[dropcap color=”#888″ type=”square”]B[/dropcap]ETHLEHEM – On May 11, the Bethlehem Town Board authorized Supervisor John Clarkson to execute a $75,000 agreement with an engineering and land surveying consulting firm, for which the town will match $37,500 in funding received from the New York State Department of State (NYSDOS) Division of Coastal Resources—awarded through Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2015 Regional Economic Development Council competition—for an Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) waterfront revitalization grant to update the Bethlehem Local Waterfront Revitalization Program (LWRP).
In June of 2013, the town’s Comprehensive Plan
Assessment Committee reported to the town board and recommended that the existing LWRP, first drafted in 2007, be updated and revised to include additional goals, including: addressing climate change; evaluating rising water levels in relation to proposed development areas and town infrastructure; preserving farmland; improving bicycle access; and promoting a “Gateway vision” for the Hudson River Corridor. The update will retain key goals of the original LWRP, including: encouraging new economic activity; the improvement of public access and recreational use of the river; the preservation of historic resources; and the protection and restoration of natural resources.
According to the contract signed in April, M.J. Engineering and Land Surveying, P.C, will complete a series of tasks, beginning with a project meeting later this month, during which the firm will meet with town officials and members of the Local Waterfront Revitalization Advisory Group, a committee of 12 that serves as an advisory body. By the end of June, M.J. Engineering should have developed an approved community outreach plan identifying key stakeholders, coordinating outreach across multiple platforms and scheduling no less than four public meetings.
Prior to the first public meeting, the existing waterfront revitalization area will be reviewed for potential boundary amendments and an inventory will be done to assess the existing natural and built resources within the revitalization area, including surface waters and underwater lands. The surveyor will be expected to provide an analysis of waterfront issues, opportunities, and constraints to development, as well as resource protection needs and a reasonable assessment of the vulnerable resources and potential risks associated with climate change. During this phase, recommendations and strategies of local and regional plans, including the strategies developed by the Capital District Regional Economic Development Council for economic growth and development in the region, will be taken under consideration.
The first public information meeting is expected to be held in late October regarding issues and opportunities that have been identified and to “solicit public input regarding the completeness and accuracy” of the prepared analysis. M.J. Engineering will then update and refine any necessary revitalization policies to reflect the updated assessment, something they will continue to do as the project evolves, before developing a map describing proposed land uses and projects. According to section IV of the contract, projects may include (but are not limited to): capital improvement or construction projects necessary to maintain or improve riverfront uses or conditions; special studies, plans, design projects, or research necessary to advance or refine components of the LWRP; projects to redevelop underused or deteriorated areas and sites; projects to upgrade or relocate critical facilities so that essential community services are secure and/or out of hazardous areas; and projects to enhance or restore wetlands and habitats.
The consulting firm, chosen from three candidates by an interview team in April, is also expected to update the Henry Hudson Park Master Plan and provide recommendations for addressing issues such as, but not limited to: improving the deteriorating shoreline as guided by the Henry Hudson Shoreline Stabilization Study; connecting the park to other areas of the town and the region (such as the Hudson River Valley Greenway Trail System, Albany County Helderberg Hudson Rail Trail, Mo-He-ConNuck Nature Preserve, Scenic Hudson Lands at the southern boundary of the waterfront, etc.); enhancing and improving active and passive recreation facilities; expanding the park boundaries (if desired); and projects to promote the new kayak/small boat launch.
A final draft of the amended LWRP should be complete by the end of May 2017 and will need to be submitted to NYSDOS for approval. If revisions are required, M.J. will make the necessary changes and resubmit the document. All comments and requested revisions must be addressed to the satisfaction of NYSDOS prior to opening a 60-day review period. Once the draft is accepted by NYSDOS, the town will formally accept it as complete and ready for public review.
The Local Waterfront Revitalization Advisory Group, chaired by the town’s Director of Economic Development and Planning meets, as necessary, in Room 101 of Town Hall on Delaware Avenue. The next meeting will take place on Tuesday, June 16, at 3 p.m.
More information can be found on the town website at http://www.townofbethlehem.org/746/Local-Waterfront-Revitalization-Advisory or by calling the Bethlehem Department of Economic Planning and Development at 518-439-4955, ext. 1157.
– Ali Hibbs