100 Ideas for New Paltz

welcome

Posted in environment by Jason West on June 18, 2009

downtown new paltz

On the right sidebar, you’ll see a link to a longer explanation of this blog.  Suffice it to say here that there won’t be any more blog posts — this is it, unless one of these ideas turns out to be unworkable, in which case I’ll replace it with another idea to keep the total number at 100.

I hope people feel free to comment, debate and argue these ideas — this project is a small attempt to increase discussions about concrete things we can do as a community.

And thanks to New Paltz Gadfly, whose blog and the debates there gave me the idea to set this forum up.

Jason West

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1. form a public power utility

You don’t need to have a power plant to create a public power utility. According to the American Public Power Association’s Q&A For Communities Considering the Public Power Option, “Many public power utilities purchase wholesale electricity at prices that are beneficial to their customers without owning power plants.”

New York State requires that the New York State Power Authority charge local power authorities wholesale rates for the electricity they use.  The Town would negotiate a wholesale bulk purchase of electricity from either the NYPA or from Central Hudson.  Running a non-profit, locally-controlled power authority will save New Paltz ratepayers a significant amount of money – the national average being 30-40% savings.

2. buy the streetlights, run ’em on solar energy

Right now, the Village pays approximately $60,000 in rent each year to Central Hudson for streetlights.  The Village should buy those streetlights from Central Hudson, While the Village would be responsible for maintenance and repair, the savings in not paying rent should more than make up for it.

Once owned, it should be possible to upgrade or replace the existing lights with solar streetlights, and eventually to replace the big ugly lights we have now with lights more in keeping with the aesthetics of the village.

And it may even be possible to have a combo solar/wind streetlight that also doubles (or triples?) as a Wi-Fi relay:

3. require curbside compost collection

Posted in agriculture, environment, garbage, increasing revenue/lowering taxes by Jason West on June 12, 2009

Require local waste hauling companies to collect compost as well as garbage and recycling.

From the San Francisco Department of the Environment:

“San Francisco has created the first large scale urban collection of food scraps for composting in the country. Today, hundreds of thousands of residents and over 3,000 restaurants and other businesses send over 400 tons of food scraps and other compostable material each day to Recology’s Jepson-Prairie composting facility, shown above. Food scraps, plant trimmings, soiled paper, and other compostables are turned into a nutrient-rich soil amendment, or compost, that is used to produce the organic food and wine that San Francisco is famous for serving.”

4. expand municipal compost

Posted in agriculture, environment, public health by Jason West on June 12, 2009

Add curbside compost collection to the leaf litter bags at the community gardens.

5. expand the reed beds

Posted in environment, public health, sewer by Jason West on June 12, 2009

Expand the reed beds at the sewer plant to the other two drying beds, while plugging the drain that leads water out of those greehouses, saving $20,000 a year after capital costs are recouped.

phragmites reeds

6. protect wetlands in the village

Posted in environment, planning and construction, stormwater, wallkill river, zoning by Jason West on June 12, 2009

Protect the environment and reduce flooding by passing a wetlands and watercoures protection law. Much of the work on this legislation has already been done.

In 2005 I revised the wetlands law passed by the Town to fit the needs of the Village – notably strengthening the enforcement provisions by eliminating the option to pay a fee in order to mitigate damage to wetlands.  I brought that law to the Village Board, where Michael Zierler suggested that we set up a task force to review the law and see if it met the village’s needs and if, in fact, we needed a law at all.  That task force – made up of myself, Colin Apse of the Nature Conservancy, Rachel Lagodka of the Environmental Commission and Laura Heady of the Hudson River Estuary Program – unanimously recommended that a local law was our best option for protecting wetlands.

Simply put, the law requires that anyone who wants to build near a wetland has to have that wetland checked out first — if there is no harm in building whatever is in question, then the project goes through the normal process.  If there would be harm to the project, the project has to be redesigned to avoid that harm, or the person in question can’t build what they want.

In order to find where there may be wetlands, we hired Hudsonia, Ltd to perform two wetland habitat assessments – one for the proposed Millbrook Greenway area, and one for the village as a whole.  Hudsonia’s maps showed several areas of the village where there were potentially important wetlands complexes — on the Woodland Pond/Stoneliegh Woods properties, along the Wallkill River, especially the Harcourt Wildlife Sanctuary and around the Rail Trail south of Water Street and others.

Due to criticism that the law could be difficult to understand procedurally, I created a simple flow chart to guide prospective builders through the process.

Finally, in order to make sure there were no unnecessary hoops for builders, I wrote a seperate Wetlands Protection Overlay District law that made sure that the wetlands law itself only applied to specific properties.  Those properties were the ones that had potential wetland, streams, river or buffer area somewhere on the property, according to Hudsonia.

7. limit the properties affected by a wetlands law

Posted in environment, public health, stormwater, wallkill river by Jason West on June 12, 2009

Reduce the number of properties affected by a Wetlands Law by passing a Wetlands Protection Overlay Zone made up of only those properties which have potential wetlands, watercourses or buffers on them:

A LOCAL LAW AMENDING CHAPTER 210 OF THE CODE OF

THE VILLAGE OF NEW PALTZ, COUNTY OF ULSTER IMPLEMENTING A WETLANDS PRESERVATION OVERLAY DISTRICT

BE IT ENACTED BY THE VILLAGE BOARD OF THE VILLAGE OF NEW PALTZ AS FOLLOWS:

Section 1.    The Village of New Paltz Code, Chapter 210 shall be amended to add the following:

ARTICLE XIX

Wetlands Preservation Overlay District
§     Title.

