Jaclyn Hakes (rear), former principal planner for Saratoga Springs, presents proposed zoning changes Feb. 8 to the Warrensburg Town Board (foreground). The changes are expected to make the hamlet more conducive for small-business development as well as streamline the permitting process.
Development of light commercial enterprises and home-based offices are to be encouraged in the Kings Addition neighborhood, according to suggested zoning changes presented Feb. 3 to the Town Board.
The proposals are an outgrowth of the recently completed town Comprehensive Plan which outlines various strategies for economic and job growth, community revitalization and hamlet sustainability.
Jaclyn Hakes, former principal planner for Saratoga Springs and now with Elan Planning, presented the zoning map to Warrensburg town board members.
The zoning changes — which include reducing the number of districts from 11 districts to seven as well as including provisions intended for more land-use flexibility — are subject to public hearings set for 7 p.m. March 7 and March 14.
The Comprehensive Plan, developed by local citizens over two years, calls for encouraging the development of apartments in second stories above downtown storefronts, fostering home-based businesses, establishing downtown architectural design guidelines, and boosting access to local recreational resources.
During the meeting, the town board debated dissolving the lighting district, which provides street lights through most of the hamlet. The action would shift the cost of the street lighting, $85,000 or so annually, from just the district residents to all property owners in the town.
Now, district residents pay 36 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation for the lights. If the district were dissolved, all residents would pay 24 or 25 cents per thousand for the lighting through the general town tax.
Town board member Linda Marcella, who owns property several miles north of the hamlet, said the proposal was flawed.
“Should people who receive no benefit from from the lighting have to pay for it?” she said.
Board member John Alexander responded that the street lights are boost public safety for all town residents, as everyone travels through the hamlet, or conducts their business there — and the streetlights minimize nighttime traffic problems.
“While some object to what they call ‘light pollution,’ others see it as a matter of providing walkability and commerce downtown,” he said.
Town Supervisor Kevin Geraghty, while professing neutrality on the issue, said that the streetlights can be compared with the landfill — not everyone uses it, but they all share the expense.
“The lights are important to the community,” he said, adding that he had no strong opinions on the issue. Another public hearing on the issue is to be held in March.
In other business, Geraghty announced that the town board will likely be raising the maximum income limit on senior exemptions on town taxes from $12,000 to $18,000 or higher. He noted that Warrensburg has one of the lowest income caps among all Warren County communities, and an increase was overdue.
Geraghty observed that commercial customers of the town water system were having their meters installed and activated. This is an initial effort in converting from a flat fee system towards having all water customers pay for actual gallons used.
Board member Bryan Rounds said commercial meters were now being read to provide baseline data to establish equitable charges that would adequately cover the local water district’s costs.
“It’s a work in progress,” he said.
Geraghty noted that the car wash property on Richards Ave. downtown, which was excavated years ago to remove petroleum pollution, would likely be cleared later this year by the state for redevelopment.
Geraghty noted that a public information session on the car wash environmental cleanup is set for 10 a.m. to noon Tuesday Feb. 21 at the state Department of Environmental Conservation headquarters in Warrensburg on Hudson St. Extension. Geraghty remarked that DEC’s pending sign-off on the project was welcome but overdue.
With the car wash soon to be available for redevelopment, he said, one designated brownfield would be left in town — the former Warrensburg Board & Paper Mill on state Rte. 418. Located on the banks of Queen Village Pond, the plot will someday host a town park, Geraghty said.
Concluding the board meeting, Jane LeCount suggested that senior housing be developed on hillside property behind Holy Cross Episcopal Church. Resident Ruth Fruda, however, noted that while such a development might be scenic, it would be handier for seniors to walk to downtown businesses if such apartments were built in the hamlet, rather than on a hillside.
At this point, Steve Parisi stood up and noted that LeCount, who is in her eighties and now officially retiring from real estate sales — had been the co-founder of the World’s Largest Garage Sale, which started as a small fest and now commands nationwide fame. The audience responded with a round of applause for LeCount.