on the News
According to its chair John Mathiasson, the Committee
had reached an informal consensus to suspend its work. They had planned
to announce that decision at a meeting scheduled for Monday evening, which
was cancelled because of snow. Shandaken's draft comprehensive plan has
been a source of increasing tension throughout the town for most of the
past two months. At the Committee's last meeting, tempers again flared
at a crowded town hall, with many people continuing to express fears of
potential over-regulation contained within the draft proposal. That meeting
also saw serious infighting between members of the Committee, beginning
with Mike Ricciardella calling for the removal of the committee's secretary,
Kathy Nolan, due to allegations that she tampered with the document's
text without consulting other members. Nolan denied the charge, but resigned
her position as secretary before the matter could be brought to a vote.
That meeting came on the heels of a very contentious
Public Hearing on the draft plan at Belleayre in January, attended by
over 400 people. A majority of those attending were either critical of,
or openly hostile to the plan. What's likely to happen next in the process
isn't clear. At the Town Board's upcoming meeting next Monday night, two
principal options are likely to be considered by the Board, the committee,
and the general public. One would be to effectively shelve the process
for an indefinite period of time, a course which if chosen, would appear
intended to diffuse current tensions and animosities.
A second option likely to be considered would be for the committee to
refrain from any further work on the plan while it attempts to secure
funding for the services of a professional planner. Once that funding
became available, the committee could presumably turn over both its work
product and the massive amount of public input its received, so that a
next draft could be written by the planner, applying the committee's newly
agreed upon and very stringent criteria for inclusion of any new language.
"Whatever we do, I don't want this process to tear the community
apart, and that's what its doing right now," Di Modica said Tuesday.
While some, including Catskill Heritage Alliance chair Adam Nagy, say
that DiModica's concerns are reasonable, others see a different motivation.
"When I heard of this I thought it was purely political," said
Councilwoman Jane Todd, the town board's only Republican. Todd told reporters
that she believes Di Modica's apparent willingness to slow or stop the
process is just a case of the Supervisor and some committee members trying
to reverse a direction the committee has taken, a direction they're unhappy
with. She sees no reason to alter the process in any way.
"I think (the committee) can come up with a plan," she told
reporters. "They were supposed to take the existing plan developed
by a different committee last year and revise it to include recommendations
made by the Ulster County Planning Board. Why don't they do what they
were charged to do? They have lost their way somehow."
"As a committee" said Mathiasson, "we strengthened those
parts of the first committee's work that the County found weak. And we've
been working to adjust the remaining parts of the plan to reflect the
vision agreed on by the first committee". According to Mathiason,
the town is waiting to see if it will indeed get a grant from the Catskill
Watershed Corporation to hire a planner. Indications are that such funding
In addition, such areas are frequently desirable since
one of the top requests from second home buyers is that they be located
next to a stream, an area that by its very nature is flood prone. Adding
even more water to the slide, people have been fearing, recently, that
the current year may be one of the region's regular flood years. What
with the heavy snows, changing climate, and enough time passed since the
floods of 1996 and 1987, some are wondering whether a few bouts of bad
weather may send more water running than our streams can normally handle.
And to really top things off, the issue has been highlighted in recent
months because of the persistence of Gerry Reese, who owns two parcels
of land in the flood zone in Mt. Tremper, and who has been going before
the planning board for over a year with plans for building two separate
dwellings. The board asked Reese for various information, and for amendments
to his blueprints, much of which was slow in coming or not done correctly.
Eventually, the board was satisfied with what Reese supplied it and opened
his public hearing in December.
But in the meantime, Reese had actually begun some preliminary building—bringing
in fill as well as some building materials. That resulted in several violation
notices from the town's zoning enforcement officer. The planning board
is not allowed to issue a permit for building on a property in violation
of zoning codes, and if it were to close his hearing without issuing him
a permit, he would have to begin the entire review process over again.
To help Reese out, the board has kept his hearing open so that he can
clear up his violations. But the board can only allow an applicant three
time slots before closing the hearing. March 12 will be his last hurrah—if
he hasn't cleared up his
violations by then, his permit will be denied.
To add insult to injury, it appears that Reese's application was not handled
correctly. A flood certificate showing that his plans met the town's zoning
code for building in the flood zone should have been issued by the zoning
officer before he was referred to the planning board. Instead, Reese was
referred directly to the planning board, and
bypassed the certification process. So besides clearing up the violations—for
which he was brought to court on Tuesday—he will also need to go
back to the zoning officer for certification.
