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December 08, 2016
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Liberty votes in ‘casino’ zoning, gets grant

The final regular board meeting of 2013 was a quick but meaningful one for the Town of Liberty.

The board adopted a local law amending the zoning law to define “Destination Resort” and revise the Planned Unit Development provision (PUD) of the code.

Supervisor Charlie Barbuti explained that without the change, the town had no zone where casinos were specifically permitted. Before 2011, when the zoning was changed, the Resort Hotel Zone (RH) did permit casinos. In 2011, the RH districts were changed to residential, and “the zoning did not permit destination resorts and specifically excluded casino gambling,” said Barbuti.

“When the PUD language was written in 1987, we had resort hotel districts—Grossingers, the Paramount and the Stevensville were all in RH districts, and casinos were permitted because they were hotels. But in 2011 the RH districts were pulled. There was not a single RH in the whole town of Liberty. Now we’ve also reinstituted an RH zone at the Stevensville Hotel, so if they want to sell it as a hotel, they can.”

The PUD is a special “drop-in” unit that is not currently on the town map, but can be requested by a developer. “You can apply to the town board,” said Barbuti, “if you have a good idea… something that’s good for the town; the board has the ability to create this PUD and put it wherever it seems to make good sense.”

A New York City-based company called Muss Development has partnered with Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut and proposed a gambling resort at the former Grossinger’s Resort in Liberty.

In other news, Barbuti announced that the town had received a $1.2 million grant to be used for the Loomis Sewer District Phase II.

One of only four grants awarded from the state in Sullivan County through the consolidated funding application process initiated by Governor Andrew Cuomo, it is also the largest. Barbuti reported that the town has received three major grants in as many years. “It’s a big deal and a real team effort,” he said.

The Loomis Sewer District was cited and fined by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) for too much ammonia in the effluent. “The old plant has no capability of making improvements,” said Barbuti. “The standards have changed in the 30 years since the facility was built.” But the citation had a good side to it, since additional points on the grant application were awarded based on the sewer district being under a consent order by the DEC.

“We were fined $30,000 by the DEC for violating the water standards. We negotiated that down to $15,000, agreeing that we would fix it,” reported Barbuti.

The sewer district serves only 150 residents who would have been responsible for the cost of the upgrade, estimated at $1.6 million. Because the town was able to secure the Community Development Block Grant through New York State, the cost of the upgrade will now be funded by grants rather than coming from the residents’ pockets.

Reporting on other business, Barbuti announced that since the state issued the 2% tax cap in 2011, the Town of Liberty has never gone over it. “We’ve been under it by hundreds of thousands of dollars, and we never had to pass a rule to exceed the cap because we are fiscally responsible for bringing in budgets under the 2% limit. This year we were closer because it’s not 2%. It’s 1.6% this year. They told us 2% or the cost of living, whichever is less,” said Barbuti. “This year it’s less.”

The final Town of Liberty board meeting for 2013, to wrap up financial matters and to say goodbye to Maurice Gerry, retiring after 20 years as a Town of Liberty councilman, will be on Friday, December 27 at 4 p.m. at the town hall.

“It’s been an honor and a privilege for me,” said a tearful Gerry, “and especially thanks to the voters for 20 years. I’m very grateful for that. I hope that I’ve done some good. Thank you very much.”