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Hilltowns Archives —The Altamont Enterprise, May 10, 2007

Westerlo revisits master planning

By Tyler Schuling

WESTERLO — The town board revisited measures last week that would temporarily halt development and place restrictions on subdivisions within the town.

Last Tuesday, Councilman Ed Rash made a motion to halt subdivisions of more than four parcels until a master plan for land use is adopted. The town’s zoning ordinance was adopted in 1989.

"Let’s change the law," said Rash. "Whoever wants to argue it, they’re welcome to it. But I think we owe it to the people we’ve appointed — to the planning board — to have sufficient enough time to survey the people and know what we want and where we want to have it and what percentages of land are going to be residential, commercial, and everything else," he said.

The town board recently appointed a new planning board after disbanding the planners 15 years ago.

Since 2005, Rash has been pushing to change the town’s zoning laws to limit development. He had drafted a proposal to increase the minimum lost size, which Councilman R. Gregory Zeh had rejected as a "Band-Aid," advocating in January of 2006 that the town create a comprehensive land-use plan.

Rash’s motion last week was not seconded as Aline Galgay, the town’s attorney, wanted to clarify language before proceeding. "If I go through all the work to draft it, I want to make sure it can stand up if there is a challenge to it," she said. She estimated two weeks to draft a local law.

The town board will hold a workshop session open to the public on May 22 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.

The board, Galgay said, needs to designate a specific amount of time for a moratorium on development — eight months, one year, or 18 months — and have a reason for the amount of time chosen.

Galgay said, under case law, moratoriums are looked at "very stringently." When adopting a moratorium, a town must provide a reason to its constituents for the time designated. One year, she said, is "a relatively acceptable time frame" that is not "overly scrutinized."

"Most of the time, unless you have invested a significant amount of money in your application already, you have not ‘vested,’" said Galgay. She doesn’t know of any current or upcoming applications before the planning board that had invested considerable sums, she said. "The only one I can think of is Properties of New York, Inc. They’re significantly vested," she said.

Galgay defined "moratorium" as "stopping a process for a limited duration of time."

"You keep using the word ‘moratorium,’ which I really don’t want to use," Rash said to Galgay.

"This town — we’re losing our ability to do what we want. Day by day, with all this technical and changing of laws and what is enforceable and what isn’t," said Rash.

Councilman Zeh said he’d made a similar proposal two years ago. "I used the word ‘moratorium,’ and you were dead-set against it because of the word ‘moratorium,’" Zeh said to Rash.

"I agree conceptually with what you’re trying to do"My question to you would be: Is one year a sufficient time frame" I think we don’t have the resources in place to do the master plan within one year," Zeh said. "So I think we’re going to shoot ourselves in the foot by trying to say one year is a sufficient time to do this," he said.

Resident Edwin Stevens was concerned a moratorium would give the town board too much power and place a burden on farmers.

"To me, it just seems like you’re trying to control too much private property. You’re taking some guy that’s got a farm, that ain’t making any money anymore, and you’re taking his ability to maintain what he’s got by selling off a little bit at a time. You’re killing the guy," he said.

"There has to be a point in time when we have to take a step back and take a look at things," said Rash. "If we don’t stop now and watch how this town grows, it could get too expensive to live here for everybody, not just farms," he said.

Galgay said a moratorium is not intended to block property owners’ rights. "It’s to be able to give"everybody a chance to determine the direction you, as well as everyone else, want the town to take," she said.

Rensselaerville, which lies just to the west of Westerlo, recently drafted and adopted a comprehensive land-use plan, which, starting in April of last year, halted subdivisions of over three lots for one year. Many residents were opposed to the moratorium from the onset.

At the town’s public hearing, many on the committee that designed the plan said they needed more time and farmers and owners of large parcels of land thought a change from five-acre minimum lot size to 10-acre zoning burdensome. A six-month extension of the moratorium was approved by the Rensselaerville town board May 1.

Other business

In other business, the town board:

— Heard from Supervisor Richard Rapp that, during the last snowstorm, damage to Town Hall occurred, and Town Clerk Gertrude Smith’s office was flooded. "I was here in time to move everything around," said Rapp. He said he will contact an engineer to examine the damage and report back to the board next month;

— Voted unanimously to award the National Bank of Coxsackie a one-year band for $30,000 at 3.53-percent interest to pay for the town’s new street broom;

— Voted unanimously to close an escrow account with KeyBank designated for the planning board that hasn’t had any activity in 15 years. The account had "a couple hundred bucks," Rapp said. The town board also voted unanimously to open a new account designated for the newly-created planning board with the National Bank of Coxsackie; and

— Revisited regulations for signs in the town. Last month, resident Gaye McCafferty, a nurse who had recently attended a meeting about sign height and tobacco use, asked the board to investigate regulation of tobacco advertisements.

