BETHLEHEM — The Planning Board presented the Town Board with a draft Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan in late November, taking the next steps in a voluntary, state-supported planning process to guide decisions regarding land use, economic development, population growth and environmental conservation along the 10-mile Hudson River waterfront in Bethlehem.
The planning process built on work that began in 2007, when the town prepared an earlier draft. An updated plan was recommended in the 2014 Comprehensive Plan Assessment Committee report, and the subsequent process was guided by a 16-member Local Waterfront Revitalization Advisory Group (LWRAG), led by Director of the Planning Department Robert Leslie, with support from the New York State Department of State, MJ Engineering and PLACE Alliance.
Since the first public meeting in October of 2016, the LWRAG has met ten times to discuss the needs, issues, and opportunities of the proposed Waterfront Revitalization Area, which includes the area bounded by the NYS Thruway, Hudson River, and the northern and southern Town boundary. The group has hosted three public information meetings and given the public multiple opportunities to provide feedback. The result is a map of existing conditions, identification of needs and opportunities, a list of proposed projects, and, in many cases, a roadmap for implementation.
In the proposed draft plan, identified goals include: encouraging new economic activity; improving public access; increasing recreational use of the Hudson River; the protection and restoration of natural resources; evaluation of potentially changing water levels; and attention to climate change and sustainability.
In service to those goals, proposed projects include:
- Reducing speed limits and enhancing pedestrian and bicyclist safety along the NYS Route 144 / River Road corridor;
- Reducing odors from the wastewater treatment plant;
- Determining the best areas to implement “green infrastructure;”
- Developing a heritage and nature tourism strategy;
- Development of a riverfront trail connecting key riverfront destinations;
- Improving pedestrian and bicycle connections to the LWRP and proposed trail;
- Implementation of the town’s open space plan;
- Addition of gateways to waterfront areas, utilizing signage, landscaping, informational kiosks, etc.;
- Conducting a market analysis for the area; and
- 15 other proposals (which can be reviewed, in their entirety at this link )
The purpose of the draft plan is to “guide the future of Bethlehem’s waterfront area by creating a balance between future development and the protection of the unique environment and heritage of the Hudson riverfront.” The Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan (LWRP) will serve as a guide for decision making when evaluating potential policies, programs and projects within the Waterfront Revitalization Area (WRA) and, as it is recognized under state and federal law, can help attract grant and aid funding.
According to Leslie, implementation of the various proposals in the LWRP will take place over time, as other variables fall into place. But he noted that the town already has tools, policies and laws in place to implement many aspects, such as zoning, parkland reservation and flood damage protection. He did point out that the town will need to adopt a “Local Consistency Law,” which “identifies the process by which the Town evaluates any applicable action within the WRA for consistency with the LWRP,” prior to approval by the Secretary of State.
Prior to submitting the draft LWRP to NYSDOS, the LWRP, Planning Department and MJ Consulting will review the summarized input from the public and Town Board members and refine the plan. Another public workshop is also expected to be held at a date that has yet to be decided.
More information is available at http://www.townofbethlehem.org/746/Local-Waterfront-Revitalization-Advisory and residents can email comments to [email protected]