Above: Video from the Shandaken town board meeting on Monday, March 4. A brief discussion of the scenic byway project and a vote on the resolution begins around 21:00. For more video of this and other town meetings, see the Town of Shandaken's YouTube page.
A plan to get a 50-mile stretch of Route 28 designated by New York State authorities as a scenic byway got a green light in Shandaken this week, after months of debate and indecision on the project.
At their regular meeting on Monday, March 4, town board members voted 3-2 in favor of a resolution supporting the Central Catskills Collaborative's scenic byway plan.
For over a year, town officials and residents have been debating whether to sign off on the Route 28 project. Opponents claim that a scenic byway designation would impose new land use regulations on property owners. Advocates counter that although scenic byways impose limits on road signage, the byway plan would not impose any new regulations beyond those that already apply within Catskill Park.
Voting against the resolution were Vincent Bernstein and Alfie Higley Jr. In a brief comment, Bernstein told the board that he still had concerns about the project's potential impact on home rule in the town. Higley did not comment on the resolution.
Higley has a personal interest in regulations along Route 28: Along with his father Al Higley, he runs Hanover Farms, a farmstand on Route 28 that is larger than town zoning allows, and that is currently embroiled in a legal dispute with the Town of Shandaken over their enforcement of local zoning.
In the resolution (embedded below), the town board agrees not to issue building permits for any new off-premise advertising signs along Route 28.
The Central Catskills Collaborative, a group of appointed representatives from seven towns and villages along Route 28, has been working on the Route 28 scenic byway project since 2008. The group hopes that if Route 28 gains state status as a scenic byway, the region will benefit from grant funding, more signage aimed at drivers along Route 28, and increased marketing to tourists.
Of the seven towns and villages along Route 28, only one has not yet voted on the scenic byway plan: Olive, whose town board plans to take up the issue at their next meeting on Tuesday, March 12.
Hurley, the easternmost town in the Central Catskills Collaborative, voted to withdraw from the byway project in June of 2012, citing similar objections to those raised in Shandaken. The towns of Middletown and Andes, and the Middletown villages of Margaretville and Fleischmanns, have all voted in favor of the project.
Correction, 3/10/2013: An earlier draft of this story stated that project supporters sought "federal and state" scenic byway status for Route 28. At this time, the Central Catskills Collaborative is seeking only state scenic byway status, not national. Also, we omitted the word "off-premise" from a description of the town board's agreement not to issue building permits for advertising signs along Route 28. We apologize for the errors.