Galgay said her office had done "extensive research" on the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act of 1965. Currently, she said, the town prohibits signs larger than 32 square feet. The FCLA Act says labeling by the surgeon general is required on all cigarette packages and "states are preemptive from further regulating advertising of tobacco products."

Galgay said courts say, "If you want to regulate all signs altogether, that’s fine. But you can’t segregate out, or separate out, tobacco advertising separately from any other kind of advertising." If the town wants to address tobacco signs, she said, it has to do so on a "global scale."

"You have to be careful. You can’t specifically target tobacco advertising," she said.

"You can certainly pass a resolution indicating that you’re against children smoking, but the ability to regulate it"I think is very problematic," Galgay said.

Training the voice for web and TV

By Tyler Schuling

BERNE — An introductory class on voice acting will be held May 21 at the Berne-Knox-Westerlo High School.

Voice Coaches, based in Schenectady, specializes in one-on-one voice training for voice actors. Voice Coaches has clients from coast to coast and also caters to national TV networks, said founder and producer David Bourgeois.

The voice-acting industry, which was once predominantly male, is now about half male and half female, he said. The average age of individuals pursuing the field is 44, he said. Most of the work is narrative, said Bourgeois, adding that radio commercials make up less than 10-percent of the industry.

Voice actors now have more opportunities than before, which include: work in web development, voice mail, new television shows, and audio books, he said.

"The field is absolutely huge," Bourgeois said.

On the May 21, members of the class will learn about the pros and cons of the industry, as well as available work opportunities in and around the Capital District, Bourgeois said. They will also learn how to pursue work in the voice-acting field and have an opportunity to do a brief recording at the end of the class, he said. Voice Coaches does not do broadcast training, Bourgeois said.

Some of Voice Coaches’ professional clients include the Discovery Channel, HDTV, and the Women’s Entertainment Network.

The community education class will be held at the high school from 6:30 to 9 p.m. To register, call 872-1293. Cost for the class is $20. For more information about Voice Coaches, visit www.voicecoaches.com.

New law proposed in Knox, making roads more travelable

By Tyler Schuling

KNOX — With a local law that hasn’t been updated since the 1970’s, Knox is proposing a bill that regulates new roads.

The town board and Gary Salisbury, Knox’s highway superintendent, determined the town’s current highway law is "technically outdated." The proposed highway law is to provide "appropriate and effective management" of town roads "in the interest of the health, safety, and welfare of town residents."

A public hearing on the law will be held on May 22 at 7 p.m. at town hall.

Drafted by Salisbury and planning board member Robert Gwinn, the bill includes criteria for new road construction as well as drainage specifications.

Minimum specifications for new roads include: a design life of not less than 20 years of routine maintenance, a minimum design speed of 45 miles per hour, a right-of-way of not less than 60 feet, and a total roadway width of not less than 22 feet. Drainage facilities under roadways are to be designed to handle a 50-year storm and a 25-year storm on all other facilities.

Gwinn said the 50-year storm is one that only occurs once every half-century that is measured by "rainfall intensity over a period of time." The 50-year provision for roads "seems to be the reasonable number," he said. The recommendation comes from Cornell, he said.

Hilltown throughway

The poor condition of Route 156, a heavily-traveled state highway between Altamont and Berne that passes through Knox, has been discussed at many board meetings. The road, covered with many potholes, is a throughway between the Hilltowns and Albany.

Earlier, Supervisor Michael Hammond had contacted the state’s Department of Transportation. Hammond has said the road is in "deplorable" shape. Tuesday, Hammond said he and Altamont Mayor James Gaughan had spoken with DOT Region 1 director Joseph DiFabio.

"They fully acknowledge the road is in horrible shape," said Hammond. "We pushed them a little bit," he said, adding that he hopes "it wasn’t too antagonistic." Other roads in Albany County, he said, are competing.

Albany County Legislator Alexander "Sandy" Gordon said a motorcyclist died at Walks Flats, a flat portion along Route 156 close to Altamont, five years ago. "Those are tank traps for a motorcycle," he said of the road’s many potholes.