Why all the fuss about building in the flood zone anyway? If someone is
foolhardy enough to commit thousands of dollars to a structure that could
be ruined by one of our area's frequent high water events, why not allow
the fool to learn his own lessons?
"It can create a lot of damage for the rest of us,"
says Alton Knapp, who may be consulting with the town on selected applications
to build in the flood plain that come before the town, and who is one
of just 1,000 certified floodplain managers in the U.S. "If you don't
design your structure correctly, it can damage other structures and bridges
downstream. And that's why it's important that the foundation of any structure
in the floodplain be able to withstand the high water velocities it will
have to endure as well as damage from trees and other debris coming downstream.
Shandaken has a lot of challenges but is working very hard to get its
ducks in a row.
I was down here in 1996, as part of the disaster team that came in. We
know there's a lot of potential for damage. I saw trees coming down toward
Mt. Tremper that probably hadn't been moved in 100 years. The velocities
are a lot in Shandaken--18-20 feet per second. If you have water up to
your knees and it's flowing at 5 feet per second it'll tip you over. There
was a small camper trailer that came down, went under the bridge and was
only a foot thick when it came out on the other side."
Of course, old-timers have numerous stories to tell of the damage floods
can wreak in our area. Roy Winchell recalls the story of a priest who
drowned in the early 30s by the property that
Reese wants to build on, which was then called Three Star Camp. There
was an island between Uncle Pete's and Three Star Camp, where some children
and a priest were camping out, according to Winchell. "One of the
kids got swept into the river. Lester Bell got a boat to try to get him,
but couldn't do it. So a Navy sharp shooter from Poughkeepsie shot a line
across with a harpoon and they went out with a Bolton seat to get the
kids. The priest drowned, he was wrapped around a tree. They saved a few
kids," said Winchell.
Edna Hoyt remembers meeting a couple who had just moved to Shandaken from
New Jersey in the 50s. During a flood, from her Mt. Pleasant home, Hoyt
saw their sofa float by.Ed Ocker remembers helping to save a family that
was trapped in their house by a flood in 1933. "The house set right
on the creek there. There was a man, woman and two children. The water
was up even with the road. I went up the road with a rope and swam down
to the house.
We used a breaches bouy to carry them out. One by one they brought 'em
out. The flood really came up, it was when the first Pine Hill dam broke.
I was 18 at that time--just a crazy kid. I was just lucky that a tree
didn't come down when I was going across there and kill me."
Lamarca is all about family, connection and helping
others. Entering her cozy home on a winter morning, she seats me at
a table already set and immediately begins plying me with coffee and
pastries. She's constantly asking me if I want anything and instead
of talking about herself wants to hear about me. Shelaughs self-deprecatingly
when I admire her country-style kitchen, chuck full of good ingredients.
A spice rack overflows with jars adorned with hand-written labels, and
she explains that she's not much of a housekeeper but likes to keep
her spices readily at hand for the baking she so enjoys.
Since arriving in the Big-Indian-Oliverea valley in 1963, she's extended
her graciousness to so many people through her involvement with so many
community organizations and events that it's hard to recount them all.
Many know her from when she owned Aley's General Store (now Morra's
Market) and worked behind the counter with her then-husband Pat. After
she and Pat separated in the 70s, she ran the store by herself until
she sold it in 1982. And even though she and Pat are no longer married,
she says they are better friends than ever, a friendship she maintained
for the benefit of their two sons Stephen and Andrew.
Lamarca was part of the Shandaken Chamber of Commerce and instrumental
in starting the SHARP committee. "I worked on that for 10 years
and also worked on getting the senior housing in Phoenicia," she
Lamarca also helped found two parks: Glenbrook and Big Indian Valley.
"A couple of us girls that used to be in the Ladies' Auxiliary
decided that we should do something a little more constructive. We leased
the area from New York State with the approval of the town, cleared
it, made our own benches and tables and had fundraisers to buy all the
playground equipment for the park," says Lamarca. The park committee
had fundraising events every month, which Lamarca remembers fondly.
They included dinners, Halloween parties, Easter egg hunts, and especially,
pet shows. To include as many as possible,Lamarca's categories covered
the gambit, from the prettiest, smallest, biggest, most obedient, most
unusual to the best dressed.
She laughs when remembering one boy with a dog who
wouldn't obey him. "This kid was so clever. He came into the store
and asked what the categories were. He'd say 'I don't know what to bring.'
