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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, September 29, 2005

New Scotlanders vote for increase in volunteers’ benefits

By Holly Grosch

NEW SCOTLAND — Active emergency service volunteers in this town will now receive $700 a year in retirement benefits, a $220 increase from this year’s $480.

On Tuesday night, all three voter referendums, one in each district, passed overwhelmingly in favor of the increase. Any registered voter could cast a ballot; turnout was low.

The result "is good news," said Craig Shufelt of the New Salem Volunteer Fire Department late on Tuesday after his district’s votes had been tallied. "Everyone was happy," he said describing the volunteers at the firehouse. Now, he said, "We’ll have to see if it has an impact."

The Length of Service Award Program, LOSAP, is an optional state program funded through local tax dollars. Its purpose is to use retirement benefits to entice volunteers into joining and remaining active in ambulance squads and fire departments.

"Volunteerism is a dying breed," Shufelt said, but he added, the approved increase "is a good note."

Volunteers earn the benefits per year, but are not able to collect the money until they are 65, when they receive one lump sum. Then, if a members remains active past 65, they will receive $700 checks each year.

An individual qualifies for the benefits each year only after garnering 50 points for completing various activities throughout the year such as by going to drills, being on call, or running educational seminars. Members can even receive one point for participating in parades.

This year, the state legislature approved an optional increase of the maximum benefits that can be rewarded up to $700. The New Scotland Town Board unanimously supported the increase this summer and scheduled the referendums, as mandated by law.

The Voorheesville Volunteer Fire Department was the only service company in town that did not request a retirement benefit increase, because it will be requesting $1.2 million for a project to renovate the firehouse. Village Mayor Jack Stevens previously said that will already be a large increase in the village taxes.

Voorheesville firefighters will continue to receive the LOSAP benefits at this year’s rate of $480 annually.

The vote for the Voorheesville Area Ambulance Service referendum was 37 in favor and zero opposed, Shufelt said Tuesday night.

The expense of Voorheesville’s LOSAP is shared between the village and the town.

Mark Wilson, president of the Onesquethaw fire and emergency services, said that his district received 47 votes in favor and six opposed. The New Salem District referendum result was 36 yeses and one no, Shufelt said.

The Onesquethaw Volunteer Company serves the hamlets of Clarksville, Unionville, and Feura Bush. It also provides ambulance service to the southern side of New Scotland.

The New Salem Volunteer Fire Department responds to fire emergencies in the other half of town, which surrounds the village of Voorheesville.

The Voorheesville Area Ambulance Service Inc. provides basic life support services to the village and to the New Salem Fire District area.

In 2004, Onesquethaw had 61 people who qualified for benefits and New Salem had 28 members qualify. If the same number qualify in 2006, now with the increase, the total annual expense for the town taxpayers will be $62,300 just for Onesquethaw and New Salem.

Salon proposal faces hairy review

By Holly Grosch

NEW SCOTLAND — Hair salons are not allowed in the commercial districts of this town.

This creates a road block for two business hopefuls who want to open a hair, tanning, and manicure salon at Stonewell Plaza.

Based on the current zoning laws, hair salons, while allowed in areas zoned Commercial Hamlet are not allowed in areas zoned Commercial. This means that along the routes 85 and 85A commercial corridor, hair salons and other businesses that fit under the code’s definition of "personal services," including shoeshines, are not permitted.

Personal Services do not qualify for special-use permits from the planning board either.

New Scotland’s zoning administrator, Paul Cantlin, said, "I personally think it’s an overlook." The commercial district is an ideal location for this type of business, Cantlin said.

The town board has the authority to amend the regulations of the zoning law. Council members, if they wanted to, could permanently make hair salons a permitted use in commercial districts.

The issue came to light on Tuesday when Vincenzio Federico and Annie Renaldo appealed to the zoning board, requesting to be allowed to put a uni-sex hair, tanning, and manicure salon in one of the vacant store fronts in Stonewell Shopping Plaza.

The applicants’ lawyer suggested that perhaps hair salons were accidentally left off the list of allowed uses when the original law was passed in the 1960’s.

Nonetheless, currently the only way Federico and Renaldo, will be able to open their desired business on the corner of routes 85 and 85A is through a use variance from the zoning board — the hardest kind of varience to receive.