Storm damage

The most extensive damage to town roads by the nor’easter last month was at Lewis Road and Quay Road, Highway Superintendent Salisbury told The Enterprise. Some culverts are now three-fourths full of stone, mud, and dirt, he said. When taking culverts out to replace them, he said, they can get destroyed because they are heavy.

The highway department, he said, has used approximately 2,000 tons of crusher run for repairs. "Hopefully we’ll be able to recoup this," Salisbury said. "The 15th, we’ll know more."

On May 15, the State Emergency Management Office will be conducting a closed informational meeting in Cohoes for municipal officials. (See related story.)

To be reimbursed, the town has to show how many man hours and equipment hours were used for rehabilitation, as well as the materials and fuel used, Salisbury said.

"It sounds like good news," he said.

Other business

In other business, the town board:

— Voted unanimously to award Mountain View Oil Company in Voorheesville a one-year contract for Number 2 crude oil and low-sulfur diesel fuel, effective June 1. Hammond said Mountain View Oil Company has been "supplying the town very expeditiously"We look forward to doing another year of business with you."

"I do appreciate the business," said Steve Tracy, the vice president of Mountain View Oil Company;

— Voted unanimously to award Chemung Supply in Elmira (Chemung County) a one-year contract to supply the town with plastic and steel culverts, effective June 1. Salisbury said that, if steel and plastic prices drop, Chemung Supply will lower its prices;

— Voted unanimously to donate $150 and a wreath to the Helderberg Kiwanis for Knox and Berne’s annual Memorial Day parade. Last year, Hammond said, the Berne-Knox-Westerlo marching band and the fire company "gave a nice parade here."

"We look forward to having another Memorial Day commemoration that would be equal to last year," he said;

— Voted unanimously to authorize Hammond to make a payment of $59,071.07 to KeyBank to pay off debt for the town highway department’s new truck. Hammond said the town has had a "favorable interest rate of 3.9-percent";

— Heard from Salisbury that the town expects about $4,300 more in Consolidated Highway Improvement Plans money this year. The town, he said, received about $48,500 last year and will receive about $52,800 this year. CHIPs money is awarded based on mileage to a municipality once it has completed roadwork;

— Voted unanimously to authorize Salisbury to purchase a new cylinder for the trash compactor at the town’s transfer station not to exceed $6,000, including shipping. Salisbury said that the cylinder had been rewelded "about four times," and only lasted 10 minutes the last time it had been repaired. "We have a situation that’s been remedied, but it hasn’t been remedied," said Hammond.

Last month, Salisbury reported that the crack in the cylinder had resulted in five gallons of oil leaking. Salisbury told The Enterprise that the crack had occurred to a stationary, non-moving part and the oil that had leaked was monitored and no contamination to the environment occurred.

Last month, the town board had authorized Salisbury to purchase a new cylinder and to pay for shipping for an amount not to exceed $3,200. Planning Board Chairman Robert Price, however, suspected he could find a more competitive price.

Salisbury said Marathon Equipment Company, based in Vernon, Ala. no longer had the part and directed him to Sanitary Equipment in eastern Connecticut that would make a cylinder to specifications.

"This cylinder is so particular. It has to be exact," said Salisbury;

— Heard from Hammond and Price that they had met with a cellular tower company that wants to place a tower near the transfer station. The company, also working with New Scotland, Price said, wants to sign a lease.

Price said he recommends the company first gets site plan approval from the planning board. He was concerned about giving the company a lease prior to site-plan approval and a public hearing. Price was also concerned because he is uncertain about the height of the tower, whether it would be a monopole or lattice tower, and if the tower would be too close to the Winn Preserve, one of the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy’s preserves located within the town. Before granting a lease, Price said, the company should first have site-plan approval. "That’s the position we’re going to take," he said;

— Heard praise from Alexander "Sandy" Gordon because the town wrote a letter of support to extend the county’s 1-percent sales tax. In 2006, Knox received $205,179. Hammond said the money is "immediately going to our highway department." Hammond told The Enterprise the town receives the money on a quarterly basis, and the money is used for highway equipment purchases; and

— Voted unanimously to hold a workshop session for renovations to Town Hall on May 22, following a public hearing at 7:30 p.m. on the town’s highway bill. Plans for the hall were drawn up nearly two years ago. The town board revisited the plans in January and recently hired Susan Lombardi as a grant writer to aid the project. Lombardi is currently doing research, Hammond said. Hammond said he wants to get together with the board and get "a sense of direction." Hammond told The Enterprise the town board and citizens that have shown an interest in serving on an advisory committee will attend the workshop, which is open to the public.

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