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River zoning clash looms

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NARROWSBURG, NY — Going into a scheduled public hearing on March 12, it appeared that the Upper Delaware Council (UDC) and the Town of Highland remained at loggerheads regarding the town’s new draft zoning law’s “substantial conformance” to the Land and Water Use Guidelines (LWUG). The guidelines provide resource oversight for the inter-governmentally-managed federal river park.

At the March 7 UDC meeting, a letter, dated March 1, from the council’s Project Review Committee to Highland Supervisor Jeff Haas was read, stating, “if the town approves the current draft zoning law, the town will be found out of substantial conformance…” with the guidelines. The letter urged that “planning consultants and participating town officials work directly with UDC… and provide guidance before your next hearing.”

A member town or township found out of compliance would be required to submit all land-use decisions in the river corridor to the National Park Service. No UDC member town, once in compliance, has ever subsequently lost it.

The letter followed a 16-page compliance review from February 26 which determined that a January 2019 zoning draft was out of compliance in 14 of 22 objectives.

Highland has been in substantial compliance since May of 1990. Beginning a zoning update several years ago, the town submitted an earlier, apparently more acceptable 174-page draft for UDC review in 2017. UDC reviewers then posed four questions, but the town did not respond since the draft was subsequently discarded after it was unfavorably received at a public hearing.

TRR photo by David Hulse
Sullivan County planner Heather Jacksy won the Upper Delaware Council’s (UDC) consideration of the county’s application to the Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund, through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, for improvements to the Highland River Access near Cedar Rapids. UDC will vote on a letter of support at their April 4 meeting.  

The 95-page January 2019 zoning draft was the result of an extensive re-write. The current UDC review was critical of the town’s removal of the proposed Highland River Overlay District (HROD) which appeared in the 2017 draft. “It is recommended that the 2019 draft zoning law reinstate the HROD in order to assist many of the 22 aforementioned objectives which are currently non-conforming.”


The town’s consultant, the Laberge Group, noted that three differing numbers of non-conformities appeared in three separate February communications from UDC.

Haas has rejected the review and said it was confused. “We didn’t change any of the zoning districts. We never had an overlay district, and we’ve been in compliance for 28 years.”

In a 10-page point-by-point response to the February 26 review, the consultants wrote, “In conference with the town, Laberge Group maintains that the Town of Highland’s proposed zoning law is in greater conformance with LWUG Objectives than the town’s current law in effect, and, in many cases, regulations have been strengthened to be more restrictive than guidelines promoted by the UDC.

On March 11, the town posted an edited 114-page version of the zoning draft, along with a table of allowable and prohibited uses in the four districts and a table of area and bulk regulations, which are referenced in the draft law but do not appear in the draft.

In other business at the 50-minute meeting, the UDC approved a substantial conformance review for an amendment of the Damascus Township Floodplain Ordinance, amended its fiscal-year 2019 budget to comply with required funding changes prompted after the expiration of the last 2018 Continuing Resolution, heard executive director Laurie Ramie announce that applications for river shoreline cleanup grants will be accepted through April 19 and noted that tickets for UDC’s annual awards banquet on April 26 at the Central House in Beach Lake are available.

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