Details of "Horizon Protection" topic for Middletown planners

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By Matthew J. Perry
The regular meeting of the Middletown Planning Board on March 13 saw further discussion of a proposed horizon protection plan and extensive debate over how far-reaching, general, or detailed such a plan should be.
Board member Pete Palen provided all other members with a worksheet that listed nine major concerns of horizon protection and asked that the importance of each concern be rated on a scale of one to five. “It’s crucial to know where we stand as a group, and to put some clear language together for the town,” he said, while presenting questions on issues of elevation, slope, clear-cutting and reforesting, outside light intensity, building height and footprint restrictions. The results of this survey will be used to inform a comprehensive protection plan that would act as a useful reference when dealing with enforcement or complaints.
Code Enforcement Officer Pat Davis cautioned against making the plan too detailed and thus bogging down the planning board in endless review processes. “It’s better if you don’t end up telling people what they can and can’t do,” he said. More preferable, he said, would be a set list of features which, if met in entirety by a proposed project, would then require the builder to come before the board for review.
Delaware County Planning Board advisor Shelley Johnson cautioned against too general a plan, stating that a lack of details increased the possibility of loopholes in the plan being exploited.
Palen, attempting to keep the ultimate purpose of the protection plan in focus, kept to the middle ground. “We just need a practical set of guidelines so we don’t end up with a Ferris wheel on top of a mountain or pink flamingoes with flashing lights in people’s yards,” he said.
The board will review the questionnaires at its April meeting.
Discussion was also opened concerning Middletown’s application to mine town property on county Route 38 for gravel. Excavation of the gravel is estimated as a two- to-three-year project that would move in two phases and remove approximately 84,000 yards of gravel. Supervisor Len Utter stated that at the conclusion of the mining, the area could become a salable building lot. “The town doesn’t need more worthless land,” he said.
While declaring that there’s “not that much” gravel at the location, Utter noted that the town is facing a lack of sand and gravel, since there are few available sites that can be exploited. “The best are under water or owned by New York City,” he said. Soon, he continued, “we’ll have to haul it all in, and you know what that means.”
Johnson informed the board that all site plans will first have to be sent to the county planning board and then submitted to the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). The DEC, which acts as lead agency on all mining applications, would then come back to the town with a SEQR analysis.
The board also opened preliminary discussion on a water storage tank that has been proposed by the Village of Fleischmanns at the end of Paradise Camp Road. Delaware Engineers presented plans for a tank 45 feet in diameter and 30 feet high on a steep, heavily forested slope approximately 200 feet removed from the nearest residence. Questions of ZBA review and variance will be left to the planning board’s discretion. A public hearing on the project was scheduled for April 10.
Sketch plans for a two-lot subdivision on Thompson Hollow Road in New Kingston, submitted by Otto Kuczynski, were approved. Also approved were applications from Robert and Laura Keller to restructure three lots into two on New Kingston Mountain Road; the combination of two lots on Cape Horn Road belonging to John and Maureen Downey; and a six-month extension to Cowan Excavation to begin building a new shop on Old River Road in Halcottsville.