Town Board Sets Date for Rezoning Hearing

 Supervisor promises that all will be heard

By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong

 The Philipstown Town Board launched the new year last Thursday by announcing a date for the long-anticipated formal public hearing on its planned rezoning and announced three forums next week for firefighters, ambulance corps volunteers and public regarding local emergency services. Supervisor Richard Shea said the rezoning hearing would be held Wednesday, Feb. 9, at 7:30 p.m., with the likely location to be the Haldane Central School campus, though details remained pending. He predicted that the Feb. 9 session would be followed by at least one more before the formal hearing process wraps up.

“We’re going to go as long as the public needs, to get things on record,” he said. He noted that the board has received no letters in the last two or three months on the rezoning but urged that those with as-yet unvoiced opinions to send them to the board and be prepared to present them during the hearing next month. “We’re looking for substantive issues, not ‘I hate this,’ or ‘hooray, I love this,'” he said.“ I’m expecting comments. But at this point it’s been a pretty exhaustive process. We’ve had so much public input. The informal process has been so elongated I’m not expecting any major shifts in the document. ” The hearing will come more than three-and-a-half years after the first rezoning draft, prepared by the Zoning Advisory Committee, debuted and inaugurated a sometime acrimonious debate over revising the zoning code, following adoption of the town Comprehensive Plan in March 2006.

Councilwoman Nancy Montgomery announced another series of important meetings as well, to occur at the VFW hall on Kemble Avenue in Cold Spring on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, Jan. 13, 14, and 15, to obtain insights about the town’s four fire departments and two ambulance corps. Last summer, the Town Board began exploring the merits, if any, of consolidating the organizations into a new, town-wide emergency services district. However, Montgomery emphasized that the Jan. 13-15 meetings, with the consultant assisting the town in the review, “is not a consolidation meeting. This is a meeting to gather information and form a strategic plan on where we’re headed with our EMS and fire [companies]. I want to clarify that this is not a meeting for consolidation.”  Each meeting will focus on a slightly different target group, she said, outlining them: The first, at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 13, is geared toward line officers and volunteer firefighters, as opposed to top brass, though no one will be excluded. The second meeting, at 6 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 14, is intended for chief officers, lieutenants, captains, and those serving the departments in civic-social capacities. The last session, on Saturday, Jan. 15 at 12 noon, will be oriented toward d residents, public officials, and everyone interested in emergency services.

The series would provide “a wonderful opportunity for us all finally to get together to talk about one of the most vital public safety issues,” Montgomery said. She said the sessions, each about two-and-a-half hours, would help define expectations, existing conditions, and possible future developments, and for the public and Town Board to become more knowledgeable. “We can’t continue to fund these services unless we have a really great understanding of that,” she said. “I think this is an opportunity for all of us to get together to have that understanding. And, most importantly, I’m hoping it will ensure the safety of our volunteers.”

When the board turned to other business, Supervisor Shea gave yet another update on the town’s attempt to get a traffic light at the dangerous Fishkill Road-Route 9 intersection. In a scenario that sounded more like a classic antic-movie plot than government affairs, he said that the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) had told him a few days earlier that it was waiting on a bond from Putnam County before doing anything. But County Legislator Vincent Tamagna separately said that the bond had long since been sent “prompting the DOT to begin a search for it,” Shea said.  For years, “we have documented a dangerous spot but there’s still no light,” he said. “So next week there’s either going to be some [DOT] action or there’s going to be some action from the town. We can’t wait any longer. And we’re not waiting any longer.”

Lee Erickson, of Citizens of Philipstown, also reported from the audience on his group’s efforts to move the state forward. He said he was told the state planned to act in “early spring. I said, ‘I hope to see this happen because otherwise you’re going to see a letter-writing campaign and all the rest of it.”

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