Town Board Moves Toward Moratorium on Wind Turbines

Gets traffic, post office, and park pavilion updates at monthly meeting 

By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong

Philipstown’s Town Board Thursday (Sept. 12) informally signaled its intent to pursue a moratorium on wind turbine applications until it can set a policy on use of alternative energy and amend the zoning code.

At its formal monthly meeting, the board also got updates on troublesome traffic situations, the Cold Spring post office, and winter amenities at the town park on Route 9D, Garrison.

Wind turbine moratorium 

The board again waded into the debate over residential wind turbines – or modernistic backyard windmills to produce home energy. Councilor John Van Tassel, the board liaison to the Philipstown Zoning Board of Appeals, mentioned a ZBA request that the Town Board clarify the town’s zoning law on turbines and enact a moratorium until that happens. For months, the ZBA has wrestled with an application for a residential wind turbine in Garrison. “I would like to see the process begin to place a moratorium” on further applications, Van Tassel told his board colleagues.

Supervisor Richard Shea responded that he has already directed the town attorney to draft language for a moratorium. “A moratorium is actually a law,” although the period it covers must be limited, he explained, suggesting nine months should suffice. “Obviously, we need to take a step back and re-assess how we’re going to handle alternative energy, not only wind turbines” but other forms as well, he said.

Shea pointed out that the board will be pre-occupied with drafting the fiscal 2014 budget for about two months. “So we’re not going to jump right on” a zoning change, “but we can vote on a moratorium,” he said. He also observed that the application now before the ZBA “would not be affected” by a moratorium.

Named by the board that night as the ZBA’s new chairman, Robert Dee said that he believes zoning code revisions “can be worked out very easily.” Currently, he noted, alternative energy is not covered in any detail in the code. “I don’t think there’s many problems” with the law now, he added. “I think there’s a couple of things that need tweaking.”

Traffic: Snake Hill Road, Route 9D, Nelsonville crosswalk, bus stop sign

In her monthly remarks to the board, Putnam County District 1 Legislator Barbara Scuccimarra said that Snake Hill Road, a county responsibility, “will be open by the 20th of September,” following repairs that closed it, frustrating motorists. Scuccimarra said that school buses have been allowed through, but only with escorts. “They’re waiting for handrails” to finish the job, she said. “That’s the hang-up.”

Van Tassel reported on a recent county traffic safety board meeting at which Philipstown resident John Teagle and Putnam County Highway Commissioner Fred Pena gave a presentation on reducing speeds on a section of Route 9D, just north of Cold Spring. Thronged by hikers, the stretch has a speed limit of 55 miles per hour, although other lengths of Route 9D with fewer pedestrians have lower speeds.  The New York State “DOT was there and was receptive to the idea, but thinks you need to incorporate an entire characteristic change of the area, make it a much more pedestrian-friendly area,” Van Tassel said.

Shea said the speed reduction is part of an initiative to create a Hudson River Fjord Trail between Cold Spring and Beacon, which “is gaining a lot of ground.”

Van Tassel also said that a crosswalk on Route 301 (Main Street) at Peekskill Road in Nelsonville would be completed in 2014.

Finally, he added that state and county representatives would visit a school bus stop along Route 9 at First Street, by the Post Road trailer park, and consider placement of a sign there, in light of public fears for safety. “It will be addressed,” he said.

Post office

As she had two days earlier at the Cold Spring Village Board meeting, Scuccimarra discussed the Cold Spring post office, whose future is unresolved.

She warned that moving mail carrier operations to the Garrison post office while retaining a small post office sales shop in Cold Spring was insufficient. “If they go to Garrison, they’re not coming back,” she said of core operations, also predicting that the U.S. Postal Service would not keep a retail outlet in the village for long.

Town Board members expressed similar concerns. “Everybody wants it” in Cold Spring, Shea said.

Scuccimarra said that the proposed Butterfield Hospital project of developer Paul Guillaro includes room for the USPS. “It is on the bottom floor of the municipal building,” she said. “He has specified the area for the post office.”

Town park pavilion and ice rink

Members of the Philipstown Recreation Commission and Friends of Philipstown Recreation spoke of efforts to build a pavilion and ice rink at the town park on Route 9D, Garrison.

John Maasik, commission chairman, said the group plans a winter carnival Feb. 8, with snow golf, a snowman-building contest, bonfire, and other activities, including ice skating on a portable rink, which the commission hopes to install soon. He called for volunteers to help with the rink, carnival, and other recreation events. “We’re excited about getting people out into the parks in the community in the middle of winter,” Maasik said.

Councilor Dave Merandy asked about labor and finances. “Who’s going to be doing all this? Is there a cost associated with it? How’s this going to work?”

“We don’t perceive any large numbers” of dollars involved, Maasik answered, promising to get more data for Merandy. “It will be largely volunteer-based.”

Jeff Dain, vice president of the Friends organization, said the pavilion fundraising “is moving a lot faster” than anticipated. “We’re up very close to what we think is going be the whole cost of the project.”

Dain likewise sought “sponsors, volunteers, and runners” for the Oct. 6 Castle to River Run. “It takes a lot to put on one of those runs. But they do raise a good amount,” some $6,000 to $10,000 each year, he said.

The Town Board scheduled time at a Sept. 18 workshop to talk further about the park project.

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