Town board to reintroduce ridgeline, cannabis, regs

By Rob Sample
Posted 2/20/24

The Marlboro ridgeline continues to dominate the Town Board agenda – but with a new twist. At its meeting and public hearing on Monday, February 12, the Marlborough Town Board announced that a …

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Town board to reintroduce ridgeline, cannabis, regs

The Marlboro ridgeline continues to dominate the Town Board agenda – but with a new twist. At its meeting and public hearing on Monday, February 12, the Marlborough Town Board announced that a recent ridgeline-protection proposal will be separated from a proposed ordinance imposing deadlines for the completion of development projects.
There are actually three proposals being considered by the Town Board that would alter the town code. The proposed change to the ridgeline rule would remove a section that restricts buildings from being constructed any closer than 50 feet in elevation to the ridgeline. The original rule that was submitted in December also included a set of guidelines governing site plan review and establishing completion deadlines for projects. The third proposal concerns zoning limits for cannabis establishments.
As a result of splitting the ridgeline and plan-review proposals into two new proposals, public comments on the original ridgeline proposal were closed. “But you’re going to have additional times to speak,” noted Town Supervisor Scott Corcoran. “So, there are probably going to be two public hearings on the ridgeline and one public hearing on the plan review [proposals]. 
“Then we also have to reintroduce the cannabis code change, because we made a change [to the original language],” Corcoran added. As a result, all three new proposals will be the subjects of public hearings scheduled for the next Town Board meeting, which is scheduled for Monday, February 26.
Before comments were closed, several residents spoke both against and in favor of the proposed ridgeline rules changes. Old Indian Road resident Jay Agnew said the Hudson Valley is “one of the most beautiful river valleys in the world” – yet it has plenty of houses along its shores. 
“I can’t wrap myself around the fact that a few houses along the ridgeline are going to be dangerous or ruin the view for the whole town,” Agnew said. “They [opponents] act like it’s going to look like San Diego. Let’s work as a community on the real problem facing us: When did we stop being able to compromise?”
Mount Zion Road resident Jake Marro pointed out that the Ulster County Planning Board said construction applications will need to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. “This is a reasonable patchy forward requiring both the town and the developer to conduct some proper due diligence,” said Marro. “The town Planning Board offered to compromise on the exact distance of the 50 foot provision, rather than having it thrown out altogether. This too seems to be a prudent approach that would balance the interests of the landowner with the community of taxpayers and farmers around that landowner.”
Penny Lane resident Patty Gilmartin noted that she and her family moved to Marlboro from a much-denser suburban area where she always knew what her neighbors were preparing for dinner. “We look at this beautiful mountain every day, and we love it here,” said Gilmartin. “Once you destroy it, you’ll never get it back. We oppose the removal of these regulations.”
The Marlborough Conservation Advisory Commission produced a lengthy report about the ridgeline proposals, which was delivered to the Town Board in advance of the meeting. The report detailed potential issues that could arise from the proposed changes to the regulations and offered a host of alternatives.
“The CAC is a neutral entity: We serve as a partner to the Town Board and none of our comments are intended to favor any individual point of view,” said CAC Chairperson Mici Simonofsky. “Rather, we have gathered as much information as possible in the few weeks we have had to help the town board create a better code. That is our job: an enhanced and improved code.”
The CAC report focuses on three areas: aesthetic concerns, environmental issues, and the town’s own Comprehensive Master Plan, with a nod to the economic importance of farming and agritourism in the town. It noted that any change to the code needs to clarify the difference between the words “ridgeline,” which refers to the surface of the ridge, and “treeline,” the tops of trees that could be growing along that ridgeline. 
The report outlines an easy-to-assess technique for buildings that could eliminate much of that confusion, utilizing a smartphone app called My Altitude. “The ridgeline protection code should be unambiguous, with clear definitions for ridgeline, treeline, structures, buffers, and points of measurement,” said Simonofsky.
The Town Board and meeting attendees also got a briefing on the recently completed Cultural Resource Survey. This two- and one-half-year project was funded in part by a $10,000 grant from the Preservation League of New York State and created an inventory of all the properties in the Town constructed prior to 1970. This list further classified these buildings by date of construction, current and historic functions, materials, design characteristics, and condition, among other characteristics.
“We identified over 50 properties that appear to be historically and architecturally significant, nine historic industrial sites, and four potential historic districts – in Marlboro Hamlet, Old Post Road, Milton Hamlet, and North Road,” said Neil Larson, principal of Neil Larson & Associates of Kingston, a historic preservation planning firm with a long track record of surveys in the Hudson Valley. “As you might expect the greatest concentration of historic development was along the river although much of it has been changed or lost.”
The Marlborough citizens team that worked with Larson on the survey was headed up by Howard Baker, a former member of the Town Board. This group made several recommendations to the current Town Board including:
• The creation of a historic preservation commission for the town. 
• Identification of vulnerable properties.
• Designation of historic properties and districts, which would benefit owners by enabling them to take advantage of state and federal tax credits for historic preservation.
Among other proposals, the Town Board approved a highway easement for portions of Cubbard Drive in association with a site plan application for Keebomed, Inc., a distributor of ultrasound equipment that is building a facility nearby along Route 9W. The Board also reintroduced a regulation governing the location of cannabis establishments, adding a provision restricting such businesses from being within 500 feet of any town building or park.
Corcoran noted that the Town Board favored increasing that distance to 1,500 feet. However, the town’s attorney pointed out that state regulations do not permit the restriction from being greater than 500 feet.