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Washingtonville Public Budget Hearing 1/24 @ 7pm. Comp Draft Plan 7-Station Interactive Public Session in February

Last Comp Draft Plan Session Begins .

The next few weeks may be the most important in a decade for residents of the Village of Washingtonville with an invitation to participate in creating the future directions of their community. First: A Village Budget Public Hearing on this Wednesday, January 24 at Village Hall at 7pm. And a few weeks later will be a Public Session Review of the draft of the community's new Comprehensive Plan. Additional information about the Comp Plan Public Session will be given at the Budget Hearing.

During a long and detailed review by the Village's Comprehensive Plan Committee on Thursday 1/18, Planner Bonnie Frason presented the sections of the most current draft document, as reviewed and edited by her and the rest of the planning staff at Nelson Pope Voorhis. Precise maps of parcels and current zone overlays will get new review as the plan becomes implemented and relevant codes set to determine where there is usable space for building among the unused land, which she added is already close to "build-out" (meaning there is not very much realistically buildable space remaining in the Village), especially considering how much of current unbuilt land is wetland.

In a few weeks the public will have the opportunity to attend a Public Comprehensive Plan Open Session. It will include SEVEN stations that relate to various considerations and views of the Plan, with members of the Committee, Trustees and other knowledgeable people that will not only be qualified to respond to most questions, they will keep careful track of the feedback. If needed there will be at least 1 additional Public Session. Committee members added that they really want opportunities for feedback by the older teen population as well, and may use permission from the High School Superintendent to encourage attendees, possibly with something like credit for a government or social studies class.

Back to consideration of the land available for new or re-adaptive building,

the discussion returned to ideas about "best use" for parcels.

While there is open space in some of the developments built over the past 20 years, it was specifically left unbuilt with the epectation that the parcels either were or could become unbuildable due to slopes, wetlands and other factors. That being the case, the discussion leaned toward potential "adaptive reuse". For instance, as has already been done with some large country-style homes near Village Center, there are additional homes that could be adapted to have a business or two downstairs and a limited number of home rentals either upstairs or in a small addition. She emphasized that village government has every right to specify whether such each individual reuse will comply with the historic village image, as well as how many rental spaces a building designed for residences/duplex or apartments can include. Planning, zoning, and arhitectural review can specify what designs or renovations must be reviewed by the Architectural Review Board with respect to what the Committee has declared as "In accordance with the Village's desired image as historic." This was confirmed when Trustee Donna Jacaruso described her delight when the Sunoco Gas Station on Main Street agreed to the new (more historic looking) color pallet recently required for any new signage. Gone will be the bright blues, reds and oranges and plethora of signage. Instead there are more muted colors like a wedgewood blue rather than royal metallic. Criteria like this are not brand new. In fact, code compliance requirements with a "country" and "colonial" look are becoming more and more commonplaces.

A prime concern regarding future building projects near the Village Center will be the future of the two large open space properties that remain near the entrance and exit of the Village. While James Casazza Sr., who was present at the meeting, said he has the 150-acre former farmland on South Street back on the market for sale, he added that inquiries are currently going nowhere when the caller finds out that the Village's current Building Moratorium has been extended for another 6 months. Franson asked what he has set as the current asking price, and he responded $6.5 M. Nevertheless, the uses that will be permitted on that land will be required to conform with the new Comprehensive Plan standards, zoning and code. Franson added that in addition to some benefits of needed Senior Housing, there is potential for space used to support "The Arts", as in an area on a smaller scale but similar to Bethel Woods. She said that if the Village took a portion of the land for that sort of use there would likely be significant state grant monies toward it. Characteristics that make a village more "artsy and historic" include visual art that plants a memory as drivers pass through, and attractive signage, ideally with a memorable 'tag line'." Franson suggested making the most memorable and iconic images in the village more comprehensive and more obvious. However, the Village's administration's inheritance of severe fiscal issues is just beginning to show some fiscal progress via correction of unclear bill payments, a large payment by Reiger Homes upon completion of their recent development, several significant grants, and a sewer plant refund payment. Still, balancing better financial control with repayment of the recent state bond will make potential exploration of a plan for these kinds of projects more difficult. The issue is both time and money. The other alternative, however, of adding Senior Housing units or a business park carries its own disadvantages, chiefly the desire of residents to maintain a country and colonial look. Further, builders of senior developments tend to push high density for maximum profit, and the benefit of lowercost of having new residents that do not have children in the school system can disappear in the blink of an eye. Developers have brought instances to court in recent years claiming that since they did not receive enough purchase orders from seniors, they had a right to open the housing to anyone. This may be even more likely with Governor Hochul's push for additional rented living spaces.

Nevertheless, with 6-months of a Moratorium still in effect there would be

time to diligently explore numerous options. that reach a best fit of comunity desires for the future of the village and landowners' rights to develop, perhaps with help from Bonnie Franson to explore some of the grants she suggested, like "New York Forward" which Governor Hochul has budgeted $200 Million toward for "Downtown Revitalization Projects". Last year the villages of Phoenix, Moravia and Hamilton were declared the first winners of such grants. Not only did they receive $2.25M to $4.5M, they also received a free Planning Team to implement it.

The potential good news for developers is that the 6-month Moratorium Extension is not an absolute. If the public, business owners, environmentalists and developers keep an open mind and work together, it will be over and in an acceptable way sooner rather than later.





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