Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Fallsburg board approves one-year building moratorium 

The Fallsburg Town Board on Monday evening unanimously approved a one-year building moratorium on all residential developments larger than five units.
In nearly 10 minutes of prepared comments before the vote, Supervisor Steve Vegliante said the moratorium was necessary for the town to ensure reasonable and sustainable growth.

Town officials have cited the strain on water and sewer services as a key reason for proposing the moratorium, which the board may extend for six months after the initial one-year period.

The town also is updating its comprehensive plan, a process that prompts moratoria in many towns, said Bonnie Franson of Nelson, Pope & Voorhis, the town's environmental planning consulting firm.

Since its founding 190 years ago, the town has grown to 5,264 homes, Vegliante said – a number that "includes everything but apartment houses and dormitories," he said.

"We now have pending before our Planning Board almost half the amount of houses that were built in our entire existence."

Shedding further context on the town's growth, he said, "In 2014, we issued 165 new home permits; in 2015, which was our busiest (year), we issued 224. If this rate continues, there are in the pipeline about five years' worth of buildings to continue to do, even with the moratorium in place."

The moratorium does not apply to nearly 1,200 homes that have already received conditional or final approval from the Planning Board.

Reactions were mixed following the vote.

Laura Marichal and her sister Lakin Castillo, whose family owns L.C. Construction & Sons, called the moratorium a form of discrimination aimed at the town's summer Hasidic Jewish population.

"We wouldn't be able to have any economic development without these summer residents," Marichal said.

Castillo said her company would shoulder the overwhelming burden of the moratorium, since it was the only local contractor working on multifamily homes in the town.

"Thirty-five hundred people will now be out of work," Castillo said.

But Martine Swerdling, who's lived in Fallsburg for 35 years, said the Town Board had done the right thing.

"I don't pull religion," said Swerdling, a Jew who spent her childhood summers at her grandmother's "kuchalein" bungalow colony.

Development in the town "has got to slow down," she said. "Our town needs to slow down until we can address the water supply and the sewer. There's too many housing units being developed all at the same time."

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