This District shall be known as the New Paltz “Wetlands Preservation Overlay District” and can be generally referred to as the “Wetlands Preservation Overlay District.  (WPOD).”
§     Intent and Purpose.

The WPOD is intended to implement the policies in the New Paltz Comprehensive Plan in conjunction with the recently completed studies of Hudsonia, Inc., and to promote, preserve, and enhance important aesthetic, biological, ecological, hydrologic, and recreational functions provided by the Village’s streams and rivers, as well as to protect life and prevent property damage from flooding.  It is therefore the purpose of these provisions to establish a Wetlands Preservation Overlay District that encourages planning and development of land that will protect and preserve designated areas.  The WPOD is specifically intended to:

1. Regulate and provide reasonable controls over the land use, siting, and engineering of all development to be consistent with the intent and objectives of this section.

2. Recognize that the protected natural features contribute to the welfare and quality of life of the Village of New Paltz residents.

3. Improve and maintain the water quality and minimize the addition of pollutants deposited in protected watercourses through the natural capacity of the riparian areas to filter stormwater runoff.

4. Comply with federal and state water quality and wetlands regulations.

5. Preserve and protect the natural state and scenic values of the protected watercourse areas and the Village of New Paltz.
§     Application.

The Wetlands Protection Overlay District encompasses all parcels within the Village of New Paltz which     contain all or part of a wetlands, wetland buffer, watercourse or watercourse buffer as designated on the     official Wetlands Protection Overlay District Map
§     Official Maps.

The boundaries of the WPOD shall be delineated on the official Village of New Paltz maps.
§      Permitted Uses.

1. The uses and restrictions in the WPOD are supplementary to, and do not replace, underlying established district use and bulk regulations.

2. In the event that this provision conflicts with any requirement or provision in the underlying district, the more restrictive requirement or provision shall apply.

3. Those uses outlined in §210-8, §210-9 and §210-10 of the Village of New Paltz Wetlands and Watercourse Protection Law shall be allowed in accordance with the procedures set forward in the Village of New Paltz Wetlands and Watercourse Protection Law
§     Prohibited Uses.

Those uses outlined in §210-6 and §210-7 of the Village of New Paltz Wetlands and Watercourse     Protection     Law shall be prohibited and/or regulated  in accordance with the procedures set forward in the Village of New     Paltz Wetlands and Watercourse Protection Law
§    Special Permit Uses.

1. The Zoning Board of Appeals shall seek the advice of the Wetlands Inspector when making its determination as to whether to grant a request for a special permit.

2. The Zoning Board of Appeals must condition any such special permit granted to insure that such use shall not conflict with the Village of New Paltz Wetlands and Watercourse Protection Law.

3. The following uses may be permitted in the WPOD by special permit:

1.    Marinas for non-powered boats, public and private boat entry points.

2.    Structures or uses required for the operation of a public utility, such as utility rights-of-way and crossings.
§    Inspection, Enforcement, and Penalties.

1.    Inspection.  Lands within or adjacent to a designated WPOD will be inspected by the Wetlands Inspector when:

i.    A subdivision or site plan is submitted.

ii.     A building permit is requested.

iii.    A change or resumption of a nonconforming use is proposed.

iv.    A written complaint alleging a violation is submitted to the Wetlands Inspector.

2.    Enforcement.

i.    Any person may submit a written complaint to the Wetlands Inspector alleging a violation of the WPOD.

ii.    Upon receipt of the complaint, the Wetlands Inspector shall conduct an investigation of the complaint including, but not limited to, a site inspection and meeting with the property owner.

3.    Penalties.

Any violation of the WPOD must cease upon a determination that a violation has occurred.  If upon written notification to the violating party, that party does not cause the violation to be discontinued, the fines shown in subsections (i)-(iii) below will be additionally assessed for each day thereafter until the violation  ceases.

Monetary fines shall be assessed for violations as follows:

i.    Level One.  ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS ($1,000) for violations that are easily correctable and have not resulted in any adverse affect on the water quality of the designated wetland area.

ii.    Level Two.  TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS ($2,000) for violations that have resulted in an adverse effect on the water quality of the designated wetland area.

iii.    Level Three.  FOUR THOUSAND DOLLARS ($4,000) for violations that are deemed a flagrant abuse of the WPOD and have a serious affect on the quality of life and environment of the WPOD and surrounding area.

8. get rid of poison ivy in parks

Posted in agriculture, environment, parks, public health by Jason West on June 12, 2009

Borrow some goats from a local farm to graze at Sojourner Truth Park – goats eat poison ivy before grass, and they can eliminate poison ivy without use of toxic chemicals.

Thanks to Terence Ward for pointing out that only certain breeds of goats like poison ivy — Spanish and Angorra goats to be precise.

a spanish goat

a spanish goat

9. ban pesticides

Posted in environment, public health by Jason West on June 12, 2009