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Letter to the Editor - The Millerton News - 3-16-23

Questioning Amenia’s Comprehensive Plan

The Amenia Town Board Meeting is scheduled on March 16 to vote on new Zoning Laws and a new Comprehensive Plan. Both encourage growth, pushing greater density in the Hamlet of Amenia and the building of Work Force Housing. This sounds great but …

The Hamlet of Amenia is on a high water table. It can only handle a limited number of septic tanks. Fortunately, with the present low density in the Hamlet of Amenia, the existing septic tanks aren’t polluting the aquifer.  The low density of the Hamlet has protected the water quality. This is great news. We don’t need to build and maintain a $20 million sewage system.  We can help low income home owners by not imposing a Sewer District fee on them. We’ll have no construction nuisance.  And there will be no concern that concentrated treated sewage, with forever chemicals, will be dumped into the Wassaic Creek. This is really great news—if we keep the Hamlet low density.

But the new Comprehensive Plan is pushing high density for the Hamlet and prioritizing building a $20 million sewage system. As has happened in many other American communities, building and maintaining infrastructure will necessitate further development, increasing taxes and compromises to qualify for funding.

Building Work Force Housing also sounds great. But a small town like Amenia, with only 3,769 residents, doesn’t have the infrastructure, tax base or expertise to build well-designed Work Force Housing. Nor does Amenia have the alarming need for affordable housing that our bigger cities have.  The new proposed zoning incentivizes the private building of Work Force Housing through deregulation, with no planning—the building left to individual whim.  No one could even tell me how many units were planned.  Your neighbors’ accessory apartments or dwellings are to be fast-tracked with wording in the Ordinance that says “nothing” can “preclude” its construction.     

Amenia is also facing a state mandate to inspect the water pipes in the Hamlet’s Water District that will cost about $200,000 and new wells must soon be dug at a cost of over a million dollars.  Without enough money in the treasury, the Town has voted to spend about $75,000 to hire grant writers.   Wouldn’t it be prudent to wait on building Work Force Housing and a sewage system until the Water District needs have been taken care of.  But the Amenia Town Board has voted to proceed with buying land and hiring more grant writers.

If you want Amenia to be built up, bustling and “business friendly,” to grow and “attract tourist shoppers, athletes, lovers of good food and wine, historians and other money-spenders,” then the proposed Comprehensive Plan is for you. But if you want to keep Amenia a small rural town, with great natural beauty, we need another Comprehensive Plan and strong Zoning that truly prioritize protecting our woods, fields and farms.

George Bistransin


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