Log in Subscribe

Bethel residents seek more access

by Jacqueline Herman
Posted 3/14/23

WHITE LAKE – Several members of the public attended Wednesday’s Bethel Town Board meeting to voice concerns and seek solutions to “barriers to citizen participation” in …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Bethel residents seek more access


WHITE LAKE – Several members of the public attended Wednesday’s Bethel Town Board meeting to voice concerns and seek solutions to “barriers to citizen participation” in government, through a petition that already has almost 1,200 signatures. 

Various speakers asserted the right for individuals to access public documents, minutes, as well as planning and zoning board meetings, online. The town board meetings are already accessible through Zoom.

The petition began initially in December 2021 over public concern about a proposed development of homes and campsites near Smallwood. Eventually the developers went elsewhere. Now it has resurged partially due to concern about a development at the site of the White Lake Mansion nearby.

Cited was the fact that Bethel is the fifth most populous town in Sullivan County but is the only one of that group without an online system in place to attend and participate in planning and zoning board meetings.

Jim Torme, a computer specialist and business owner, offered his services and expertise in the implementation of such an online system free of charge. 

Also asserted was the need to fund at least one full-time employee in the Building Department to more efficiently process applications and inspections, and for the public to be able to view these and participate in planning. There are only three part-time employees there now. Supervisor Dan Sturm told the Democrat that the plan is to hire one new part or full time employee in that department.

Also requested is the “prompt” posting of minutes prior to the next meeting(s). It was noted that there are many people who may want to attend these meetings in-person, but may not be able to, because of other responsibilities, illnesses, or weather. 

Smallwood resident Jonathan Hyman stated, “Access to government is what we are asking. If (the reply is) no, then tell us why.”

Gail Rubenfeld asserted, “Why do we even have to discuss it? We should be able to view what’s going on and the most important decisions that take place.”

Wendy Brown, a member of the Zoning Board (ZB), said she was just made aware of the petition and supported it. She added that she will  also share it at the ZB’s next meeting.

Members of the Town Board agreed to accept the petition for review, consideration, and further discussion.

Other business

Last Wednesday’s meeting began with a formal recap of departments’ expenses and revenues. First was approval of a motion to pay all current bills as stated by the bookkeeping department. Revenue was up 6.6% and even though expenses were up by $1,058, this only represented less than a 2.2% increase. 15.9% of the budget has been spent as of the meeting date, whereas last year at this date, the figure was 17.3%. 

It was stated that all departments are running smoothly and Councilwoman Lillian Hendrickson mentioned the diligence of staff at the transfer station and sewage department to maintain cleanliness. She also invited local businesses to attend the Bethel Business Association meeting March 15, 6-8 p.m. at the Local Table & Tap in Kauneonga Lake. Individuals will make their own menu selections.

Because of a decrease in snowfall amounts this year and related costs, the Highway Department has been spending less on gas, equipment and payroll. The Town Clerk stated that revenue so far this year is $3,073, derived mainly from the transfer station. 

She submitted a request to attend a NYS Conference of Town Clerks, which was approved, as the cost has already been allocated in the budget. A bid was accepted for demolition of an unsafe structure at 3 Thompson Place by the Reed Co., for $4,875, the lower of two bids submitted.

The Bethel Woods Traffic Management Plan was approved after Lauren Jahoda, the Director of Operations, explained how, in coordination with the White Lake and Kauneonga Lake fire departments, protocols to manage emergencies and the influx of traffic will be implemented. 

These include the reporting of sales, and the placing of VMS Boards at the intersections of Happy Avenue and West Shore Road; Happy Avenue and 17B; and Hurd Road and West Shore Road. There will be real time texting to stay in touch with the fire departments and three new cameras will view and monitor traffic. 

The road was closed during the Harvest Festival in the last five years but there are no road closures during concerts, the Spartan Race, and the August event of Peace, Love, and Lights. The traffic plan was approved.

A request for a noise permit on Yasgur Rd was approved with mechanisms in place since June 2022 to enforce a maximum noise level of 70 decibels from the property line, and which states that speakers should be turned inward. The hours of the permit will be limited to events on Sat. and Sun. during the season of May 12- October 16, to 2 p.m.-midnight; and for the three day festival weekend August 10-13, to Noon -Midnight. There have been many public complaints and if there are any more problems, there will be a public hearing to discuss and possibly amend or revoke the permit.

The agenda included a discussion of public requests for the regulation of short term rentals, including permits and fees.  

Since neighbors and other residents have complained about noise, loud music, litter, and late night parties that affect their quality of life, a remedy is being sought. A “Gold Standard” has been found in the wording of laws regulating and ensuring safety of short term rentals in the town of Canadice, NY. 

Along with laws enforced in 5-6 other towns that Supervisor Dan Sturm visited and viewed, it will serve as a role model for Bethel. There was a resolution to add a chapter to the town code by adopting Law 1-2023 to allow a permanent system of regulation.

A public hearing to review and comment on the short-term rental proposal was scheduled for April 26 at 7:45 p.m. in the meeting room at the Duggan School in White Lake.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here