Dear Pine Plains,
I thought it would be helpful to go over all the projects we are in the middle of with a brief explanation for each one, but also let you know that more detailed information is on our website under Town Projects www.pineplains-ny.gov That website is a fine resource for what is happening in Pine Plains. We also have a Facebook page, Pine Plains Town Hall, and 2 Instagrams sponsored by the Business Association: made_in_pine_plains and pineplainsny. This newsletter comes out weekly. A last resort—but the best—is to call me any time at 518-398-8600 ext 1. I am at Town Hall a lot and Alice is here 7:30am to 3:30 5 days a week. There is no dearth of information about Pine Plains if you have the will to find it.
- The Hudson Valley Project is a development being proposed on the old Carvel Estate by the Durst Organization. Right now, the proposal is for about 294 homes clustered around the lake there on 2700 acres of walking trails, a golf course, and open space. The plans are available to look at at Town Hall.
- The Zoning Review Committee is examining our zoning based on revisions to it to comply with our Comprehensive Plan Update, which we finished in January of 2020. You can view the Comp Plan on our website or at Town Hall.
- The Sewer Feasibility Study is a grant-funded examination of our potential for a central septic system in Pine Plains. This was begun as a result of the Comprehensive Plan directive to create a more vibrant hamlet for business opportunities. The key problem in every small rural town in NY State is the lack of wastewater treatment. State health laws have changed over the years to demand a 100% expansion ability for any working system. Here is the rub: if a business is on a half-acre, as most are here, there is no room for a system to be put in which complies with that law. In addition, old systems are failing, and are intertwined with other properties, unreachable and inadequate. Currently, it is nearly impossible for anyone to open a new business in Pine Plains due to this requirement. There is no longer a loophole for “grandfathering” in. Any new business literally has to hire an engineer to determine if they can open. That can cost upwards of $4000 just to find out if it’s possible. Hence, our research. It should not be so prohibitive for regular people who are not wealthy to start a business here. The engineering report is available to peruse at Town Hall. The public meeting to present all the findings will be held in person at a Covid-safe location some time in May or early June. The proposed District is limited to 32 buildings along the 82/199 intersection, which comprise the Business Hamlet Zoning District.
- The Broadband Committee expects word next week on what the County and State might be doing to help us get internet to everyone in Pine Plains. After 9 months of weekly meetings studying the issue and mapping our service, they now offer help to anyone whose service is spotty or slow. Often it is an equipment problem, and sometimes it takes a conversation with the internet company and some gentle persuasion to get them to fix things. You may be paying for speed you are not getting. The Committee can help you. Contact Town Hall.
- The Town Park renovation is underway! You will now start to see the results of a year’s worth of work on the design and implementation of landscaping. This is funded by a legacy given to the town by Edward Kinsser.
- Two houses will be taken down soon at 8 and 12 N. Main, as a part of a proposal to build a new Town Hall in that location at some point. Again, this is in keeping with our Comprehensive Plan. Having Town Hall right in the middle of town would enhance the ease of voting, access to town government and board meetings, access to our police department and courts, and bring much needed activity into the center of town. The municipal parking lot is right there, which makes this spot ideal, and we were fortunate to be able to purchase these lots for very little money. This work and the purchases was funded by two bonds which, due to help of the Bank of Millbrook, we negotiated at historically low percentage rates. Many regimes of governance in Pine Plains have dreamed of this.
- FOSL and the Town are working together on the establishment of walking trails around Pine Plains which would connect all parts of the town. We have begun negotiations with the owner of the land behind Stewart’s as to how to accept his offer of trails land there, with the hope that we can then connect to land to the west, leading to Stissing Mountain, and land to the south, leading to Bethel. FOSL can always use a contribution, and the money goes to acquiring and preserving landmarks around town, including the Fire Tower, which brings many, many visitors to Pine Plains and its businesses.
- The Community Garden was begun by Sandy Towers and her daughter, and soon Vivienne Berlinghoff, and is available to anyone who volunteers to help with it. A recent article in the Millerton News gave a great description of what is going on there, with only a few mistakes! A stalwart group of volunteers grows all kinds of fresh food for people in town to take, usually distributed by our food pantries. But you can also arrange to work a plot of your own. Contact us at Town Hall.
- The Stissing House has a new owner and renovations have begun. Ditto the old Crumpets. (We miss you Penny and Harry!) The Old Library is also being renovated. The paintings you see displayed on the outside of the building were done by high school students who were paid (she paid—artists should be paid!) for their work inspired by local history. The complex of buildings that house El Guacamole also has new owners. They are local and excited about being a part of the community. Roosters Hardware opened recently in town and we welcome them.
- Many properties that were for sale for a long time were bought in the past year and are being fixed up. But housing is very difficult to find here for renters. A committee on housing has been formed by the Town Board to look into the situation. There are many obstacles to building here, not the least of which are mandates to services required when a town reaches a certain population number. So many laws apply to change.
- We partnered with the State Police to re-vamp our Police Policy. This has taken many hours of work by our officers, particularly John Hughes and Michael Beliveau, and the result is an up-to-date 800+ page policy which reflects the Police Reforms and Modernization Handbook we wrote last Fall with our Stakeholders Committee.
- We wrote an Emergency Action Plan as mandated by the State in order to have instructions in place in case of another situation like the pandemic. This was done by the Highway Superintendent and the Town Supervisor.
- Plans are underway for the Pine Plains Bicentennial in 2023. Please volunteer to be on this important committee! Let’s party like it’s 1823!
These are the big ticket items, and I always forget something important. Covid vaccinations are still happening in Pine Plains, an extraordinary achievement by our own pharmacist, Nasir Mahmood, and his band of nurse volunteers, who are exhausted but never say no. I know of no other small town that has been able to vaccinate almost all of its own citizenry in this pandemic. It is an historic event. Mark your calendars for May 1st and the dedication of the new historical marker at the Pharmacy, which used to be an opera house. There will be speeches and a performance by Thayer Durrell of his character, the original builder, from our Library Cemetery Tours. No word yet on Memorial Day activities, but we hope to have it soon. Covid rules are still in place that affect gatherings.
Call me, Pine Plains!