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Clarkson says growth a balancing act

Supervisor’s State of the Town address touches on economic development

Bethlehem Supervisor John Clarkson gives his third State of the Town address on Thursday, Jan. 22 at Bethlehem Town Hall.

Bethlehem Supervisor John Clarkson gives his third State of the Town address on Thursday, Jan. 22 at Bethlehem Town Hall. Photo by Marcy Velte.

— With the Town of Bethlehem in good financial shape, Supervisor John Clarkson said he believes officials should focus on long-term improvements for the town and attracting appropriate economic development.

Clarkson gave his third State of the Town address on Thursday, Jan. 23, at Town Hall. During his speech, he once again emphasized the need for an appropriate balance of residential and commercial development as the town continues to grow.

“If we do it right, we’ll be able to grow the commercial base, and we’ll be able to increase the options available for residential housing without losing any of the quality aspects of the community we enjoy,” he said. “That’s what I think we all need to aim to do.”

The supervisor said that even as residents urge the town to make sure commercial development is placed in the right areas, residential development is growing more controversial. There is a resurgence in housing development as the economy slowly rebounds from the recession, with some residents looking down on building more apartments or townhomes.

“I think when we build that type of housing, we need to make sure it’s in an appropriate area, and we need to make sure it’s something that benefits the community and enhances it,” said Clarkson.

One of the most controversial projects as of late has been Wemple Corners, which was eventually sent back to developers after concerns were raised by the town board and planning staff following several public meetings. Clarkson said the project was too large, there weren’t enough non-ownership properties and there were design issues. The project will be coming back before the town, but town officials plan on reviewing the zoning laws going forward with future projects.

Clarkson said he plans to propose an open space program in February with input from volunteers.

“We have been talking about this for a decade in this town, and I think the vast majority of people want us to be able to preserve rural views and residential areas,” said Clarkson. “You cannot preserve them all.”

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