Nov 19, 2010 Ned Campbell Uncategorized
The town of Elbridge is preparing for its first re-zoning in 15 years. Now is the time to express any opinions on what’s been drafted.
“The goal is to get as much input as you possibly can,” said Supervisor Ken Bush following a Nov. 17 town board meeting. “Make the ordinance and the map as responsive to peoples’ concerns as possible.”
David Rochman, of 5936 Sandbank Road, presented the board with a petition signed by him and about nine of his neighbors, who all reside between his property and Whiting Road. They were concerned about the drafted rezoning of the district, from agricultural to rural/residential – a change that would bridge the gap between agricultural and typical residential housing.
An agricultural district requires a minimum of three square-acres per property, whereas a rural/residential requires just two.
“The only reason we’re doing it is to protect the rural nature of our community,” Rochman told the Observer. “… The bigger the lots, the less development.”
The rural landscape of the area is what attracted Rochman and his fianc e, Beth Miccio, to move to Elbridge from Camillus four years ago. The couple lives in an 1870s farmhouse that they are fixing up, and they’d like to one day have chickens on their property like their next door neighbors. Rochman said Beth would love to have a roadside egg stand – and maybe even a herd of Alpacas.
Bush responded to the petition by assuring Rochman that the drafted zoning and ordinance changes were not at all final.
“We need to hear from the people,” Bush said. ” It’s your town, it’s your street, it’s your neighborhood.”
Rochman confirmed the supervisor’s positive outlook as accurate:
“That’s why we moved here,” he said.
Bush told the Observer that in addition to changes in the zoning map – which he said only affect about 10 percent of Elbridge residents – modifications have been made to the ordinance, or wording.
“If people end up becoming non-conforming and then their house burns down, what happens?” Bush said. “The ordinance was changed to allow them to build up on their old foundation.”
Less expensive this time around
Bush estimated that 15 years ago, when the town zoning was last adjusted, the town board spent more than $30,000 of taxpayer funds in the process – which included a failed attempt to change the ordinance.
“This time I was not going to spend all that money; we just couldn’t afford it,” Bush said.
So the town created a volunteer citizens’ committee, led by Councilor Rita Dygert, to work on the changes. Bush noted that town attorney Dirk Oudemool “hasn’t charged us a nickel more” for the additional time he has put into the zoning and ordinance update, a task not required in his contract.
JET gets its wings
The Jordan-Elbridge Transport program, started in July 2009, will soon see an upgrade.
The board authorized Bush to sign an agreement with Onondaga County to become part of its United We Ride project. The agreement calls for the town of Elbridge to expand its door-to-door JET van shuttle service to include trips to destinations beyond medical appointments.
By joining the county project, JET will be eligible to receive $23,000, a matching grant awarded based on the JET’s assessed need of $46,000 – that includes upkeep of the vehicle, which seats 12 total and features two wheelchair stations, as well as gas expenses. Dygert estimated that 100 individuals took advantage of the program in 2010, and 140 will use JET in 2011. She expects one-way rides to increase from about 800 in 2010 to 1,120 next year.
The program will continue to provide seniors and people with disabilities with transportation to places within a 40 mile radius, but JET will no longer have to do all the legwork; thanks to the town’s participation in the United We Ride project, JET drivers will be able to drop off passengers at a station in a more central location like Camillus, where another service will step in.
“Our vehicle can then return back to the town of Elbridge and transport others to more local destinations,” Dygert said. “It will free our vehicle up. It’s certainly a more efficient and effective way of handling the transportation.”
Dygert said the JET program was inspired by Skaneateles’ Laker Limo Volunteer Organization, which she estimates to have about 60 volunteers. JET is more than a few drivers behind in that department with just six, and Dygert is always looking for more.
Drivers need only a driver’s license to participate; JET will provide the training. To become involved, call Dygert at 689-9461, or call the town of Elbridge clerk’s office at 689-9031.
Hydrofracking ban considered
As Elbridge’s six-month moratorium on horizontal drilling approaches the end of its grace period, Nov. 30, the town is considering where to go next. The board proposed a permanent ban at last Wednesday’s meeting, though quickly leaned toward simply extending the moratorium.
“The last time this was brought up… It was permanent then, too,” said Elbridge resident Dan Conroy. “And the reason why the town didn’t do it permanently was because the state was still collecting information to see if it was hazardous to the environment … I would think extending the moratorium would be the way to go.”
John Meixner spoke next, noting that he hadn’t signed a lease to allow horizontal drilling on his property.
“I don’t like the word ‘prohibit;’ I think it should be up to the resident,” he said.
Bush noted the general consensus of those opposed to the ban – “they’d rather see a sunset on it,” he told the Observer. “But the bottom line is, the state’s going to tell us what’s going to happen. We’re not going to have much say in it.”
So why enact a moratorium in the first place? Bush said it’s more of a symbolic gesture than anything.
“To basically just say to the community and the bigger world, that Elbridge is concerned about its community and its environment,” he said.
Dog Law discussed
Before discussing hydrofracking, the town board held a public hearing to consider a statewide issue that has received far less media attention – dog law.
The state will hand all dog control responsibilities over to towns Jan. 1, requiring all towns to pass local laws before that date.
The town’s law doesn’t change much from before, though licensing fees will increase from $5.50 for $7 for spayed dogs and from $13.50 to $14 for unspayed dogs.
The law defines an at-large dog as any dog unleashed on public property “not under voice command of the owner” or on someone else’s private property without permission.
Councilor Bill Kuhn had crossed out one part of the law that read: “No unspayed female dog in season shall be permitted to be outside a building or a fenced enclosure.”
“I don’t think it’s fair for someone who owns a female dog to have to know, so my opinion is going to be to take that out of there,” Kuhn said. “[Someone else’s] male dog in your backyard is the one that shouldn’t be there, not your own dog.”
The town board agreed to give further consideration to both items heard that night before taking any action.