The New Paltz Regional Chamber of Commerce has officially released a Zoning and Planning Boards Practical Guide completed.
Available for download since January on the Chamber of Commerce website and in print on-site, the guide spells out the do’s and dont’s of applying for zoning for potential businesses.
The guide was created after a visible frustration from businesses concerning plans being denied by the zoning and planning board, according to Toni Hokanson, director of marketing and training for C2G Environmental Consultants.
As a former chairperson of the town planning board, Hokanson said she is aware of the frustrations both on the end of the planning board and the applicants involved in the process.
She said the guide was created in an effort to “give businesses guidance and help speed up the process.”
“These applicants are given a checklist of things to get done and attend the monthly board meeting with only three items completed, and it just increases the expense and the length of time,” Hokanson said. “We made this guide based on our experience seeing how people were not approaching the process in the most time and cost efficient way for them and the board.”
After being approached by Michael Smith, president of the Regional Chamber of Commerce, about challenges with applicants, both Hokanson and Robert McKenna, former director of planning and development for the city of Newburgh, developed the idea for a guide in the form of a checklist.
Smith said this type of guide is helpful because it is the first of its kind.
“Most of the planning process is hearsay and verbal, but until now, there was nothing in writing about how to use practical guidelines when businesses apply in front of the planning and zoning boards,” Smith said. “Being communicative with applicants is important, and we’ve approached various village board members and elected officials about the guide, and they all say it gives a good outline of what to expect in a practical manner.”
According to McKenna, two reoccurring themes in the guide state that applicants should take advantage of the resources available to them from the board itself, and as the employer, it is their responsibility to follow through with a consulting engineer.
Because the zoning and planning board meets on a monthly basis, he said a missed deadline could be extremely detrimental to a business, so it is their job to make sure all paperwork is submitted on time and complete.
“An incomplete application will cost a business time, and time is money in many of these cases,” McKenna said.
Since the guide was released recently, there has not been much feedback on its success, however Smith said that it is being frequently downloaded from the Chamber of Commerce website, and has been positively recognized by the town supervisor and village mayor.
McKenna said the current guide will remain available for up to a year, and will then be improved as needed if and when the board sees fit. He also said that this guide, if proven effective, could spark similar checklists in other areas.
“If it is successful when it’s in its best form, I see it as something that can be replicated by most communities,” McKenna said. “These issues experienced by applicants in New Paltz aren’t much different from those experienced by people in other places.”