CATSKILL — A swath of subcommittees will be tackling the village’s cultural issues in collaboration with the village’s new comprehensive plan.
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. Drafts of the plan were presented to the public for review during public hearings Oct. 10 and Nov. 7.
Some residents said they felt the plan was lacking, which has led to the establishment of a new committee.
Resident Robert Tomlinson has been tasked with leading the group and presenting its findings April 22 to the village trustees.
“During the last year the Catskill village trustees worked very hard to put together a 10-year comprehensive plan,” Tomlinson wrote in a letter to residents. “Its focus was primarily land use and zoning. I, and many others, felt that our community would benefit from having a 10-year plan that would include other important topics while structuring a plan that would prioritize our concerns and create a map to build the kind of future we want for our village. A plan that would be inclusive, transparent and expansive.”
Tomlinson is proposing subcommittees in the following areas: trash/composting/recycling, affordable housing, coping with the climate crisis/reducing the carbon footprint, nurturing the creative economy, cultural and historic preservation, kindness/respect and empathy, the future of public education and community engagement, and the future of food/reducing food waste/increasing community gardens.
Tomlinson hopes to appoint at least three people to each subcommittee. The subcommittees would meet for approximately six to eight weeks, he said.
Tomlinson’s review of cultural issues will not impact the comprehensive plan, Village President Vincent Seeley said.
“The comprehensive plan is a land-use plan,” he said, adding that Tomlinson is developing an arts and culture comprehensive plan.
“[Tomlinson’s plan] is part of the recipe going forward,” Seeley said.
The village’s moratorium will remain in effect until March, Seeley said. The final version of the comprehensive plan is under review by the county.
“We will take into considerations any comments made by the county before adopting the comprehensive plan,” Seeley said, adding that he expects to hear from the county in February.
After adopting the plan, the village will enact key components by creating local zoning laws.
Resident Hudson Talbott attended the public hearings in the fall.
“It still needs a lot of work,” Talbott said in November. “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 in to specific needs of Catskill and where we are now.
Another concern for residents at the last hearing was Planned Unit Development, or PUD, zoning, Talbott said.
Residents are worried the type of zoning proposed in the plan is too flexible, Talbott said.
This section of the plan was removed after the first hearing.
Planning board member Gil Bagnell supports this type of zoning.
“The comprehensive plan is just recommendations for the future,” Bagnell said in November. “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.
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 in November.
“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 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 in November. “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,” Wagoner said.