The goal of this newsletter is to share a bit of local news and shine a spotlight on the interesting things that are happening  in Hillsdale and nearby.

News from Town Hall
Housing Discussion

Brenda Adams of Habitat for Humanity and architect Dennis Wedlick led a discussion with the Hillsdale Housing Committee and guests on March 21. They presented Habitat's goals for Columbia Columbia County as well as recent projects, including one in Ancramdale.

The Housing Committee is continuing to investigate how Hillsdale can improve housing options for local working families in accordance  with Hillsdale's comprehensive plan and last year's needs assessment.

If land can be located (and hopefully donated) in Hillsdale, a Habitat project can provide a home for two to four local families.
HGS Home Chef hosted the conversation.

Columbia County Summer Youth Employment Program
Every summer Columbia County hires summer interns to work in county government departments.  Each Town Supervisor can nominate one student to participate in this program. A few details:
  • The program is available to Columbia County students who are between18 and 24 years old and who are in college or are starting college in the fall of 2019.
  • County summer youth jobs pay $12 per hour for up to 400 hours.
  • Participants must provide their own transportation and proof of a physical examination; in addition, participants must pass a drug test.
If you have someone to nominate, please contact me at 518-325-5073 x6 or email me at [email protected] before April 5.

Public Notice Local Law #1

Both the Zoning and Planning Boards recommended that we amend the Town's code definition of a "minor project."  Local Law #1 of 2019 amends this definition, with the goal of allowing short term, temporary, and small projects greater ease in securing a Special Permit.

Here's the official public notice:
Notice is hereby given that there has been presented to the Hillsdale Town Board proposed Local Law No. 1 of the year 2019.  Said Local Laws, if enacted, will change definition of minor project in the zoning code.

Therefore, the Hillsdale Town Board will hold a Public Hearing on said proposed Local Law on April 9, 2019 at 6:45 p.m. at the Hillsdale Town Hall, Route 23, Hillsdale, New York, at which time all interested persons will be heard.

Local Law #2 Draft

The Town is moving forward with a plan that requires short term rental properties to register and apply for a Special Permit. This link provides a preliminary draft of the law:  Local Law #2. It will require further review by the Board and a Public Hearing to be announced, and I will keep you posted here as this advances.

Volunteers Wanted for Hamlet and Historic Hillsdale Committees

The Town Board is seeking volunteers to join two important committees, the Historic Hillsdale Committee and the Hamlet Committee, both of which will report to the Town Board. If you'd like more information or want to join, please contact me at [email protected]. More information below.
Mission of the Historic Hillsdale Committee
The Historic Hillsdale Committee works to preserve the unique heritage of the town of Hillsdale, including public buildings, homes, historic sites, trails, landscapes and other features of the town in order to protect and preserve that which gives Hillsdale its character and enhances our quality of life.
Mission of the Hillsdale Hamlet Committee
The Hamlet Committee works to improve upon the small-community atmosphere and cohesiveness of the Hamlet of Hillsdale while fostering the development of a safe, attractive, accessible, and friendly town center in which Hamlet residents and businesses can flourish. The primary role of the committee is to help realize the vision set forth in the Hillsdale Comprehensive Plan.

More Work Planned for County Route 21 this Summer

The Town has been advised  that significant structural deterioration of an 80+ year-old large culvert under Route 21 near Pheasant Lane will close Route 21 this summer. The construction work will require full closure for several months.  I reached out to the County Engineer Dean Knox with a couple of questions. Here are his answers:

Why full closure? Can't one lane remain open?
The County's bridge replacement policy requires full closure during the typical 3-5 month bridge construction work period . Further, closing one half of a structure and replacing it, while keeping the other side open, then doing it again on the other side of the bridge, increases costs by more than 50%. You are basically building 2 bridges instead of one when doing it in 2 or 3 stages, thus the cost increases exponentially.

Can the work be delayed without risk?
Doing work around creeks classified by the NYSDEC as "trout" streams, such as the Agawamuck Creek, requires us to allow work only from June 15 thru September 30 of each year.  So we like to get in and get out quickly with our bridge projects, and do them in one construction season. We find that the communities around the County like us to complete our projects that way and are quite tolerant of these temporary off-site detour setups.

Is construction definitely this summer? When will it be completed?
Unfortunately, we have experienced some delays in acquiring the necessary ROW to perform the culvert replacement work. That means we will will have delays obtaining approvals from NYSDOT. If all goes as scheduled, we may be able to re-open County Route 21 to all traffic by the late fall of this year. However, there is also a chance that there may be a later-than-normal construction start date for this project which would mean that we may need to shut down the construction work for the winter and complete the project in the spring of 2020.

Plastic Bag Ban Under Consideration

The County Government Committee approved a resolution to support a statewide plastic bag ban for single-use bags at checkout counters. The resolution also calls for regulations to reduce the use of single-use paper bags and rules and regulations to alleviate potential stress on low-income consumers. 

The State is considering giving counties the option of adopting this ban and the Board of Supervisors will have to vote on the Government Committee's resolution.

