Olive joins Byway initiative

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By Jay Braman Jr.
After years of foot-dragging, all of the municipalities that were part of a New York State Scenic Byway initiative have decided whether or not to officially participate, with the Ulster County Town of Olive being the last to take action.

On Tuesday, March 12 at town hall in Shokan, Olive’s five-member town board voted three to two to join in the effort to secure a Scenic Byway designation from the state’s Department of Transportation, a designation that promoters say will put the communities in a position to get grants funds for projects otherwise not available.

The vote followed a public hearing session that featured enough complaints to prompt one board member to attempt, albeit unsuccessfully, to table the matter and schedule an official public hearing to get more community input.

In the end, Supervisor Bert Leifeld and council members Bruce LaMonda and Linda Burkhardt, all Democrats, supported the measure to stay involved with the plan. Republicans Peter Friedel, the councilman who attempted to table the matter, and Donald VanBuren voted against.

The resolution passed last week calls for the town to work in partnership with the towns of Shandaken, Middletown and Andes plus the villages of Fleischmanns and Margaretville, and with local and regional stakeholders to support the Byway program and collaborate and, more importantly, cooperate with one another to advance the program.

With Olive now on board, that town would be the eastern gateway of the Byway. The Town of Hurley was slated for that position, but the Hurley Board voted last year to not get involved after the majority decided that home rule would be put at risk should the town become a part of the plan.
After the meeting, Leifeld said that some residents were concerned that the Byway put the town on a slippery slope toward the removal of property rights but, ultimately, the majority of the town board decided a scenic byway designation was just not that much of a threat to landowners.
“We talked about this for two years now,” Leifeld said. “Enough is enough.”

The list of designated Scenic Byways in New York State is an eclectic mix of over two-dozen locations, ranging from the Adirondack Trail to the Bronx River Parkway.