Changes are blowing in the wind in the Town of Benton

Gwen Chamberlain

With subdivision regulations a project that’s waiting in the wings, the Barrington Town Planning Board is still working on a town code for steep slope development.

But during a discussion at last week’s Barrington town board meeting, it appeared that some town board members are concerned that the steep slope regulations could be used as a way to restrict subdivision or other development.

The back-and-forth between the boards began after planning board members Marilyn Scharf and

Tara Farnan explained that a portion of a complicated steep slope development review process that includes having members of the planning board visit construction sites.

During the discussion, councilman Ken Christensen Jr. said he thought the process might be a “One-two punch against subdivision. I’m not sure I’d agree with it.”

Tara Farnan explained Rick Ayers, from Yates County Soil & Water Conservation and Yates County Planner Shawna Bonshak recommended the planning board be involved in the review process.

“We thought the more eyes that look over a project, the better,” she said, adding, “We want to make it so there’s another tool available to the Code Enforcement Officer when people are not thinking about erosion control in the course of their construction.”

“If this is about protection, that’s one thing. If it’s about control, that’s another,” responded Christensen.

The proposed steep slope law, based on a similar law in place in the town of Jerusalem, would be applied to projects planned on slopes of 15 percent or more.

During the discussion, Code Enforcement Officer Gary Boardman said he feels the law is too restrictive, that most land in Barrington includes slopes at 15 percent. He said that means every project that comes to the town will be subject to a 30 to 60 day delay for the reviews.

Supervisor Eileen Farnan recommended the planning board take another look at the proposal and make appropriate changes. “I would rather go to a public hearing with something that we’re all going to support,” she said.

Councilman Nate Olney said he trusts Boardman’s judgement, but if the planning board wants to go on site and make a determination, he feels the Yates County Soil and Water officials should also be involved to protect the town.

Eileen Farnan said she would like to see the Soil & Water officials involved as well.

Scharf said, “We want to give the town the protection. I don’t care who makes the decision, just as long as something is done.”

The planning board will take the proposed law back to another meeting for further discussion.

Other business discussed by the town board on Oct. 14 included:

• EMPIRE CONNECTOR PIPELINE: The board unanimously agreed to use the $41,963 community fund annual payment from National Fuel for construction of the town’s salt mixing barn. After the barn is built, the town will be reimbursed by the state. Then, the payment amount will be put into the town’s general fund.

• USE OF TOWN HALL: The board discussed the use of the town hall as a community center. Councilman Freeman Freeman distributed copies of a handbook from another municipality as an example Barrington could use.

• SNOW & ICE AGREEMENT: The board uananimously agreed to the annual snow and ice control agreement with Yates County.

• BUDGET: The board will begin working on the 2010 budget Oct. 22.