Photo Below:  The March Town Board meeting began with a presentation by Pete Mercer, an engineer with Consolidated Communications Inc. (CCI). The company plans to compete with Spectrum/Time Warner for franchises to provide cable television service to Hillsdale and other towns in the Hudson Valley. Consolidated already provides internet and phone service in Hillsdale.
Consolidated Communications is one of the corporations that has been stringing fiber optic cable across the county in the statewide initiative to connect thousands of homes and businesses to long-awaited broadband internet service.
Now that most of the cable is installed, local municipalities are being asked to sign on for cable television services, too. The Town's broadband committee is working on a draft of a possible franchise agreement with CCI. This, too, will require a Public Hearing, to be announced.

A Note from the Town Assessor
During the month of March all preliminary Assessment Disclosure Notices were mailed and informal meetings were held. If you did not receive a notice, it may be lost or your address may need to be updated. Please email me for a copy of the notice. If you were not able to schedule a meeting, I'm available on a limited basis on Friday mornings and certainly by email. No decisions are made at any meetings, but all information that you supplied is reviewed and you will be notified by mail (around May 1) of the results.

The change in all property assessments are a result of one or more of the following:
  1. The town is required to conduct a systematic reassessment to maintain a uniformity of 100% of value, requiring a physical inspection and re-assessment of all properties.
  2. Land subdivisions, new construction or demolition by permit.
  3. Changes found by the data collector not reviewed by the building department through a permit and not contained in the town inventory. An example might be a new deck or generator. Both require a permit.
  4. The last reassessment was done 12 years ago.
Comparable home and land sales together with NYS Tax Department costs were used and all properties were visually inspected as required by NYS Real Property Tax Law. Land parcel classifications were standardized according to the Town of Hillsdale zoning rules. A separate lot next to a dwelling is still a separate, saleable lot, not an extension of a dwelling. While this may have resulted in a few dramatic changes upward, the changes may also be a result of a prior under-assessment from many years ago.  What this does achieve is a fair and equitable assessment roll.

Taxes are a zero sum game - what one property owner doesn't pay will be picked up by someone else. So, if some properties or one neighborhood is significantly under assessed, not only are they paying too little in taxes, but other property owners are subsidizing that taxpayer's or neighborhood's share of the bill. Taxes are determined by the levy or budget of each jurisdiction divided by the total taxable assessed value (per thousand) thus equaling the tax rate. Taxing jurisdictions determine the taxes to be raised. (The budgets of School, County, Town, Special Districts).

I want to thank all of the Hillsdale property owners who graciously allowed the Columbia County data collectors or me to enter their properties, take pictures and review or measure the structures found there. It is their patience and help in this arduous, long process that has helped the Town of Hillsdale achieve a fair and equitable town assessment roll once again.
Pamela Cook
New Faces at Town Hall
Ramona Bellamy, photo right, is Hillsdale's new Zoning Board of Appeals Secretary. She was employed for almost 10 years by the Berkshire Waldorf High School as their Office Manager. Prior to that position, she was an Administrative Assistant for the Great Barrington Rudolf Steiner School. 

Ramona currently holds an active New York State Realty License and recently became the Roeliff Jansen Community Library's Development Database Coordinator.

Mike Scheller, photo below, is Hillsdale's new wastewater treatment plant operator. Mike has worked for 19 years as Superintendent of Public Works in Philmont and has more than 30 years of experience in the field. 

Mike is retiring from Philmont and is already making the rounds in Hillsdale - inspecting the system and recommending improvements. Mike will oversee Hillsdale's facility and will work with Vic Amendola. He will report to the Town Board.

Summer Youth Program
Hillsdale's Summer Youth Program runs from July 8 to August 16. Taking advantage of its unique location in the beautiful Roe Jan Park (trails, fields, wetlands, a recreation barn, a library, and a community garden), the program is focused on nature and the great outdoors.  Some quick  facts about the program:
  • This program is open to students ages 5 (having had a year of Kindergarten) to 13.
  • 5-year olds must have had a year of kindergarten, and participants must be no older than 13 on 07/08/19.
  • 13-year olds are allowed if they have been a previous camper in this program and director has approved.
  • The 2019 program will start on Monday, July 8, and run until Friday, August 16.
  • August 16, the last day of the program, will be a half day. Campers will need to be picked up at noon.
  • 2019 includes swimming and pool access on Fridays of each week.
  • All registrations should be turned in with updated immunization records.
Application forms will be posted soon on the  recreation page.

Hillsdale House Reopens Later this Month
The historic Hillsdale House, built in 1797, has been carefully restored and will reopen its doors this later month . The menu will include wood fired pizza, locally-sourced  comfort food, 8 beers on tap, and much more.

Tom Ryan, a Hudson Valley native, has partnered with Carmen Barbato Jr. to reopen the property and comes to Hillsdale with many years  of restaurant experience. Tom is a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and has opened and operated properties all over the country . He's hopes to open Easter weekend. 

If you have passed the intersection of Anthony Street and White Hill Lane in Hillsdale Hamlet, you have probably seen the flurry of activity happening at the old Agway building. Owners Steve and Kathy Bluestone are restoring the three-story structure (the large white building in the lower right hand corner of the photo below) and plan to open the Roe Jan Brewing Company on this site.

