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Progress made towards CEA designation in Bethel

Jacqueline C. Herman
Posted 6/18/24

BETHEL — On the agenda at the Bethel Town Board meeting Wednesday, June 12 was an offer to assist the Town in the process of gaining Critical Environmental Area (CEA) designation for White Lake …

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Progress made towards CEA designation in Bethel


BETHEL — On the agenda at the Bethel Town Board meeting Wednesday, June 12 was an offer to assist the Town in the process of gaining Critical Environmental Area (CEA) designation for White Lake and its environs from Planning Consultant Jan Stolzenburg of Community Planning and Environmental Associates, Berne, NY. The offer is separate from her role as Community Planner.

The scope of her offer includes: a review and evaluation of a map and text previously submitted by the Lake Association of White Lake; a review of environmental and mapped data gathered from local, county and state sources; a recommendation of boundary; preparation of a draft CEA Designation Justification document to submit to the Town Board for review; and the editing of the map and justification document based on public input after a required public hearing.

Added to these tasks were options to assist in holding the public hearing, giving a presentation on CEAs in general, and the proposed White Lake CEA specifically, as well as to assist with the SEQR FEAF and the documentation needed for the determination of significance for SEQR. Including the optional tasks, the cost is $4250 plus travel, which covers up to 40 hours at $110 an hour. 

The scope and budget of her offer was accepted. Work will begin at the end of June and draft documents submitted for review in September.

As an introduction to her offer, Supervisor Dan Sturm highlighted the need for CEA designation, and how it aligns with the town’s efforts in ongoing climate smart initiatives. The request for a CEA originated with correspondence from the Lake Association of White Lake in November 2023. It stated, ”Establishing a CEA will serve as a powerful tool to highlight the significance of White Lake during critical decision making,” explaining it would be “a crucial step in demonstrating the town’s and community’s commitment to preserve the lake.”

Since there are no CEAs in Sullivan County currently, the Town Board submitted the request to the County Planning Department and the Sustainable Bethel Committee, and invited public comment. The County’s reply was to address it during the Comp. Plan process, which has begun. Sustainable Bethel said the request was consistent with the leadership role the town has taken on environmental issues in the past, and the decision would set precedent.

Sturm explained some of the “innovative and bold initiatives” the town has already established, including LED street lights, the solar array and no-fracking laws. He cited his fight to prevent a compressor station in nearby Highland, in an effort to protect the surrounding environment and air quality; restrictive zoning laws, upzoning “80 percent of the town in 2009 to 1,2,3, and 5 acre lots” and the purchase of the Forest Reserve. 

The Smallwood Zone was designed to protect Mountain Lake, which eventually flows into the Delaware River. Duplexes, multifamily residences, townhouses, mobile homes and connected houses were zoned out.

Although Sustainable Bethel advised waiting for the Comp. Plan to be finished, the Supervisor stated, “We didn’t find any requirement to do so...This request would be a first in the county initiative that is perfectly in line with our overall goals of protecting the environment and our water resources for the long-term.

“Sometimes our Bethel residents and stakeholders reach out to us…looking for leadership and commitment to protect our town, and this request is certainly in line with an achievable, worthy goal that we can accomplish together.”

Councilwoman Wendy Brown added, “This will be a roadmap for other bodies of water.”


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