“We have been working on this two, two and a half years,” said Pulsifer. “And of the 23 items, most are just housekeeping.”
But a few are not minor changes, such as the signage changes, business use changes, and the revamping of the existing zoning sidewalk ordinance. That requirement, said Pulsifer, forced new businesses to construct a sidewalk 30 feet from the right of way, resulting in, essentially, sidewalks to nowhere.
“We were forcing commercial developers to give a 30-foot easement of property,” said Pulsifer of the sidewalk requirement. “If you need any examples of how that does not work, just look across the street [from the town hall,] and you’ll see a sidewalk that goes nowhere.”
If approved, the sidewalk ordinance would put sidewalks back on the public right of way, but it does not address the issue of what will happen to the existing sidewalks 30’ off the roadway.
“Practically and legally it should go on the public right of way,” said Pulsifer. “Plus we will retain a 15-foot easement that we will need for sewer, water and utilities.”
Continuing, Pulsifer said some of the proposed changes, such as the zoning use revisions, are a matter of smart business decisions for the town.
“I believe the previous board did too much micro-managing of small businesses on Route 50 and 9,” said Pulsifer of some of the changes made in the zoning laws since the departure of former town supervisor Roy McDonald. “They took business uses out and we’re putting them back.”
Those “tweaks” over time to the zoning law, he explained, has resulted in some business uses being shut out where they were formerly allowed, forced commercial developers to adhere to regulations that were not necessary, and slowed commercial growth rather than spur it on.
He points to town resident Rocco Levo, a Route 50 property owner who tried unsuccessfully a couple of years ago to open a mini-storage business and town resident Kelly Goodspeed, a part owner in Winslow’s who wanted an additional business on Route 9.
“Rocco wanted a mini-storage and the board took it out and made it impossible for him to open the business,” said Pulsifer. “And where the new [Adirondack Community College] campus is, I don’t see why an ice cream shop can’t go there.”
Both Levo and Goodspeed were contacted by the committee for their opinions on the zoning changes.
At November’s board meeting, resident Mike Worth challenged Pulsifer’s lack of including more residents without business interests in the rezoning law process.
“My concern with the committee was people with a business interest were included while 75 percent of the places are residential,” said Worth, adding that he felt “left out,” of the decision making process.
Pulsifer denied he did not overlook the residents along those routes, oftentimes speaking over Worth and calling his concerns “factually wrong.”
“I just want them included,” said Worth.
As for Route 50 and 9, Pulsifer said they are “small business incubator corridors,” and need to be treated as such.
“We should be encouraging small businesses; those are where the jobs are,” said Pulsifer. “After Roy McDonald left, [the former board] forgot what was important and we’re just putting [the zoning law] back where it was.”
Referring to himself as “pro-business rights” and “pro-owner’s rights,” Pulsifer said the zoning changes also are designed to respect the residential properties along the two corridors.
“It is a legitimate concern,” said Pulsifer of Worth’s comments. “There are a lot of residential areas so it is built right into the code that each application will be treated on an application by application basis.”
He added that the planning board would be able to manage those issues as they arise. For example, if the signage is too close to a residence, they could require the business owner to dim the sign at night, restrict the frequency of the message change, and where the sign can be located.
“There can be certain restrictions such as the dimming of lights so there are no garish lights in people’s homes,” said Pulsifer. “And there is some concern about how bright they are, but a digital sign that is dimmed is no brighter than a street light. I am in favor of property rights as long as it is not harming its neighbor.”
Adding that there are no dimensional changes in the zoning changes for signage, Pulsifer said that the changes for allowing digital signs was more of a “clarification” for the Route 50 corridor.
He also said he did not foresee an onslaught of applications for the digital signs for most of the corridor.
“Some at Exit 15 may put it to use,” said Pulsifer, noting that businesses such as car lots and banks may opt for the LED signs, but that smaller businesses tend to stay with backlit signage. “I do not see anyone along Route 9 in a hurry for it.”
Wilton Supervisor Art Johnson said he hoped residents and business owners alike show up for the public hearing on the zoning changes next week.
“We want to hear from the residents,” said Johnson. “Nothing [about the zoning law change] is etched in stone. I hope they will come out and voice their opinion.”
Reiterating, Pulsifer said the changes were not really different, but a return to what Wilton had had in the past.
“We are returning to uses that had been successful for us in the past,” Pulsifer said.
The next Town of Wilton meeting will be Thursday, December 6 at 7:30 p.m. The public hearing for the zoning law changes will be at 7 p.m.