFA) was completed for Allaben and Shandaken, in those hamlets as well. The Route 28 bridge, at the Route 212 junction in Mount Tremper, is due for replacement by New York State in 2020. The town is already beginning conversations with the state’s Department of Transportation about designing the new bridge with flood mitigation in mind, as per recommendations of the Mount Tremper LFA. “The bridge can be a bottleneck when it floods,” said Stanley, “so it should be made longer to allow for floodwaters to pass through.”
Buyouts, loop, ski gondola
FEMA has sponsored property buyouts near the bridge, where Hurricane Irene devastated several homes. Stanley hopes for more buyouts and demolition of flood-damaged buildings, which will allow floodwaters more access to the floodplain, protecting other structures near the creek. Levees and other flood control devices can then be removed, giving the creek more freedom to run its course without damage, especially along Riseley Road.
An upgrade for the Phoenicia water system has been in the works, but last year a grant for completing the High Street Loop, a backup measure for the south side of the water district, had to be closed out prematurely. “The estimates came in much higher than the engineers’ original estimate,” said Stanley. “We’ll apply for the next round with new pricing. We’ve got all the numbers hardened, and we’ve already gone through prequalifying environmental review. We’ll start applying in April, and they’ll award the grants in June or July. If all goes goes well, we’ll start construction before the end of the year.”
Stanley expressed gratitude for Governor Andrew Cuomo’s decision last year to earmark $8 million for upgrades at Belleayre Ski Center. “The gondola is a very attractive addition to the mountain,” said Stanley. “I hope the governor continues investing in Belleayre.” The ski resort is a significant tourist draw in winter, when the town’s economy otherwise tends to struggle.
Work will continue on updating local parks, including the set-up of playground equipment that arrived in late fall. Volunteers were not able to install the equipment before the ground froze. “Our plans for a skate park may come to fruition in Pine Hill,” said Stanley. “Our new town councilman, Kevin Van Blarcum, is willing to spearhead that project. And we’ll try to assist the Festival of the Voice and other events to continue to grow and be established here.”++
For Shandaken news and announcements, visit the town website, http://www.shandaken.us, or the Town of Shandaken Facebook page. With a few exceptions for holidays, town board meetings are held on the first Monday of the month at the town hall, 7209 Route 28, Shandaken. See the calendar on the town website.