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Hilltowns Archives —The Altamont Enterprise, October 18, 2007

Petrilli on sick leave

By Tyler Schuling

BERNE — Mary Petrilli, Berne-Knox-Westerlo High School’s long-time principal, is on paid leave this week and plans to be out another week as she "continues to recover from a series of medical episodes she experienced during school hours over the past couple of weeks," said Steven Schrade, the school’s superintendent, yesterday.

Petrilli had given Schrade her permission to tell others in the community that she has undergone tests and will be going through more testing, Schrade said Monday.

Schrade sent out a short letter to the community and posted a notice on BKW’s School News Notifier, an Internet notification system that updates those in the district on the latest school news via e-mail.

Fred Marcil, BKW’s middle-school administrator, is in charge of the high school building, and Coriellen Travis, BKW’s summer school principal, is managing students, Schrade said.

Petrilli is drawing on her sick leave at this time, Schrade said.

Residents vote for five-acre zoning

By Tyler Schuling

RENSSELAERVILLE — The town’s residents want smaller lot sizes in the agricultural district, according to the results of a recent townwide survey.

In September, the town sent out surveys on lot density in the agricultural district; the survey asked whether one house should be allowed for a five-acre lot or for a 20-acre lot.

Of about 2,400 surveys sent out, the town received 950 responses.

About 650 residents voted for five-acre zoning with the rest voting for 20-acre zoning, said Thomas Mikulka, the chairman of the committee charged with drafting new zoning laws and subdivision regulations.

"It truly reflected what the people in this town wanted," said Mikulka, who has spoken in favor of five-acre zoning.

Eleven ballots were disqualified.

Democratic Councilwoman Sherri Pine and Republican Councilman Robert Lansing counted ballots. Victor La-Plante, one of the town’s justices, oversaw the count.

Just days after sending the ballots to the town’s voters, Rensselaerville Farmland Protection, an ad hoc group of concerned residents, sent out a bulletin encouraging voters to vote for 20 acres.

Mikulka has called the issue of lot size in the agricultural district "one of the most divisive issues that’s ever hit this town."

The former chair of the comprehensive land-use planning committee, Vernon Husek, had resigned over the issue shortly after the town board unanimously adopted the master plan. He said experts’ advice was being ignored and the committee had changed from "data-driven to politically-driven."

The current land-use committee voted unanimously for five-acre zoning, said Mikulka, who assumed the chair after Husek left.

"We felt we didn’t even need a survey. We knew what the people wanted," said Mikulka.

The land-use committee supports the new zoning regulations it has drafted, Mikulka said, "unlike the last time where it hurried through and didn’t have a chance to look at it."

The town’s new comprehensive plan was adopted on March 6. A public hearing on new zoning laws and subdivision regulations was held April 18.

Throughout planning — creating a master plan and drafting new zoning laws and subdivision regulations — disagreements have been commonplace between Husek and Mikulka. Husek, who started Rensselaerville Farmland Protection, disagreed with the majority of the land-use committee’s voting for smaller lot sizes in the agricultural district.

The town’s planner, Nan Stolzenburg, had recommended larger lot size.

At the public hearing in April, some members of the committee said their work was rushed.

"We took our time. We listened to people in the community," said Mikulka last week. "We made lots of changes — some minor, some significant."

Jeannette Rice, a member of the original committee that drafted the master plan, supported the committee’s work in April and later called it "a top-notch project."

Mikulka reported at a town board meeting last week that the committee has completed its work. He said the committee feels it’s a fair document that reflects what the community wants.

"How many hours did you spend on this"" Supervisor Jost Nickelsberg asked.

Mikulka said the committee met for 16 months, and, on average, met twice each week.

Moratorium extended"

Large development in the town has been halted since work began on a new master plan nearly a year-and-a-half ago. The moratorium on major subdivision is due to be lifted on Nov. 2.

Last week, William Ryan, the attorney to the town, said he had drafted a local law extending the moratorium. The moratorium had been extended in May for six months.

Ryan said one of his concerns was that, at the public hearing in the spring, a lot of people hadn’t yet had time to read the proposed laws.

Ryan questioned whether residents, "in the scheme of everyday business," would have enough time before Nov. 2 to read the document and make intelligent observations.

A public hearing on extending the moratorium for 60 days will be held at Town Hall on Oct. 24 at 7 p.m.

Ryan made 70 copies of the proposed new zoning laws and subdivision regulations. They are available at the town’s library and at Town Hall.

Also, Cathleen Bobrick, the planning board’s secretary, will soon be putting the bills on compact discs for residents, said Kathy Hallenbeck, the town’s clerk. Drafts of the proposed laws are posted on the town’s website — www.rensselaerville .com.

The town board voted unanimously to appoint five members — Cheryl Baitsholts, Jason Rauf, Thomas Kropp, Barry Kuhar, and Steven Lewis — to a committee to study farmland protection in the town. The town is applying for a $25,000 grant through the state’s Department of Agriculture and Markets.

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