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Lone watchdog urges caution as Elizabethtown readies comprehensive plan

ELIZABETHTOWN — The town that serves as the county seat is growing closer to nailing down outstanding questions regarding the implementation of a comprehensive plan, a crowd-sourced roadmap that will guide the town as it enters the next phase of its growth and development.

Supervisor Noel Merrihew and the town board have set a tentative date of Wednesday, July 9 for a public hearing.

There, at the town hall, the public is encouraged to examine the plan — a 100-page living document stuffed with charts and neatly-arranged paragraphs that lays out everything from an analysis of the town’s strengths (location of government offices paired with a friendly character, for instance) and weaknesses, which include inconsistent zoning enforcement, a lack of sewage infrastructure and an overall lack of identity.

The plan also includes wishlists for the future alongside insights derived from workshops where business owners chimed in with their thoughts for revitalizing what they say is a promising, yet rudderless, economy.

After July’s hearing, the town board will vote to approve the plan and move forward with implementing its suggestions.

‘VERSION 6’

The most recent version of the plan is the sixth. It was drafted by Nan Stolzenburg, a consultant from Albany County the town hired in 2012, in conjunction with two different incarnations of the planning and town boards alongside the insights derived from business leaders and private citizens who participated in a workshop in August 2012.

Residents were also encouraged to send in surveys with their thoughts: 792 were mailed, and 128 were completed, a 16 percent return rate.

Strategies for moving forward, it was decided, include developing cohesive branding and marketing initiatives, stepping up efforts to attract small-scale light industry and commercial enterprises, developing parking and beautification strategies along Court Street, providing townwide high speed broadband access, developing funding and access to state grants and economic development initiatives and promoting local community-supported agriculture programs.

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