Beautification and Quality of Life Discussed at Clarkstown Board Workshop

BY VINNY MURPHY

With no police matters on the agenda, the focus of Clarkstown’s Town Board Workshop Tuesday, July 31 quickly turned to town beautification and quality of life.

After a brief introduction by Town Planner Jose Simoes, Charles Maneri, community Character and Design Committee chairman, presented three projects focused on making Clarkstown “an attractive place to live and conduct business.”

The first, “Residential Pride of Clarkstown” would be an annual competition modeled after the current “Pride of Clarkstown” competition, and would award single- or multiple-family homes for outstanding architectural, landscape and “green” improvements. There would also be a conscious effort to highlight properties in the town’s numerous hamlets. The winners would receive a certificate signed by the Town Supervisor, a photo on the Town’s website and a plaque.

Even with some concerns about ensuring architectural diversity amongst the winners, the presentation was well received by the board. Maneri acknowledge that the program would need some refining prior to implementation and before moving on also pointed out that this program “may limit property violations in the future.”

Next, Maneri presented a new “Adopt-A-Bus Shelter” program. Also based on an existing program, namely “Adopt-A-Spot”,  “Adopt-A-Bus Shelter” would offer local businesses and organizations to take on maintenance responsibilities for one bus shelter and in return would have their sponsorship publicly recognized. These responsibilities would include cleaning glass, removing litter inside and outside of the shelter, power washing the structure twice a year and providing some minor landscaping if appropriate.

Though beautification was the focus, it was also mentioned that according to estimates, this program has the potential to save the town over $13,000 in maintenance costs per year. Maneri hopes the program will encourage “safe, accessible and clean bus shelters” and that the commitment of the businesses and organizations would serve to “build community pride.”

Near the end of the presentation, Councilman Frank Borelli inquired how the program intended to promote itself amongst local businesses. Maneri and Simoes explained that they intended to use some of the connections already established with the “Adopt-A-Spot” program, and that they would also target businesses near the bus stops, as they may be more likely to support such a program.

Councilwoman Stephanie Hausner expressed some concern over procedures to remove neglectful businesses and organizations from the program. Since this program would be based on “Adopt-A-Spot,” Town Attorney Amy Mele pointed out that past neglectful adopters were blocked from renewing their agreements once they expired.

The third presentation concerned implementing “Commercial Design Standards and Guidelines” for the town. As explained in the Cost Benefit Analysis presented to the board, this project serves to provide “standards and guidelines to meet the Town’s expectations with regard to future development and redevelopment of commercial properties.” These standards concern both the aesthetic and functionality of the structures, and amongst other goals, seek to unify both the structure and the site as one.

Much of this program was based on standards already in place around the town, however, this program would cover areas that lack these guidelines. Maneri admitted that this program “may need tweaking” before implementation, as many of the specifics were yet addressed. As the presentation wrapped up, Councilman George Hoehmann complimented the committee and remarked that it was “great to see these things come forward.”

There were few public concerns voiced on these programs.

Steve Levine of Congers commented that shifting former government responsibilities to the private sector was a “slippery slope.” He was assured that the “Adopt-A-Bus Shelter” program would be entirely voluntary and that it was not a shift towards privatization.

Some citizens also expressed concern over the jurisdiction in charge of the Bus Shelters. Supervisor Alex Gromack clarified that while the county provided the shelters themselves, it was indeed the town’s responsibility to maintain them. Levine also commented on the “Commercial Design Standards and Guidelines,” fearing that the guidelines may “create a standard so high or so expensive” that a new business may have difficulty complying. Maneri addressed this, once again citing that the program was not ready for implementation and that guidelines can indeed be adjusted.