Andes Planning Board seeks smart growth ideas

in

Train depot rehab among considerations for development funds By Matthew J. Perry The Andes Planning Board has taken lead agency role in the town‚  application for a share of the state‚ Smart Growth funding plan, which will spread $500,000 among six townships in the Central Catskills. Before the June 20 deadline, the town must drum up a project that suits the details of the grant. Several complications, not least of which is a tight time constraint, will have to be faced down.

The fund is seeking to reward innovative developments that will attract new businesses and help make the towns into more attractive destinations, while staying true to the environmentally-protective spirit of the park. The hope is to attract more tourists and stimulate the local economy; the most innovative proposals will be awarded with larger shares of the fund. The minimum allotment for the towns is $40,000, while the brightest idea could net $88,000. At the regular meeting on April 28, the planning board focused primarily on the boarded-up train depot that stands above Ballantine Park on county Route 2. Proposals for a rehabilitation of the building, which is owned by the town, have been floated in recent years, but there are several reasons why such a project might be a difficult fit with the Smart Growth fund. For one, the depot is beyond the hamlet’s center and can easily be missed by destination seekers. The land parcel is small, and has little space for parking. Also, any rehabilitation would have to conform to the strict codes applied to historical buildings, which would likely translate into prohibitively expensive construction costs. Board members agreed that the Anti-Rent War could play a role in destination-bound historical tourism, but the key locations and historical markers lie outside the hamlet, which plays against the fund’s purpose of drawing attention to economic centers. Simply using the money for a new parking lot would likely not win a larger share of the grant—the goal is to create a destination, not control the increased traffic. The board pledged to pursue other possibilities before its next meeting on May 12, but also encouraged Andes residents to submit ideas. Suggestions should be addressed to the planning board and be mailed to or dropped off at the town hall. The board also received updates on the town library renovation project, although no immediate action was enacted. The primary issues facing the project are storm water protection and parking, although it is also imperative that the proposed expansion not compromise the integrity of Bohlman Memorial Park. The plan for the library includes eight parking spaces, only a modest improvement over the existing unpaved area to the east of the building. Flood control plans include breakaway windows, which would allow storm water to flow beneath rather than around the building and create more flow channels to dissipate the storm water’s collective force. The planning board encouraged Buffy Calvert, who presented the update, to make sure hydraulic and flood plane studies are thorough, as these issues could create roadblocks when other agencies—particularly the DEP—review the project. A public hearing on May 12 was set for major subdivision plans presented by Harold Cole. Last month, the board had expressed some concern over aspects of the subdivision’s access road that could not conform to town regulations. Since then, several board members have surveyed the road, and it was reported that an Andes 10-wheeler highway truck had navigated the entire road without difficulty. Since the road will be private, it is not necessary for it to meet town highway requirements. Furthermore, the town will not be obligated to maintain the road even if it is later brought into conformity with all regulations. Planning board advisor Tom Evans stated that he had conferred with the town’s attorney, David Merzig, and felt confident that Cole and the board had both done the work to ensure that there would be no future confusion over the maintenance agreement. “Harold’s a smart guy, and he’s done things the right way,” chairman Frank Winkler concurred. “We’re getting closer on this.”