Blooming Grove Holds Public Hearing
On Completed Community Preservation Plan
By Edie Johnson
At a well-attended Town Board Session the town’s Community Preservation Plan received a grateful welcome from all but a few attendees. The Public Hearing will remain open until February 25th after which the Plan will become an Addendum to the Town’s Comprehensive Plan. In the interim, residents who have suggestions or comments can submit letters.
On the plus side, one resident said “I am so proud to live in a town that takes so much care of its land and wildlife …just so impressed with the way this is being done. You can’t put a dollar value on it.” Matt Decker, who is Director of Acquisition and Stewardship for the Orange County Land Trust praised the work highly, thanking both the Town Board and the Conservation Advisory Committee which came up with the knowledge about the town that allowed the plan to happen. He pointed out “The Land Trust has protected 6,000 acres in our 14 year history. This is a signal to us when we evaluate which lands to protect”
Not all residents were as elated. Two families who are large landowners complained that when the Town or preservation groups seek to buy highly valued environmental and scenic properties, they will not offer the kind of “fair value” that could be obtained from developing them either commercially or for residential housing. But one of the members of the Community Preservation Committee responded “That has (the prices that will be offered) not yet been determined.” In fact, any desired land will be determined by negotiation between the landowner and town (if a fund for preservation or PDR Purchase of Development Rights is established), or when larger preservation group makes an offer. The landowner can always refuse. And there are the possible long term effects of a more beautiful community with preservation characteristics that brought many residents here in the first place, which could lend higher value rather than lower value to Blooming Grove land acquisition.
Kate Ahmadi voiced concerns that while the plan is a good step, the town is still far behind others in preservation measures. Blooming Grove currently has less than 4% of its land preserved, while Cornwall has 10%. (much of which is however because of Black Rock Forest). She continued that while 908 acres is in the official pipeline to be added to Schunnemunk Mountain State Park, visited by about 50,000 people each year, NONE of those 908 acres is in Blooming Grove. She pointed to numerous weaknesses in the town’s 2005 Comprehensive Plan which made only vague references to “preserving rural character”. And she pointed out several topics that she felt should be added to this new Addendum including emphasis on “connectivity, and addition of Native history and Native American cultural sites. Her recommendations were submitted to the Town to be considered for inclusion.
In fact, the Town of Blooming Grove has worked diligently during the past two years, revising its plans to be more Open Space friendly, identifying priority acquisitions and laying the groundwork for serious aquifer protection. Their attempts at obtaining a PDR program in last year’s legislative session failed. But the failure was not of their making, rather a legislative branch miscommunication. With the increased attention this year, and the addition of this Plan to the Comprehensive Plan, the PDR program should be able to be implemented soon (landowners willing). With the increased efforts acknowledged by the County, Grant Groups and the Open Space Institute they are poised for action….action to institute a small Real Estate Transfer Tax to collect funds for acquisitions and purchase or transfers of development rights.
In Other Business: Noting that Lasser Park, which is approximately 100 acres, has some trees in need of maintenance, the Town Board considered and passed a resolution to hire an expert in “Timber Tree Evaluation”. This is not an evaluation with an intent to cut trees, but rather to evaluate any that need extra care, identify the park’s borders, list the tree species and manage them for their health. The study will carefully obey restrictions in areas that might have Long-eared or Indiana Bats. One resident suggested that it could be used as an educational tool if large trees of certain species are given identification plaques. The study will result in a report and will be done with help from the Highway Department and ZBA. It will cost $500.
Racing and doing “wheelies” on 4-wheelers has become a problem in several areas of town. Those racing should be forewarned that residents are watching, taking photos, and reporting to police. If they are apprehended their vehicle (which is illegal on roads if unlicensed, and never legal to race), can be confiscated.
Multiple Building Code violations were reported (buildings demolished without permits, trash violations etc.), and are persistent enough that residents are requesting stiffer penalties for offenders. Currently fines are in the hands of the court, because apparently the violators, it was said, “Would rather “Ask for forgiveness instead of permission”. The Town can, however set a range for the fines, and will look into doing so.