Highland residents comment on ridgeline development

By TOM KANE

ELDRED, NY — The Highland Town Board heard supportive and opposing voices when proposed model ridgeline zoning provisions were presented at a November 7 public hearing. The new law was designed to control development along the town’s ridges above the Upper Delaware River.

Two years of discussion and meetings with residents and officials from Highland as well as the towns of Tusten, Lumberland and Shohola Township, PA were held over the past two years as the proposed new law took shape.

Highland Planning Board Chairman Charles Gutekunst said his board thinks the law is “too vague and unworkable as it stands.” Gutekunst said: “We would like an opportunity to go over this legislation with its drafters to work out a solution. There are no references to metes and bounds when talking about the overlay district that would be established by this ordinance. The delineation of the areas that would be affected is too vague.”

Attorney Richard Stoloff said the overlay segment that would be created by the law is too restrictive. Stoloff was representing developers of Highland Estates, where a section of ridgeline forest which is visible from the river was recently cut down for the construction of a new home.

“My client wants to preserve the visual impact of development on the ridge since it is a real selling point to potential buyers,” Stoloff said. “We need to have more conversations with those who are drafting the law to come up with some practical solutions.”

Jules Robinson, the former owner of a canoe livery on the river in Highland, spoke with emotion and went over the history of the development of the 1978 River Management Plan, whose purpose is to ensure the preservation of the river corridor.

“If the existing house on the ridge which was put up by these folks [Highland Estates] is typical of what they intend to do, then it will be an affront to the legislation laid down by the plan,” Robinson said.

Robinson said that when he ran his canoe livery, his customers expressed their appreciation for the pristine quality of the river and its ridgelines.

“These tourists contribute millions of dollars to our local economy,” Robinson said. “This trend of development, if uncontrolled, would destroy the basic economy of the entire river valley area.”

Robinson called for a moratorium on development of the ridge until a reasonable law could be enacted.

Highland Supervisor Allan Schadt did not comment on Robinson’s suggestion but assured the audience that the board was not going to make a decision any time soon. More public hearings will be scheduled in the near future.