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Bethlehem OKs Comp Plan review group

In an evening spent tackling perennial issues, board also sets fund balance policy

— Officials in the Town of Bethlehem discussed and ultimately moved forward several items that have long been on the agendas of Town Board members, or at least the subject of past debate.

The Wednesday, March 28, Town Board meeting saw votes that established a fund balance policy and will lead to the formation of a Comprehensive Plan Assessment Committee.

The latter action sets off the first formal review of the town’s Comprehensive Plan to be undertaken in five years. In the 2011 elections, virtually every candidate spoke to the necessity of revisiting the 2005 document, and those thoughts were reiterated on Wednesday.

“It’s something I think that we’ve all discussed as desirable,” said Supervisor John Clarkson.

“I was on the board when we adopted the Comprehensive Plan, and I think it’s time for a review,” said Councilman George Lenhardt.

The committee to be convened differs from advisory groups the town has formed in the past in that there will be two bodies — a “core” committee consisting of town staff and representatives and a “community focus panel” made up of community stakeholders. A committee of 15 was pitched as a size for the latter group, but Clarkson said Wednesday it could conceivably be larger.

Several board members touted the plan’s allowances for public input. In addition to the focus panel, it calls for public surveys and neighborhood meetings around town.

“Public participation is absolutely critical,” said Councilman Kyle Kotary. “I think it’s a good outline and it’s a good way to both get at the fundamental aspects of the Comprehensive Plan … but also get public input.”

The “core group” will consist of Clarkson, Deputy Supervisor John Smolinsky, the chairpersons of the Planning and Zoning boards, Director of Economic Development and Planning Michael Morelli and (as unanimously approved by the board on Wednesday) Councilman Kotary. Town staff will also assist the group.

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