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Heated discussion about development erupts

Jacqueline C. Herman
Posted 5/17/24

BETHEL — Present at the Bethel Town Board meeting Wednesday, May 8 were members of the Bethel Roundtable, a collective of Bethel citizens, and members of the orthodox community. Discussed was …

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Heated discussion about development erupts


BETHEL — Present at the Bethel Town Board meeting Wednesday, May 8 were members of the Bethel Roundtable, a collective of Bethel citizens, and members of the orthodox community. Discussed was the cumulative impact of proposed construction, particularly along Route 17B and near the border of Liberty.

Resident Denise Frangipane introduced Stephen Metts, a cartographer of the New Paltz firm Geospex, LLC, who studied population trends and cumulative impacts of development in Bethel. His statistical findings predict a 500 percent increase of 25,000 people by 2030, added to the current population of 4,000. This will “put enormous stress on existing infrastructure, waterways, lakes, well water and roads.”

He suggested the benefits of hiring professional consultants to ensure adherence to NYSEQRA and to advise on “potential impacts to current zoning” for the protection of the rural environment. 

“The Town would benefit from proactive engagement of the NYSDEC and the federal Army Corps of Engineers regarding private sewer treatment plants and septic systems that empty into our wetlands and waterways.” He recommended “modifications to projects of a certain size” or a requirement that the Planning Board review and approve any changes to already approved projects, and suggested certification and protocols for inspections of all septic systems. An environmental engineer and a planner can assist in weighing pros and cons of approvals. 

“We must protect the West Branch Mongaup and White Lake Watersheds,” he said. “By incorporating…an understanding of cumulative impact into the updated Comprehensive Plan, we can plan wisely for sustainability.”

Chairperson of the Town of Liberty Grievance Review Board Alan Werlau said that “many people are leaving”, and that “we’re losing focus; the increased costs to support the influx will be replenished by what [the population] brings in support of infrastructure demands…People don’t have enough faith in the town. It has the ability to oversee the projects and knows how to do it right.” 

He claimed that a cluster of dwellings surrounded by rural landscape “brings the best of all worlds”.

Seasonal resident Isaac Hirsch said, “We’re all neighbors; we’re all friends. We’re not enemies. Let’s work together to improve the quality of life. Sometimes, there’s a high level of E-Coli in the water. Let’s walk through Bethel and Smallwood [together] to see where the issues are. We need growth - yes, responsible growth.”

“We need our plumbers, electricians and landscapers who need jobs…I want to see all local vendors grow…Let’s use common sense and basic economics. I am proposing to create a website where all local vendors can advertise for free and I am sponsoring the first $1,000 for it.”

Resident Abe Rutner said, “If growth is a problem, it should be equally applied. Let’s go into Smallwood and make sure all sewers are up to code by the DEC.”

Resident Leo Krausz said he has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on engineers and architects to meet codes and has been turned down for residential and commercial development on a parcel he had bought for $50,000 twenty years ago. After paying taxes each year, and doing all he could, he has not yet received the right to build. “I did everything according to code…Is this some kind of Hasidic racism?” he pleaded.  “It doesn’t make any sense.”

Christian Waolord, who overcame obstacles building Frontier Insurance, said, “There’s no reason to shut these people down…They hire our builders, who feed our children. They want to get out of the city and all you people do is try to shut them out!”

Guillermo Granados said, “You stop these projects, there’s no food for my family.”

Rabbi Joe Kowalkowski, a 30-year county resident and Associate Rabbi at Congregation Beth Sinai, said “A lot of residents drive long distances to work. That also has environmental impact…I hope we can use this opportunity to build more bridges.”

Harold Jodis said, “Without them, we would not benefit from their generosity in what they do.”

Henne Altman said, “I was born here 80 years ago. I’ve been all over the world…have seen the density of China…I come home and smell the fresh air…what’s going to be 20 years in the future? There’s too many developments being built. The land is being sucked up.”

Barbara Lerner said, ”Many communities are out of water. If you drive around you can see developments and how this potential can grow… and it’s not the way we want.”

Denise Frangipane added, “It’s not about you and me; it’s about our children.” 


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