New Scotland looks to update subdivision law

The Enterprise — Sean Mulkerrin 

Nan Stolzenburg, shown here during a public meeting of Voorheesville’s comprehensive plan update, now works part-time as New Scotland’s town planner. At the March 8 town board meeting, Stolzenburg informed board members of an update she’s been working on of the town’s subdivision law.

NEW SCOTLAND — The town of New Scotland is planning to update its subdivision law.

Town Planner Nan Stolzenburg on March 8 told town board members that the update started with a zoning and subdivision audit that she did many years ago, which “resulted in a series of recommendations for updating and improving the zoning and the subdivision law.”

And, while the update is modeled on the town’s existing subdivision law, Stolzenburg said, “It’s a significant update.”

She said there are some major points that bring the subdivision law into line with the state law “in terms of timeframes and procedures for minor subdivisions and major subdivisions, which the current law has some deficiencies in.”

Another “fairly significant change” is that the building inspector will no longer approve minor subdivisions, Stolzenburg said; rather, they will become part of the planning board process.

“And the main reason for that is that there’s really no authority for the code enforcement officer to approve minor subdivisions,” Stolzenburg said. Since minor subdivisions are subject to State Environmental Quality Review, she said, “it really is a planning board function.”

As for why the the planning board hasn’t been handling minor subdivisions all along, Supervisor Douglas LaGrange told The Enterprise this week that having the town’s building inspector approve minor subdivisions — defined as land subdivided into least two but not more than four lots — was just always how it was done. 

“The building inspector always took care of them,” LaGrange said, and “the planning board would receive [a report] of what was done.”

LaGrange, who before being elected to the town board was a member of the planning board, said of his time on the latter, “If we had any questions or concerns, we could ask about them.” Adding about minor subdivisions, he said, “You know, they’re really fairly cut and dry.”

But he acknowledged, “There’s some instances where it makes sense to go to the planning board.” He also said that Building Inspector Jeremy Cramer would be freed for other tasks. LaGrange said, “You really can debate it both ways.”

Stolzenburg on March 8 said there was also an update to the purpose statement of the subdivision law, making it consistent with the town’s comprehensive plan, “so that the subdivision [law] implements the policies in the direction that are established in the plan.”

She said there were enhancements made to the sketch-phase section of the subdivision law, “which is really important.” This way, the planning board and applicant can “really put a lot of effort into that very first conceptual meeting where there’s opportunity to discuss issues and changes that might need to be made before the applicant spends a lot of money on their final plans,” Stolzenburg explained. 

The town also added a section requiring conservation subdivision designs for all major subdivisions, Stolzenburg said. “So that means any subdivision over five lots would need to be laid out in a conservation method … The subdivision law articulates all the steps, what the open space is, how it’s supposed to be done. With the goal of allowing for the same kind of development capacity, but at the same time we preserve significant open space.” 

Stolzenburg said New Scotland’s update will bring the town in line with other modern subdivision laws.

The law

that never was

The town board adopted updates to its hamlet zoning last year, but the law never went into effect. 

The law was passed on Dec. 14 but because of the holiday it wasn’t filed with the Department of State until after the New Year, town attorney Michael Naughton explained on March 8. 

Naughton said the town then waited for the law to be officially filed with the Department of State.

After it didn’t receive confirmation from the department, Naughton said, the town reached out to the state. “They said there’s no one available to take your phone call,” Naughton said. “So after a month or two of that, we finally got a hold of someone and they said it won’t be filed because it says it’s in 2022 law, but you sent it to us in 2023.”

Rather than argue with the counsel’s office of the Department of State, Naughton said he prepared a resolution renaming the law. 

With Local Law 3 of 2023, Naughton said the board would be  “re-approving,” “re-adopting,” and “then ratifying the actions taken on December 14.”

The board unanimously adopted the resolution.


Kensington Woods

Also at its March meeting, the board set a public hearing on extending the Kensington Woods Water District. 

The hearing is set for April 12, at 6:10 p.m.

Three years ago, customers in the Northeast Water District had to buy their water from the village of Voorheesville after the town had to take the district offline following an unusually high master meter reading.

The source of the high reading — a 4,000-gallon-an-hour leak — was a 3-foot long vertical crack in the district’s 25-year-old underground 18,000-gallon fiberglass tank.

The town paid $12,500 to fix the crack in the tank, and paid engineers Barton and Loguidice thousands of dollars more to come up with a solution for future outages.

On Feb. 8, board members approved a $150,000 interconnection capital project resolution, with $52,500 of its funding coming from the federal American Rescue Plan Act, passed in the midst of the pandemic, and $97,500 being bonded to Northeast Water District customers. 

The town’s department of public works will be providing the project’s labor.

At the February meeting, LaGrange said neither the project cost nor its split between the Hilton Barn and the Northeast Water District was “set in stone.” The $150,000 figure was more so the town could “order stuff and be ready to bond things.” The board can still “decide on what’s a fair split between the two entities,” he said.

New Scotland has now spent at least two-thirds of its federal COVID relief funds, a little over $600,000


Tax breaks for first responders

New Scotland has both volunteer firefighters and a volunteer ambulance crew. Like other taxing jurisdictions in New York state, the town is now deciding if it should offer a property tax break to those first responders.

On April 12, at 6:15 p.m., a public hearing will be held for Local Law C of 2023, a 10-percent exemption off the assessed value of properties for volunteer first responders.

To be eligible for the exemption, a first responder must have his or her primary residence in New Scotland and have at least two years of service, among other eligibility requirements

To determine the length of service, the town will use each department’s active member list instead of the Length of Service Program, or LOSAP, which is a pension-like program for volunteer first-responders that is based on a point system of activities performed by firefighters or ambulance corps.

The town decided to use active member lists instead of LOSAP, LaGrange told The Enterprise by text because, “LOSAP can have too many variables that don’t capture very active members who can’t get over 50 pt,” the threshold at which the volunteer first-responder receives a program credit. 

Historic resources

In other business, the board was:

— Presented with a historic resource inventory by Alan Kowlowitz, the chair of the joint town-village Historic Preservation Committee.



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