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Comprehensive plans, zoning and the proposed drug rehab

August 6, 2014

The comprehensive plan for the Town of Tusten was adopted in 2007. A vision statement created for the plan at a community outreach event says, “We see our community growing in a balanced, diverse manner that protects its rural character by building on our strengths and historic roots.”

The plan has several specific references to the vacant Narrowsburg school building, one of which is, “The survey results point to numerous concerns about the school building being closed and the desire to have it reopened in some capacity… Numerous ideas have been discussed about the future of this space and the desire to see the school building be used for education, utilized in such a way as to enhance services and/or shopping, or converted to a senior residence or facility.”

Another entry says, “The Narrowsburg school campus would make an excellent senior housing and facilities unit. With some innovative thinking and a little effort, the school could become a wonderful asset to the aged residents of Tusten. A task force should be set up with members from the town and the school district to research the feasibility of converting the school for another use, with senior facilities as one of the choices.”

A group of residents, most of whom live close to the school, have now filed a lawsuit against the school board, claiming the board, in agreeing to sell the school to a buyer who wants to open a rehab center in it, erred in several ways, including selling the building for a use that is prohibited by local zoning.

The folks from the newly formed citizens group Narrowsburg Organized for Responsible School Usage (NORSU) have similarly argued that the plan for the Narrowsburg School that was put forward by the Weidens, which had to do with creating a community center, is more in line with the town’s comprehensive plan than the drug rehab plan. Certainly that case can be made.

It’s very early in the process, and no one yet can say with certainty how the court will rule in this case, but even if the court sides with the school board in this case, the sale could be halted by other legal actions down the line.

Residents have criticized the school board for approving the sale of the school for a purpose that is not allowed by town’s zoning and does not fit in nicely with the town’s comprehensive plan. But though the Buto plan is clearly not permitted by the town’s current zoning law, it could go forward if the town’s zoning board of appeals approves a use variance for Buto, and the planning board then approves the necessary permits. Town officials have advised Buto of this process.