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Village to hold public hearing on land-use plan

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    The Catskill Village Board of Trustees imposed a moratorium on waterfront development last fall.
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November 4, 2019 05:07 pm

CATSKILL — The public will get a chance to review the final draft of the village’s comprehensive plan Thursday, officials said Monday.

The village imposed a moratorium on all new development along the waterfront in September 2018 so officials could begin to update the municipality’s 10-year-old comprehensive plan.

The firm of Crawford & Associates was hired as consultants for the job and a committee of village trustees, planning board members, residents and business owners was formed to discuss village housing, economic development, natural resources, historic resources, transportation, public facilities, downtown revitalization and land use policies. The first public hearing was held on Oct. 10.

Resident Hudson Talbott attended that hearing.

“It still needs a lot of work,” Talbott said Monday. “The language in it is what I would call boilerplate. It is very generic — not specific to Catskill’s needs.”

For example, the section on street landscaping does not take into account the work that the Tree Council, which Talbott helped found, has been doing for six years, he said.

“To be fair to them, they had to start someplace,” Talbott said. “But it needs to be tuned into specific needs of Catskill and where we are now.”

Another concern for residents at the last hearing was Planning Unit Development or PUD zoning, Talbott said, especially for residents on Woodland Avenue, where the future of the former St. Patrick’s Academy remains in limbo.

Dennis Frascello, the new owner of St. Patrick’s Academy, started to convert the former school into an apartment complex although the property is not zoned for multiple dwellings.

Village President Vincent Seeley told Frascello to stop construction in February and said no action would be taken on the matter until the comprehensive plan was finished.

Residents are worried the type of zoning proposed in the plan was too flexible, Talbott said.

Trustee Gregory Smith agreed with the residents at the first hearing and said this section of the plan would be removed, Talbott said.

Smith could not be reached for comment.

Planning Board member Gil Bagnell supports this type of zoning.

“The comprehensive plan is just recommendations for the future,” Bagnell said. “If the section on PUD was included, it would not have changed zoning.”

PUD is a method of zoning that would allow trustees to approve a proposal for use of a large parcel of land with added flexibility, Bagnell said. “Some residents were worried this would open the door to unwanted developments,” Bagnell said. “It wouldn’t have allowed people to do whatever they wanted. It still would have required trustee approval.”

Although PUD didn’t make the cut, residents may see zoning changes, Bagnell said.

“It doesn’t mean there won’t be changes in the future to accommodate particular projects,” he said.

Trustee Joseph Kozloski said he believes more residents would have supported PUD if it had been explained to them, he said.

Another issue that came up at the first hearing was that residents wanted the arts and culture of the village to be represented in the plan, Kozloski said.

“It’s not that type of document,” he said. “It’s a land use document. That’s all it is.”

Resident Richard Wagoner, who attended the first hearing, had several concerns, he said.

“Despite being called a comprehensive plan, it didn’t seem to be very comprehensive to myself and many, with the focus seemingly based on real estate and zoning,” Wagoner said. “Echoing many of the sentiments for dressing up Main Street and the village to attract tourists and outside investors presented in the Downtown and Waterfront Development Plan of 2009, again this new comprehensive plan fails to thoroughly acknowledge and address the lack of affordable housing and job opportunity here. What bothered me most about the current plan is that unlike the 2009 plan that had extensive data on area demographics such as the different income groups living in the village, employment and homeless rates, as well as surpluses and deficits of area industry, agriculture, and retail or service businesses, the current plan had no up to date data to support it, relying instead on a few guest speakers from different businesses and organizations for input.”

No vote will be taken after the hearing Thursday, Kozloski said. The completed plan will have to be sent to the county for review.