After the applicants made their proposal to the board, member Wayne LaChappelle said the plan looked good to him. It includes expensive refurbishments with $4,000 tanning beds, $2,000 to $3,000 nail stations, new flooring, and mirrors.

Chairman Ronnie Von Ronnie explained to the applicant, "As much as we think this is a wonderful use, we have to adhere to the use criteria."

There are four requirements that an applicant must satisfy in order to prove that the zoning restrictions create an "unnecessary hardship."

The applicants’ attorney, Charles Assini, touched on a few of the hardships in the administrative hearing before the zoning board this Tuesday.

The owner of Stonewell Plaza, Zoe Anderson, has not been able to realize a reasonable return for Unit Six of her strip mall for 18 months since Emma Cleary’s, a café and bake shop, moved out and down the road.

"So it’s not that everyone is running here to put something," Assini said. He added that there are many vacant properties near Town Hall, on Route 85.

A hair salon will be an asset to the community as a needed service, and it will bring more people into town to increase commerce for all of the other businesses, Assini said.

Assini mentioned that allowing a hair salon isn’t changing the character of the district, because 12 years ago there was a hair salon in this plaza.

When board members asked Cantlin how a salon existed at that time, but is not allowed now, he said, for the same reason that people drive 90 miles an hour on a road with a speed limit of 75. Some things slip under the radar of the town’s zoning enforcement officers.

Zoning board member Adam Greenberg asked why a beauty salon couldn’t fit under professional services, which is a permitted use in the commercial district.

Town attorney Louis Neri said that, in the current zoning ordinance, there is no definition for profession service. Cantlin said that there used to be a definition included in the law which basically said that, just because you need a state license for the profession, does not make the service provider a professional.

Additionally, the zoning administrator can’t put hair salon under professional office, because hair salon and barber shop are clearly listed under the definition of personal services in the back of the ordinance, Cantlin said.

Since the zoning board is now considering the appeal, board member William Hennessey questioned if this hair salon will use more water or produce more traffic than the café did.

Assini said, while the shop will be renovated to hold seven cutting stations, to start, the hair stylists will just be the two business partners. They plan to hire a manicurist and maybe one other employee, meaning a total of four workers in the rental unit at one time.

Anderson said that she figured out parking, before agreeing to rent to this business. "I myself don’t want to congest it," she said of her parking lot.

The most traffic at Stonewell is caused by the restaurant in the morning and Curves, an exercise clinic, but the salon will be most busy in the evening hours when the restaurant has closed, she said. Anderson also said she factored in the water uses, and said that the water will be turned off when the stylist are not shampooing hair and there will be no clothes washers and dryers on site.

The zoning board will hold a public hearing on the variance for the hair salon on Oct. 25.

Other business

In other business, the zoning board:

— Heard a request from Donna Garramone and Chris Kobuskie, who live at 135 Altamont Road, and want to build a two-car garage, as an accessory structure next to, but not attached, to their house. They are requesting an area variance, because they want to build the garage closer to the road than the front setbacks allow.

Garramone said she wants to build the garage within the setback because the land is on a slope and it would be very expensive for her to fill in the land to build the garage and extend the driveway 70 feet back from the road. Also, placing the garage 70 feet back would require her to have to cut down trees, which she doesn’t want to do because they buffer her property from neighbors.

Graffiti leads to police sweep
Principal says things since have proceeded as normal

By Holly Grosch

CLARKSVILLE — When a teacher came to work in her classroom at Clarksville Elementary School on Sunday, Sept. 11, she discovered graffiti on the building, and called Principal Dorothy MacDonald, who then informed the Bethlehem Central School District.

The response plan went smoothly, MacDonald said. Since the graffiti mentioned explosives, the building was swept by the Albany Country Sheriff’s Department and the Bethlehelm Police, she said. The writing was cleaned up by Monday, MacDonald said, so the students didn’t see it. They didn’t feel any danger or express any concern, MacDonald said.

"There was no security problem...we resumed school on Monday as normal," MacDonald said. A Patriots’ Day celebration scheduled and proceeded as planned, she said.

It has now been a few weeks since the incident, and things have been "perfectly normal" ever since, MacDonald said. There were no ramifications of students feeling unsafe or scared, she said.

Everything was taken care of by the start of school on Monday Sept. 12, she said. MacDonald did send a note home to parents on that Monday to let them know what happened, she said.

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