And I'd say, 'You have a great dog, why don't you bring him?' So he
came to the contest with his dog, and the judges assumed the kid was
entering him. Instead, he throws down a big jar with greens in it, and
says: 'It's the smallest. There's some kind of bug in there somewhere.'"Lamarca
has also been a den mother for the Boy Scouts, worked at the Pine Hill
post office, was instrumental in starting the Shandaken Historical Museum,
was on the committee celebrating the country's bicentennial in 1976,
and is on the committee celebrating the bicentennial of the town, which
will be in 2004. She also served as a town councilman from 1980-88 under
supervisors Jack Schlegel and Wayne Gutmann. "I took the job very
seriously. You want to give your time for the benefit of the community.
I went to a lot of outside meetings. At that time the town board used
to work well together. I really don't think you can make progress otherwise,"
says Lamarca, who laments that the current board is not more involved
in the kinds of things that effect all of us everyday, like lobbying
public utility companies to give a fairer shake to
rural people or lobbying higher levels of government to improve the
quality of health benefits for the elderly. One of her current gripes
is the way that oil costs have risen, purely on speculation that we
may go to war.
"My life is centered around my sons," says Lamarca. "They
look out for me." The two men live on Big Indian-Oliverea Road
and are very attentive to their mother. Lamarca recounts how after she
was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1995, she kept on working at her
part-time job at the post office. "They both broughtme fresh-made
juices at the post office on Saturdays."
Currently, she's the social services officer for Shandaken and works
closely with the county to administer welfare benefits. "On a personal
level, I helped a lot of people," says Lamarca. In particular,
she remembers a homeless man who was fearful of reconnecting with his
family because of his involvement with drugs. Lamarca convinced him
to go into a drug rehabilitation program and convinced him to call his
mother, who took him in. "It's rewarding. Sometimes people don't
even realize they need a little human contact. A little talk."
Here's the money
The board got a first look at a preliminary fee schedule prepared
by Drayton Grant, the lawyer hired to assist it in the project review
at its last regular meeting. At this month's planning board workshop
meeting, the board will tinker with the schedule, and hopefully pass
it onto the town to okay at its April meeting. While the board cannot
make a determination on issuing the permits before the State Environmental
Quality Review the project is undergoing is completed, because of
the complexity of the issues involved, the board is eager to begin
its review as soon as possible.
"We're not trying to fleece people here, we're just trying to
give the planning board the tools it needs to do a thorough review,"
said Beth Waterman, the town's planning board chair. While it has
not yet been solidified, $65,000 is the figure that the developer
will most likely end up paying in fees for the board's review. This
figure was not arrived at by taking a percentage of the projected
cost to build the project, but by coming up with a fee schedule that
sets out amounts that any applicant coming before the board would
have to pay to have its project reviewed. At one point, many thought
the developer should set up an escrow account that would be filled
as needed to pay for the review.
However, not only was the developer unwilling to set up
such an account, but according to Grant, the legality of such accounts
is frequently challenged by the courts because it can appear that
a town is trying to keep a developer out by charging exorbitant, arbitrary
and punitive fees. in fact, Grant came to the notice of previous board
chair Bob Kalb, when she was lecturing on the case that defines the
issue in which a synagague that wanted to build in Roslyn Harbor,
N.Y., claimed it was being discriminated against. "The heart
of the Court of Appeals ruling was that it feared open-ended fees
create the potential for abuse of or discrimination against individual
applicants," said Grant in her lecture. Grant points out that
if fees are charged that cannot be justified, it's possible that the
developer could later take the town to court and sue to have them
Grant came up with the fee schedule that she has submitted to the
planning board by canvassing other towns in the state that reviewed
golf course resort projects using fee schedules. She says that it
was quite difficult to find comparable projects. She also went over
the developer's Draft Environmental Impact Statement that it has prepared
for the SEQR review with project consultants Gary Gailes and Ken Graham
to see what types of activities would come before the planning board.
"We negotiated about what was relevant for what the town should
be reviewing, and then the numbers came out the same," says Grant.
Asked whether it was not a conflict to negotiate with the developer
about what fees it should pay, Grant said that she washired to negotiate
with the developer. When asked whether she thinks $65,000 would be
adequate for the review, she said that thus far the New York State
Department of Environmental Conservation, lead agency in the review,
has paid out a total of $20,000 to two separate consulting firms reviewing
the project for Shandaken and Middletown.