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Johnsburg board seeks clarity in smoldering fire protection case

Johnsburg Town Hall

Johnsburg Town Hall Photo by Andy Flynn.

— The Johnsburg Planning Board and an applicant seeking site plan review for a proposed subdivision find themselves between the proverbial rock and hard place when it comes to certifying the subdivision will have adequate fire protection.

The Planning Board is charged with interpreting the town code and assuring that all projects that come before it comply with the code. Likewise, applicants to the Planning Board are required to design projects to comply with the town code.

When it comes to the pitch and width of a proposed road within the proposed Ward Hill Subdivision, a 12-lot subdivision on more than 200 acres in the Iroquois Trail and Chatiemac Road neighborhood, both the Planning Board and James Easton, the engineer designing the project agree that the road meets the requirements of town code – a minimum width of 20 feet and a pitch of no more than 12 percent.

There’s just one problem. The chief of the Bakers Mills Volunteer Fire Department refuses to offer fire protection to the subdivision unless the road is at least 22 feet wide and has a pitch of no more than 8 percent. He said as much during a meeting of the Planning Board a month ago.

The Planning Board is reluctant to sign off on that aspect of the plan without assurances that the town can provide adequate fire protection. The Planning Board is looking into whether coverage by “mutual aid” – having neighboring fire companies agree to cover the subdivision in the event of a fire or other emergency – is sufficient.

“Can we approve based on mutual aid?” asked Planning Board Chair Dottie Osterhout.

The answer to that question wasn’t clear Monday as the board continued reviewing the Ward Hill project.

Town Supervisor Ron Vanselow has been researching the issue of whether the road standards in the town code agree with New York State Fire Code. Osterhout said that Vanselow told her Monday that he was going to speak with Bakers Mills Fire Chief Lewis Hitchcock and explain to him that the chief has erred.

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