Read the Historians Blog about the history of the building.

Safe at Home Event Planned
Save the date. Hillsdale's Safe at Home Committee is hosting a Meet and Greet at Town Hall on May 18 at 10 am. The goal of the meeting is to hear seniors and caregivers discuss their needs and assess how the Town and its Safe at Home Committee can better serve them. The meeting will be interactive and everyone is  encouraged to participate. The meeting is  at Town Hall on Friday, May 18 at 10 am. Beverages and light refreshments will be served.
Newly established in 2018, the Safe at Home Committee distributed a Resource Booklet in Fall 2018, which described a range of services that County agencies and non-profit organizations offer. This was a first step to help seniors learn about available services.
The Committee wants to ensure that we hear directly from seniors and caregivers about their concerns and special needs. In addition to our conversation, the Committee is asking seniors to fill out a needs assessment Survey that they will receive in the mail. It's a simple two-page questionnaire that will help the Committee design effective programs.
The overarching goals of the Meet and Greet and the Survey is for the Safe at Home Committee to be an on-going resource for information and programs, and to build a strong community that helps us all to age in place safely.

For any further information contact Natalie Kahan 518 265-2113.
Photo below:  Village square around 1900.

"All Copake Ore"
Here's a bit of news on the local history front. According to an article in Berkshire Eagle, the Copake Iron Works (CIW) made a very particular contribution to the Civil War.

Though at least two Berkshire towns claim to have been responsible for the pig iron used to craft the famous USS Monitor's iron plates (North Adams even constructed a monument), it was almost certainly Copake that produced it.
Documents held by the Berkshire Historical Society include a letter from John Beckley, dated "North Adams, Jany. 26, 1861," to John F. Winslow, of Troy, N.Y. It refers to an order of 50 tons of No. 1 pig iron. In the letter, he confirms he is to make the iron from "all Copake Ore."

Not sure if this a widely known fact around the Roe Jan Community but it seems like one we should ask our local historians to verify. Maybe there's a Civil War monument in Copake Fall's future.

Read the article in the Eagle.

State-Wide Burn Ban through May 14
Residential brush burning is prohibited through May 14 across New York State.

The State claims that the spring ban has been extremely effective in reducing the number of wildfires.  It first enacted strict restrictions on open burning in 2009 to help prevent wildfires and reduce air pollution. Though regulations allow residential brush fires in towns with fewer than 20,000 residents during most of the year, it prohibits such burning in spring when most wildfires in New York occur. Since the ban was established, the eight-year annual average number of spring fires decreased by 42.6% from 2,649 in 2009 to 1,521 in 2018.
Violators of the state's open burning regulation are subject to both criminal and civil enforcement actions, with a minimum fine of $500 for a first offense. To report environmental law violations call 1-800-TIPP DEC (1-800-847-7332) or report online on DEC's website.
HVRT: Getting There (Here)
Dutchess County Executive Marcus J. Molinaro announced construction work is now underway on the eagerly anticipated fourth phase of the Harlem Valley Rail Trail  (HVRT). This phase of the project extends the HVRT with an 8-mile segment between Millerton and Ancram. Preliminary construction, including tree clearing, has begun. The full project is expected to be complete by October 2020.
The project begins at Main Street (Route 44) in the Village of Millerton and will follow the former Harlem Valley Rail Line right-of-way in the Town of Northeast to end at Under Mountain Road in the Town of Ancram. When complete, there will be 23 miles of continuous trail from the Wassaic Train Station in Amenia to the Orphan Farm Road parking lot north of Copake Falls.

The next big step is connecting the trail from Orphan Farm to the already completed Hillsdale extension. This requires a bridge over Route 22 and a couple of bridges that traverse the Roeliff Jansen Kill.

Photo below: Progress on the rail trail south of Boston Corners.

Library to Honor Charlotte Shutts
This year, the library will honor Charlotte Shutts at the 10th Annual Library Gala on Saturday, June 8. A life-long Hillsdale resident, Charlotte has been a valued library volunteer for 15 years since she retired as manager of the Copake Key Bank. She has served as Secretary of the Friends of the Roeliff Jansen Library, then Treasurer, and finally President for seven years. She can still be found at the library circulation desk every Friday morning.
Charlotte was a founder in 1990 of Christmas Friends, a program that operates out of the Hillsdale United Methodist Church. She remains a moving force behind the program, which provides gifts to over 70 disadvantaged families with kids. And, in her spare time, she is involved with several other philanthropic activities in the area.
The Gala, or "Party in the Park," is a great kick-off to the summer season. As always, there will be delicious food from local chefs and restaurants to enjoy with tasty wines, and great music. The Auction Committee is already on the hunt for unique items for the silent auction, and they promise some real blockbusters for the live auction.
Tickets are $125 and are available at the library or at
Thanks for reading this newsletter.   If you want to promote your upcoming event on the Hillsdale calendar, share an old photo, or write an article or two, I'd love to hear from you.
Peter Cipkowski, Town Supervisor and Town Crier