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July 27, 2016
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New Chapin development lauded; emergency services a concern

About 50 people turned out to a public hearing for a new development in The Chapin Estate; unlike the previous ones created in the Town of Bethel, this one would be located in the Town of Lumberland.

Of the approximately 15 members of the public who spoke, nearly all were effusive in their praise of the previous Chapin projects created by developer Steve Dubrovsky. Many of the speakers noted that the developments significantly boosted the tax base in Bethel and brought people who spend money at town businesses; and because the developed properties are mostly weekend homes or are occupied by people without children, there is no additional burden on the school district.

Builder Mike Watkins said he had built 26 homes in The Chapin Estate, was in the midst of building four now, and had employed hundreds of people and indirectly added jobs to many local businesses.

Michelle Resnick, marketing director of the Sullivan County Partnership for Economic Development, said, “Currently, the homes in The Chapin Estate are paying anywhere between $30,000 and $70,000 in annual real estate taxes. I know it’s hard to imagine, but this new tax base is created at no additional cost to the town, county or school district. The roads are completely maintained and paid for by the homeowners association. Currently, this 248-acre parcel yields a total of approximately $3,500 in total annual taxes. The proposed 43-lot subdivision would yield a conservative estimate of nearly $1.3 million in taxes.”

Larysa Dyrszka, a retired pediatrician who has been active in the battle against gas drilling, said she was very pleased with living in the gated community and said that access for people who come and go to her house had never been an issue.
The subdivision will be created in Lumberland, but the two entrances would be located in the Town of Bethel.

Dan Sturm, the Bethel supervisor, said he was not at all concerned about the impact on Bethel roads. He added that the project would be good for both towns in that it would attract second-home owners, which are key to economic growth in both communities.

Darrell Supak, senior vice president of Granite & Associates, Inc., also emphasized that the development would attract second-home owners, and he said he spoke for his “boss” Alan Gerry. Granite & Associates, Inc. is a venture capital firm founded by Alan Gerry, who is also the founder of Bethel Woods Center for the Arts.

Despite all the praise, there was one area of concern: the project will be located at the end of a six-mile dead-end road, which will present a challenge to emergency service providers. Martin Miller, who was serving as the planning board attorney, said that, despite all of the positive economic impacts, a six-mile dead-end road was a formidable obstacle to overcome.

Terresa Bakner, the attorney for the developer, said that the developer had taken many steps to mitigate that concern, including adopting three cul-de-sacs into the plan, where emergency vehicles could turn around; building the road with wider shoulders than necessary; and creating a pond from which water could be drawn to fight possible forest fires.

The planning board voted in favor of granting approval for the project to move forward, with the condition that the Town of Lumberland sign contracts with fire and ambulance services from the Town of Bethel as it would not be practical for Lumberland emergency service providers to serve the development.

It was noted during the meeting that there was a recent proposed zoning element that would have mandated conservation subdivisions in all subdivisions of five lots or more. Had that zoning element remained as it was instead of being changed from “mandated” to “suggested,” the Chapin project could not have been developed as planned, as the developer would have been required to set aside land as open space.

The campaign to change the conservation subdivision element from mandatory to optional was publicly spearheaded by builder Charles Petersheim and others, but Dubrovsky also clearly benefited from the change.