Marlborough airs revised ridgeline rules

By Rob Sample
Posted 4/24/24


The newly proposed changes to the Town of Marlborough’s Ridgeline and Steep-Slope protection code came back to center stage at a public hearing at town hall Monday night, April …

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Marlborough airs revised ridgeline rules

The newly proposed changes to the Town of Marlborough’s Ridgeline and Steep-Slope protection code came back to center stage at a public hearing at town hall Monday night, April 22. 
The hearing took place in conjunction with the Town Board’s biweekly meeting. This was the second iteration of changes to the ridgeline rules. The Town Board introduced its first revision of the law in December, which became the subject of discussion at multiple board meetings and hearings and ultimately caused the Board to substantially alter its proposal.
This new version received qualified praise from the people who spoke at the hearing, who noted positive changes but lamented the removal of a vertical-setback requirement. This is the clause in the current code that restricts building any structures within 50 feet of elevation to the nearest ridgeline point.
Speaking on behalf of the town’s Conservation Advisory Committee (CAC), Milton resident Maribeth King noted that the new proposed rules incorporate suggestions and comments raised by both the CAC and other Marlborough residents during the public hearing process earlier this year. Wooldridge-King read remarks prepared by CAC Chair Mici Simonofsky, who was unable to attend the Monday night hearing.
“It is noteworthy and commendable that additional definitions are included,” King said. “On the whole, this proposed wording appears to satisfy the public’s many questions and comments. However, there are two concerns.”
The CAC took issue with the removal of the town “reviewing board” from the language of the proposed law. Under the current rule, that has been understood to include both the Marlborough Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals. Instead, the proposed new law designates the town code enforcement officer, along with the town engineer, as its arbiters.
“Approvals are a lengthy process, and it seems fitting that the Planning Board or ZBA should be an explicit authority in the process,” said King. The CAC statement also called for the inclusion of some “numerical or demonstrable method” to substitute for the removal of the current 50-foot rule.
Echoing that sentiment was Marlboro’s Cindy Lanzetta. Lanzetta is a member of the town’s Planning Board but stated in her introduction that she was speaking as a private citizen. “Thank you all for putting some very good wording in this [revised law], and for being responsive to all of the comments people have made,” said Lanzetta. “We still have taken out any reference to a vertical setback, however.”
Lanzetta noted that the vertical setback – in Marlborough’s case, the current 50-foot rule – is commonplace in Hudson Valley municipalities. She pointed out that Pat Hines, the consulting engineer to the Town of Marlborough, examined a wide range of ridgeline rules in effect in similar towns. “They all contain vertical setback requirements,” she noted.
Lanzetta urged the board to re-insert this language. “Forty or fifty feet would be appropriate,” she said.
During the public comments, Town Supervisor Scott Corcoran also read a letter he received from Jonathan Clark, advocacy attorney for Poughkeepsie-based Scenic Hudson, Inc., which bills itself as the Hudson Valley’s largest environmental and land-trust organization. It commended the Town Board for responding to the concerns of Marlborough townspeople but raised concerns with the revised law.
“We remain strongly in favor of including a numerical elevation buffer to ensure appropriate protectiveness and create a clearly understood standard,” said Clark. Lacking that, Clark and his organization fear the revised rule will open more of the Marlborough ridgeline to development. The Town Board voted after the series of comments to close the public hearing, though no vote was taken on the proposed rule itself.
During the business portion of the meeting, Corcoran gave attendees an update on the Milton Landing project, which he described as approximately 75 percent complete and on target for opening to the public by late May or early June. One thorny issue yet to be resolved is an easement between the town and CSX Corporation, which operates the railroad tracks that pass along the riverside in Marlborough. The town and CSX are still negotiating a rental sum CSX wants for the area abutting the roadway that crosses the railway.
The Board approved two requests by town organizations to use facilities at Cluett Schantz Park. The first will be the Marlboro/Milton Lions Club’s youth fishing day on Saturday, June 29 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. In addition, the Girl Scouts will hold their end-of-year picnic at the park’s pavilion on June 25.
The Town Board approved the following resolutions:
• The appointment of Carrie Ronk as part-time police dispatcher, effective May 1, 2024.
• A reduction in the town’s highway budget by approximately $140,000, to fund two repairs in the areas of Bingham Road and Hampton Hills Drive. These include the installation on Bingham of a new culvert, at a cost of $56,036.87, and a replacement culvert at the Bingham/Hampton Hills intersection, at a cost of $80,057.64. Both culverts will alleviate flooding issues caused by recent heavy rains.
• The signing of a newly negotiated union contract for Highway Department employees, which will be in effect though 2027.