Apr 15, 2013 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
What was expected to be a short meeting lasted nearly two hours last week as the Nelson Town Board held a public hearing, addressed two new town laws, considered the findings of its Agriculture and Farmland Protection Plan and discussed how best to spend an extra $30,000 in highway department funding unexpectedly delivered to local governments from the state budget.
The board voted unanimously (absent member John Laubscher) after holding a public hearing on the issue to approve Local Law No. 3 of 2013 to allow alternates on both the planning board and zoning board of appeals. The change was made to ensure a full complement of each board when in session if a member is absent or there is a conflict of interest. The alternates, similar to alternates on a jury, will attend every board meeting, be subject to the same training and rules, but not vote unless needed, Town Attorney Jim Stokes has previously said.
The new law has been under consideration since January, after vacancies occurred on both boards in December 2012 and the board interviewed four candidates for two vacant positions. With the passage of the new law, the board will appoint Jeff Spaulding, of Erieville, as the planning board alternate and Eric Lints, of Nelson, as the ZBA alternate, said Supervisor Roger Bradstreet at the board’s April 11 meeting.
The second new town law under consideration by the board regards changes to the town land use and zoning regulations. The draft law was created in order to rectify some unforeseen issues that have arisen in the wake of the town’s land use regulations passed in 2011. In addition to the clarifications, which are available in full in the town board’s March meeting minutes on the town website, the board also wants to incorporate into the land use regulations some of the suggestions included in the recent Agriculture and Farmland Protection Plan, Bradstreet said.
The board held a public hearing on the land use law at its March 14 meeting. It was to address the proposed law at the April 11 meeting but the legal paperwork was not yet completed, Bradstreet said. The board agreed to hold discussion of the issue and instead reconvene the public hearing at its May 9 meeting.
The board also discussed its Agricultural and Farmland Protection Plan, which was approved in December 2012 and for which the town board and planning board held a joint meeting to discuss on April 9 with their planning consultant Barbara Johnston, of Stuart I. Brown Associates.
The AFPP identifies locations in the town that consist of high quality agricultural soils that are suitable for agricultural production, and offers policies and recommendations designed to encourage the long-term protection of farmland, farm-friendly development regulations, agriculture-related economic development and tourism and increased public awareness of the importance of agriculture to the community. The plan began in 2010 in cooperation with the towns of Nelson and Lincoln, and was created with grant funding from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.
At the April 9 meeting, questions were raised by the public about the procedure used to identify and rate high-quality soils in the town. Town Councilor John LaGorga, at the board’s April 11 town board meeting, said he thought those were appropriate questions that the board should ask about before taking any action based on the plan’s findings. The rest of the board agreed.
The AFPP “is like a starting point,” said Bradstreet. The Nelson planning board, zoning board of appeals and town board all will use it to help steer smarter town planning that helps protect and preserve farmland while also assisting in proper town development and economic growth, he said.
The full text of the AFPP is available on the town of Nelson website at townofnelson-ny.com/blog, on the right side of the screen under “Documents that can be downloaded.”
The longest discussion of the April 11 meeting concerned how best for the town to spend an extra $29,082 it recently received in state highway funding. The money, part of an increase is state Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) funding to local municipalities, was only recently added to the state budget. Under the change, Nelson’s highway assistance increased from $101,000 to $130,082.
Highway Superintendent Jack Sevier said the money can be spent on any capital improvement project — equipment purchase or upgrades, signs or road sealing — not just on highway construction. He suggested the funds be used to pave town roads.
“I think it is in our best interest in this town to do as much road as possible,” he said.
Sevier currently plans this year to finish paving the final three-quarters-of-a-mile of Lyon Road, which he estimates will cost about $88,000. He said it costs about $110,000 per mile of pavement, so the extra $28,000 in CHIPS funding will only pay for about one-quarter mile of road.
Sevier suggested the remaining funds be used to start work on Jones Road, which he and Councilor Mike Costello both said was in “dire need” of work.
Bradstreet said in addition to the road work the town also needs to buy a new loader. A current state contract bid loader the town is considering will cost $134,554, Sevier said.
“We can never put enough money into our roads, plus we need the loader,” said Costello.
Sevier said he would get more solid expenditure numbers on roads and equipment and have a recommendation for the board next month.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.