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St. Armand supervisor says it’s time for zoning

The St. Armand Town Hall towers over Bloomingdale, as seen in September 2015. (Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)

BLOOMINGDALE — The town of St. Armand is considering introducing a zoning code as businesses eye the area, short-term rentals become more common and some residents are concerned about keeping the small, rural aesthetic.

St. Armand does not have a zoning code. It is governed by state building and fire codes and Adirondack Park Agency regulations, but aside from that, there are few rules about what can be built there.

“Right now, a strip club could move into a house as a business right across from Bloomingdale School,” town Supervisor Davina Winemiller said at a Wednesday meeting. “Do I think that’s going to happen? No. But it could.”

Winemiller is gauging how the board feels before moving forward. At next month’s meeting she said she’ll bring examples of pieces of code and steps the town could take if it wants zoning.

When zoning code is introduced in the park, towns have the option of making it APA compliant so a local board, rather than the APA board, can decide on applications. Winemiller said the town wouldn’t be looking to make the code that strict.

She said the board is looking at enacting some simple town-wide rules with minimal restrictions.

“I think the time is nigh because if we don’t do something, especially with Airbnb and short-term rentals, I see a lot of problems,” Winemiller said.

Winemiller said it wasn’t until Dollar General submitted an application to build a store on state Route 3 that she had considered a business like that would want a location in Bloomingdale. Now Winemiller said she’s wondering, “Who’s next?”

At a public comment session the town held on the construction, a common refrain from residents was that they would have preferred a more “Adirondack” facade on the front of the building instead of the typical boxy dollar store style.

The neighboring town of Franklin briefly had a zoning code and planning board, but it was repealed in 2010 after three new board members got elected on a platform of abolishing it.

Winemiller said St. Armand has considered implementing zoning for years but the board has always held back, worried that it would discourage business. But she said times change. She said she doesn’t plan to discourage business but that the town could use some guidelines for how new buildings look.

Winemiller said zoning for solar farms would be another topic to discuss. There have been solar farms proposed before, and she said residents have had concerns about their appearance.

She said the board could consider a code with broad language.

“We reserve the right to deny a building permit certificate of occupancy to any business that does not meet the desired expectations of the residents of the neighborhood,” she said as an example.

If the board approves the creation of a zoning code, it would seek volunteers to sit on a zoning board and a board of appeals.

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