Sullivan County, NY - Fallsburg Supervisor: Development Moratorium Unrelated To Religion, Vows To Continue Promoting Understanding And Unity Between Residents
Sullivan County, NY - Approximately 200 people gathered at the Woodbourne firehouse Monday night to discuss a potential moratorium that would prevent the construction of any residential developments encompassing more than five homes for the next twelve months.
The moratorium, which is up for vote on June 27th, would include Fallsburg, South Fallsburg, Woodbourne, Mountaindale, Loch Sheldrake and Hurleyville, and could potentially be extended for an additional six months by the town board.
Properties that have already received conditional or final approval from the State Environmental Quality Review would be exempted from the moratorium, which is intended to give the town an opportunity to plan for future growth and to ensure that additional development would not overburden existing systems, including roads and sewers.
Tempers flared on several occasions during the meeting, which lasted approximately 90 minutes, according to the Times Herald Record. Year round non-Orthodox residents voiced concern about water quality, while developers and construction workers said that the move could potentially destroy their livelihood and have a ripple effect on local businesses.
Leo Castillo, owner of the South Fallsburg-based LC Construction described the plan as “economic suicide” and said that he believes that the sewer issue is nothing more than a smokescreen intended to keep Orthodox Jewish residents out of Fallsburg.
In a VIN News interview, Town Supervisor Steve Vegliante said that religion plays no part in the proposed moratorium.
“This is not ‘us versus them,’” Vegliante told VIN News. “One third of our population is Orthodox and 30 to 40 percent of our taxes are paid by the summer community. We need to set goals for responsible growth for years to come.”
Vegliante said that the town currently has 8,000 homes, with close to 4,000 currently in the planning stages. 1,200 homes that are currently have either final approval or conditional final approval will be allowed to proceed under the moratorium, pending full approvals by the town.
“This will give us a chance to take the remainder of those projects that are being formulated and give us a chance to see where things will be over the next 10 years,” said Vegliante.
The phenomenal growth rate in the town has overwhelmed local officials, explained Vegliante, who said that the town needs a chance to figuratively catch its breath as it contemplates the future.
“We feel that this is an emergency that happened in a short time,” said Vegliante. “We have always had development but this has become so accelerated and has gotten to be unsustainable at this level. We have water and sewer limitations and traffic issues that we are actively addressing but we need a year to reformulate our code, to talk about density in the more remote areas of the town, and for that reason, we felt the moratorium was necessary.”
Vegliante said that he understands that some town residents are only in Fallsburg during the summer months and he intends to meet with Orthodox Jewish residents over the next few weeks. Working with all town residents is a high priority to Vegliante.
“Other communities have become battlegrounds and that is what we are trying to avoid here,” said Vegliante. “I have spent six years as supervisor trying to get both sides of our community to understand the other better and my goal as long as I sit in this seat is to bring understanding to both sides.”
Meilich Weber, a member of the Sullivan County JCC formed last year to advocate for Orthodox Jewish residents of Sullivan County and to foster positive relationships with year round residents and local officials, said that the group had a productive meeting last week with Vegliante. Weber, who works year round in construction in the Catskills, said that despite the occasional outburst, the hearing went well.
“Everyone is trying to be nice to make sure that this doesn’t become about religion,” said Weber. “We all want to live together in harmony and we have to find a way to make things work.”
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