MAMAKATING – For over a year and a half, the comprehensive plan steering committee has worked to draft a document that defines a vision for Mamakating through 2030, and lays the groundwork for a balanced community that provides business opportunities while protecting the natural resources and the historical heritage of the town.
At the conclusion of a two-part public hearing this past Monday, July 31, the Mamakating comp plan committee voted unanimously to accept the plan and to recommend it to the town board, who will then hold their own public hearing, complete a required environmental review of the plan, and make any amendments to it all that they may find advisable.
The comprehensive plan of 2017 is based on one drafted — but never implemented — in 2001. The current version contains updates and modernizations based on extensive socio-economic and environmental research undertaken by the committee. In fact, Sullivan County granted an award to all of the committee's members for the first ever town-wide hydro-geological study done by any municipality in the county, and possibly in the state... a study that proved crucial in identifying those areas where development is possible or not, as based on potential water supplies.
The land use map that was developed by the committee is a critical component of the new plan and replaces large-scale economic areas with incentive development areas while seeking to eliminate or minimize the impacts of mining across the town. Critical environmental areas, including the Shawangunk Ridge, as well as the Basha Kill and its tributaries, are delineated. Development is to be clustered instead around those areas that have the infrastructure to support it.
The complete final draft of the comprehensive plan can be viewed at town hall, or online at www.mamakating.org.
During a public comment section on Monday night, newly appointed poet laureate Susan Emry read an original work celebrating the new plan and vision for Mamakating. Also, three members of the Bloomingburg Restoration Foundation brought up the issue of the Old Dutch Church that they are hoping to preserve as part of the town's historical heritage. It currently houses a museum of sorts, featuring local artifacts, documents, and photos from bygone eras, although the town is in contract negotiations to sell the old church to an evangelical group from Middletown. In addition, the comp plan has no jurisdiction over zoning in the villages of Bloomingburg and Wurtsboro.
Steering Committee chair Andy Weil told the members of the BRF that they had invited both villages to be part of the comprehensive plan endeavor, but both had turned them down.
Public commentator Spenser David Phraner, Sr., a retired urban planner and resident, told the committee that preservation ordinances are an important overlay to zoning. He advised that the town become a certified local government, and that areas that need to be addressed for historic preservation should be identified.
Phraner said that this approach is much more powerful for protecting heritage structures than state or national historic registers. He believes that eco-tourism is important, but so is heritage tourism, especially given the presence of the O&W Rail Trail and the D&H Canal running through town.
Carol Lucas concurred, and urged the formation of a historic preservation commission. She suggested that Phillipsport might even become a living museum, as was proposed back in the 1950's.
Committee member Mort Starobin said that the town has considered making all of Mamakating a historic district, but this would require a lot of support and effort on the part of the public.