The long-awaited update to the Town of Gardiner’s Comprehensive Plan inched towards approval by the Town Board after eight residents gave their views of the draft proposal on Nov. 16.
It now appears that Gardiner’s first major revision to the Comprehensive Plan since 2004 will not be finished by the end of the year as the board had originally hoped.
Following a two-hour special meeting with consultant David Church on Sept. 17, the board had hoped to post a draft of the preliminary plan on the town website by Sept. 30 and schedule a public hearing for Oct. 19.
But in a presentation made before the public had another opportunity to comment on the draft document at the Nov. 16 meeting, Church outlined a number of steps that still have to be completed before the board can vote on the updated Comprehensive Plan.
In addition to a public hearing for town residents, Church said the updated plan would need to be referred to the Ulster County Planning Board, which would have 30 days to comment. Since the County Planning Board meets monthly, Church said it’s likely that the planning board wouldn’t review the document until January of 2022.
A SEQRA review is also necessary and the board also has the option to refer the updated Comprehensive Plan to the Town Planning Board for its review.
A town’s Comprehensive Plan helps guide decisions and investments. Its goals are intended to shape the overall pattern of development so that it conforms to the vision for the Town of Gardiner.
Among those commenting on the draft proposal were Gardiner architect Matt Bialecki, who was actively involved in putting together the 2004 Comprehensive Plan.
“I’m very impressed and overall I’d encourage the board to make the changes expeditiously and to adopt it,” Bialecki said. “It feels very natural and well written. I think it would serve the town very well.”
Carol Richman, a member of the Town Planning Board who won election to the Town Board in November, also praised the nearly completed Comprehensive Plan update.
Richman asked the board to put in a separate category for “natural resource protection because it can be mutually exclusive from open space.”
Phillip Rapoport, who spearheaded a 70-room hotel project called Heartwood Wildflower Farms in Gardiner, agreed the board had done good work on the plan. But he said parts of the new plan “can sometimes be at odds” with the community’s desire to have fewer abandoned buildings and a vibrant Main Street in Gardiner.
“There’s becoming a perception when I talk to business owners in Wallkill, Stone Ridge, High Falls and Kingston, that Gardiner is becoming less friendly to business incrementally over the past number of years,” he said.
Rapoport said the town needs to speed up the review process if it wants to encourage development.
“I think that would greatly increase people’s interest in taking some of these abandoned spaces on Main Street and revitalizing them and opening new businesses,” he said.
After listening to the public comments, board member Warren Wiegand felt the board needed to schedule another session in December to discuss the additional public input before moving toward adoption of the plan.
“Some new issues came up tonight,” Wiegand said. “In preparing for the meeting, I had some issues and thoughts. I think we do need to schedule some time where we sit down as a town board and spend an hour and cross all the hanging chads off the list.”
Supervisor Marybeth Majestic suggested that the board could review the public’s comments from the latest meeting at its next regularly scheduled meeting on Dec. 7.