Village moves forward on extending business district northward

The Stillwater Board of Trustees has agreed to move forward with plans to extend the Hudson Avenue business district from the area near Stratton Lane all the way north to the village line.

The move, which would require changes to existing village zoning law, is being undertaken in hopes of drawing new business to Stillwater and clearing up zoning issues that may hamper existing business owners from selling their properties.

That’s the exact problem facing Fred and Linda Tracy, owners of Fred’s Tents & Canopies, Inc., who brought the matter to the board several months ago. Under present residential zoning, the Tracys said they can’t sell their business and have it continue to run as a business under a new owner.

As part of the village rezoning study committee, Trustee Ellen Vomacka recommended extending the business district to help the Tracys and future business owners who may have been grandfathered in under residential zoning north of Stratton Lane.

“It’s the right thing to do,” Vomacka said.

The matter was tabled by Trustees at the November 19 meeting to give village attorney James Peluso more time to look into the new zoning requirements. After more discussion, the village board voted unanimously at its meeting on Dec. 17 in favor of a proposal to amend the existing zoning law and zoning map to extend the northern business district line with a (R1) residential overlay as follows:

“From the existing boundary south side of Stratton Lane, one parcel back on the south side of Stratton Lane (west) to Colonial Road, then (east) to Hudson Avenue to the Hudson River one parcel back.”

Trustees appointed the Village of Stillwater as the lead agent for State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) and to direct the preparation of an Environmental Assessment Form (EAF) for the rezoning amendment as required by law and to amend the zoning map. Once the paperwork is filed, Peluso said there is a required waiting period of 30 days. The county must also approve the proposal and a public hearing must be held before the zoning changes can move forward.

In other business, trustees discussed problems associated with snow removal on village streets and public walkways following the first big storm of the year in December.

This was also the first storm since the village passed its new sidewalk maintenance law in November, requiring homeowners and businesses to keep sidewalks adjacent to their properties clear of snow and in “a safe condition” or face up to a $50 fine. Some sidewalks are being cleared and some aren’t, said Mayor Ernest Martin.

Trustee Vomacka offered to make a list of all offenders in order to send letters, issue fines and follow up on all paperwork.

“We have to get tough on this,” Vomacka said. “We passed this law and we need to stand by it.”

Mayor Martin also authorized Superintendent of Public Works Paul O’Kosky to go to the police station for assistance for removing and ticketing of cars that are inhibiting crews from clearing streets after snow storms.

Village Trustees also heard the following reports/updates on December 17:

  • The Village Board heard a report from Ed Hernandez of Delaware Engineering about plans for $8 million to $10 million in capital upgrades to the Saratoga County Water Authority (SCWA) where the village buys its drinking water. SCWA is also working with a professor/water chemist from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) on three pilot studies in 2014 to improve water quality. The village received notice from the New York State Department of Health this year regarding higher than acceptable levels of lead, copper and Trihalomethanes in the village’s drinking water supply. Trihalomethanes are a byproduct of drinking water disinfection, which is needed to kill harmful organisms before the water can be consumed. Since then, the village has installed an Aeromax aeration system that is being piloted at the Dick Lynch water holding tank. It is hoped that Aeromax, along with these SCWA capital improvements, will help correct the situation. Hernandez said new water samples taken at the Stillwater holding tanks and tested are showing signs of progress. “I think we’re making headway to take action to make sure our problems are resolved,” he said.
  • In Sewer Department news, Hernandez reported that the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation has given the village approval to move forward on its “force main” sewer project to improve conditions in the area of Bunce Lane. An archaeological dig along the path of the work, required by NYS Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, has resulted in “no significant issues,” he said.
  • The Village Board approved a request from David Flanders, surveyor and site consultant PLLC, to subdivide a property at 61-63 Ferry Lane. The proposal adheres to all village residential zoning regulations in terms of lots size and setback requirements.
  • Trustee Vomacka reported that the contractor has completed making alterations to the old water treatment plant at the end of Ferry Lane so the fire department can store its antique steamer truck there. The project cost $3,200 and involved removing the existing overhead garage door and wall block to make ready for installation of a larger overhead door, installing a steel beam to support the roof, purchasing and hanging the new door and removing debris. The steamer is ready to be moved in, she said. Vomacka also reported she has met with a grant specialist and is investigating applying for monies to help upgrade the playground equipment at Major Dickinson Park.
  • Trustee Judith Wood-Shaw reported that she attended the latest Emergency Management Committee meeting and she is concerned about some language in the emergency plan that calls for moving children to Stillwater Town Hall in case of an evacuation of the Stillwater Central School District. She believes there is not enough room at Town Hall to house the children and The Stillwater Area Community Center with its two gyms would be a better location. She plans on discussing the matter with the school district and town leaders. She also said she is awaiting a price on purchasing a new backup generator for Village Hall in case of a serious power outage. She explained in November that as part of the emergency plan, Town Hall would become the “command center” and Village Hall would be a back-up location for other services such as court. Trustee Wood-Shaw also reported that, along with Trustee Vomacka, she is looking into grants to help upgrade the playground equipment at Major Dickinson Park through the Stewart’s company matching grant program.
  • Trustee John Basile gave a brief update on the loan for the water project and closing out the paperwork with the USDA in lieu of a possible 0 percent loan with EFC. He is meeting with EFC to discuss the village’s options and what additional items to include in the project to secure the 0 percent rate under a “hardship” case.
  • The Fire Department did not responded to any alarms in November but did conduct four drills during the month, with 27 members attending. The department also participated in a wake detail and a solar awareness class. The membership is in the process of reviewing changes to its bylaws, which were rewritten over the past few months with the help of Trustee Vomacka, in areas where the wording was “vague.”
  • Code Enforcement Officer Lawrence Allen submitted his monthly report. During November he approved the pouring of footings and a floor for a garage on Newland Road. In December he gave notice to repair or replace a fence and shed at a property on Major Dickinson Road.
  • Department of Public Works crews were busy in November and December working at the pump station, plowing and salting roads, preparing the village Christmas tree for the annual tree lighting, etc. DPW Superintendent O’Kosky reported that his crews had to spend about $700 to replace a broken chain on the salt spreader, and he asked the Village Board to approve $1,300 to $1,400 in funding to make needed repairs to the DPW street sweeper – a motion that was carried 4-0. O’Kosky also reported that the DPW expects to take delivery of its new utility truck from Orange Motors in February.