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Wilmington board discusses river, parking, housing

Members of the Hardy Road Kids, an organization that improves and promotes biking resources in Wilmington, address the Wilmington Town Council on Tuesday. From left are Ella Wilson, Henry Loher and Charlie Wilson. (Provided photo — Tim Follos)

WILMINGTON — Around two dozen people attended Tuesday’s Wilmington Town Council meeting, the first meeting open to the public since November.

Among them were Stephanie Gates, Michelle Preston and Tina Preston, who are seeking election to the council in November. Gates is a former town justice. Michelle Preston is the widow of former town Supervisor Randy Preston, the secretary of the town’s Planning-Zoning Board and the manager of the Whiteface Region Visitors Bureau. Tina Preston, the 2020 Wilmington Citizen of the Year, is a former member of the town’s Planning-Zoning Board.

Dawn Stevens and Rarilee Conway, both of whom have served on the town council for more than 10 years, are not seeking reelection. Stevens is running for town clerk.

The candidates mingled with members of the public in the Community Center parking lot before and after the meeting, seeking signatures on petitions to secure their places on the ballot in November. Independent candidates must file their petitions with the county board of elections by May 25. Fourteen signatures are required to appear on the ballot as an independent candidate in Wilmington.

Hardy Road Kids

The meeting began with a presentation from three members of the Hardy Road Kids. The kids distributed photos of their projects at the town park over the past two summers and described their plans for this summer. They plan to install a bike repair station at the park and build a nearby kiosk for displaying information about topics such as upcoming community events and the network of mountain biking trails in town. The organization is seeking donations and can be contacted through its Facebook page or by emailing hardykidsmtb@gmail.com.

Codes and building

Town Supervisor Roy Holzer noted that Code Enforcement Officer Doug Nemec has completed six courses and exams and is now a state-certified code enforcement officer — the first time in recent years that the town’s code enforcement officer has been state-certified.

Nemec said there are currently around 40 open building permits in town, including eight that opened in the past month. He also said that the large logging operation between the A&W and the Alpine Country Inn, which is partly visible from state Route 86, is the site of a planned residential subdivision. Nemec said he expects the subdivision to come before the town’s Planning-Zoning Board soon.

Dollar General work

In other Planning-Zoning news, the Town Council unanimously approved a resolution to pay the zoning board’s secretary, Michelle Preston, an additional $20 for every hour she devotes to the highly publicized proposal to build a Dollar General in Wilmington.

“We are getting inundated with Dollar General stuff,” Michelle Preston said. “It is crazy — the amount of extra time I’m putting in with emails, phone conversations with attorneys, and now it’s going to be the engineers.”

Housing and website

Holzer, in his monthly report, revisited his proposal to use existing grant money to purchase undeveloped land to create a “land bank” for a designated “homestead housing” subdivision, which he sees as one way to address the workforce housing shortage in the region.

The board approved Holzer’s request to publish a public notice soliciting proposals from landowners interested in selling property to the town for homestead housing.

The board also approved Holzer’s request to solicit proposals to rebuild or update the town’s website.

Park and parking

A significant portion of the discussion at the hour-long meeting revolved around the town park, which includes a basketball court, tennis court, bike park, skateboard park, picnic tables, a multi-use building, bleachers and a large ball field.

Council member Paula McGreevy said the park attracts significantly more visitors than it did in the past and that parking has become an issue. She said park users frequently leave their cars in the nearby Little Supermarket’s parking lot, which she said isn’t fair to the market’s owners.

The board asked Parks Superintendent John Langford, Adragna and Little Supermarket owner Cliff Holzer II to discuss the issue and report back with recommendations.

Roy Holzer said he is continuing to explore the possibility of using bed tax funds to construct a pole barn-type building in the park for use as a skating rink and warm-weather event venue.

River dredging

Holzer also revisited the prospect of dredging portions of the Lake Everest section of the AuSable River’s West Branch in order to remove the sediment that has built up over the years, a topic that has been discussed in the community for decades.

“We need to have water space for recreational use,” Holzer said, speaking after the meeting. “I take a canoe up there a few times a year, and I get stuck. … It benefits all of us to have a healthy river going through town. …. Let’s not spend a couple million — let’s do a couple areas every year, until we get this resolved.”

Short-term rental rules

While Tuesday’s meeting had an amiable and occasionally jocular tone, upcoming meetings may be more tense. The Town Council expects to complete its proposed short-term rental regulations soon, possibly in time for public discussion at May’s monthly meeting.

“We’re enacting an ordinance similar to what other communities have done,” Holzer said. “They’re going to have to register, and there will be oversight.”

The council will fine-tune the proposed regulations at a work session scheduled for April 28 at 4 p.m. Work sessions are held at the Community Center and are open to the public.

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