Johnsburg Town Hall
The Johnsburg Planning Board and an applicant seeking site plan review for a proposed subdivision find themselves between the proverbial rock and hard place when it comes to certifying the subdivision will have adequate fire protection.
The Planning Board is charged with interpreting the town code and assuring that all projects that come before it comply with the code. Likewise, applicants to the Planning Board are required to design projects to comply with the town code.
When it comes to the pitch and width of a proposed road within the proposed Ward Hill Subdivision, a 12-lot subdivision on more than 200 acres in the Iroquois Trail and Chatiemac Road neighborhood, both the Planning Board and James Easton, the engineer designing the project agree that the road meets the requirements of town code – a minimum width of 20 feet and a pitch of no more than 12 percent.
There’s just one problem. The chief of the Bakers Mills Volunteer Fire Department refuses to offer fire protection to the subdivision unless the road is at least 22 feet wide and has a pitch of no more than 8 percent. He said as much during a meeting of the Planning Board a month ago.
The Planning Board is reluctant to sign off on that aspect of the plan without assurances that the town can provide adequate fire protection. The Planning Board is looking into whether coverage by “mutual aid” – having neighboring fire companies agree to cover the subdivision in the event of a fire or other emergency – is sufficient.
“Can we approve based on mutual aid?” asked Planning Board Chair Dottie Osterhout.
The answer to that question wasn’t clear Monday as the board continued reviewing the Ward Hill project.
Town Supervisor Ron Vanselow has been researching the issue of whether the road standards in the town code agree with New York State Fire Code. Osterhout said that Vanselow told her Monday that he was going to speak with Bakers Mills Fire Chief Lewis Hitchcock and explain to him that the chief has erred.
Tuesday via email, Vanselow clarified his position.
“I’ll put it this way,” Vanselow said. “Neither I, nor the county fire protection and code enforcement people, in researching New York State fire codes and laws, see any reference to an 8 percent grade issue that Mr. Hitchcock mentioned in an open meeting recently. The laws and codes seem to state that 12 percent is the grade, which is consistent with our regulations for subdivisions.”
Vanselow said he has not yet addressed the issue with the chief but he intends to.
“Since my conversations with county officials, I have not spoken to Chief Hitchcock,” Vanselow said. “But I will at some point in the future.”
Planning Board member Roger Smith suggested that engineer Easton contact Vanselow and the Town Board and tell them that in essence, the Ward Hill project has hit a roadblock because of the fire protection issue and ask them to intervene.
Easton said at this point in the process, he’s not inclined to do that because it could make matters worse, not better. This is an issue between the Town Board and one of its contracted fire companies, Easton said.
“My job is to design this project according to the town code,” Easton said. “And that’s what I’ve done.”
Likewise, the Planning Board seems to be taking the same position; that the issue is between the Town Board and the Bakers Mills Fire Company and it would prefer to not get in the middle of it.
Yet Tuesday, Vanselow said that perhaps the Planning Board could help clarify the matter.
“I stated to (Planning Board Chair) Dottie (Osterhout) that perhaps a definitive answer might be available from the Planning Board lawyer,” Vanselow said.
Until the fire protection issue is resolved, the Planning Board seems unlikely to offer preliminary approval of the project. At a workshop two weeks ago, the board and its engineer from Clough Harbour met with project engineer Easton and worked through many of the issues on a 20-plus item list of concerns itemized by the town’s engineer.
Monday, the list was down to six issues and none seemed insurmountable, save it be the question of fire protection for the subdivision. Easton told the board that he still had three permits to obtain, one each from New York State Department of Health, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Army Corps of Engineers. The latter one will take between five and seven months to obtain, Easton said, so there’s time for the fire protection issue to “resolve itself.”
Easton will next appear at the June meeting of the Planning Board in hopes of getting closer to preliminary approval for the Ward Hill Subdivision project.
In other business, the Planning Board approved a site plan and special use permit for Camp Orenda, a primitive camping venture and outdoor educational facility limited to four (4) sites with a dining area and gazebo on a parcel located at 90 Armstrong Road. The parcel has been in Webb’s family since his youth, he said, and was a place where he learned to appreciate the Adirondacks and all the natural splendor of the region.
The board approved a site plan for North River Hobby Farm. Thirteenth Lake Road resident Leslie Clement described the business as a place where people could come and enjoy scenic gardens, where there’ll be chickens for kids to feed and where you could take tomatoes and herbs from the farm’s vegetable garden and turn them into something delicious to eat, all in the same visit. The business will incorporate a roadside farm stand as well. The property has been in Clement’s family for multiple generations.
The board approved a site plan amendment for the White Water Challengers outdoor adventure park project that will feature a ropes course, a zip line and hiking trails on a hillside behind the North River rafting business. Marco Schmale asked for an amendment to the plan that was approved a month ago to allow him to build a lean-to and storage shed in the park. Both will be used for storage. Schmale said the new venture will host its grand opening on May 5.
The board heard from Tina Mulvey, a North Creek property owner who is considering opening a U-Haul Rental business on a lot behind Main Street down Baroudi Lane. The board expressed concerns about the potential for congestion along Baroudi Lane where it intersects with Main Street and offered several suggestions. The board asked Mulvey to return at the next Planning Board meeting with more detail and a more accurate drawing of the property and proposed business features.
Because of the Memorial Day holiday, the Planning Board will next meet Monday, May 21 at 7 p.m. in the downstairs meeting room at Tannery Pond Community Center, Main Street, North Creek.