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Bethlehem talks open space

Nearly 100 residents filled Town Hall to get their first say on the town's ongoing endeavor to create an open space plan.

Landowners, businesspeople, residents, park enthusiast, planners, and developers, along with members of the town board and the Citizens Advisory Committee on Conservation (CACC), all sat down together and discussed the future of Bethlehem. Residents were broken into smaller groups to brainstorm on what they envisioned for the town and what open space meant to them.

They then presented their findings to the rest of the audience and to be included in the current study.

John Behan of Behan Planning Associates is working as a consultant for the town to help shape the new land use policy. The town hired him strictly in an advisory capacity " not to draw up an open space plan himself, according to Supervisor Jack Cunningham.

"It's obviously a very individualist decision," Behan told residents at the beginning of the workshop. "What's important to you is important to us."

The town's open space plan will be a comprehensive land use plan that will give landowners more tools to protect their land or do what they do with it, according to Cunningham. But according to some landowners, the plan could do more harm than good by tying the hands of large landowners in town and actually taking options and opportunities away from them.

Either way, once adopted, it will be the overriding template or guideline the town uses for future growth.

The public hearing was meant as the "kicking off" of shaping the open spaces plan. Behan said that he and the town will continue to collect input from residents and CACC, which is acting as a lead advisory agency, until the Holiday season.

After which time a report will be issued to the town board.

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