Letter from Hammond Supervisor Ron Bertram

Posted by on Mar 4, 2015 in News & Events | Comments Off on Letter from Hammond Supervisor Ron Bertram

February 2, 2015

Dear Neighbor,

Five years ago, the citizens of Hammond gave me the privilege to hold the office of Supervisor. That is a responsibility that I have taken seriously and hopefully performed with the best interests of the Hammond people as my first objective. We have addressed a number of wanting issues; a Wind Law that was the result of over a year’s work from a broad based citizens committee, a Hammond Comprehensive Plan that also resulted from open, public participation and a regular Hammond Newsletter, improving communication with the community, to name a few. This has been done while providing good town services within budgets reflecting prudent fiscal management.

The town has now taken on another initiative that has resulted in a great deal of conversation, which I would like to take a moment of your time to discuss. This is the proposal for Hammond to participate in the application to the NY Department of State (DOS) to be designated a Scenic Area of Statewide Significance (SASS). This designation could apply to aspects of the entire American Thousand Island shoreline from Cape Vincent to Morristown and its purpose is to identify, evaluate, and preserve specific areas of scenic value within the designated area. Currently, there are only two such designated areas in NY, portions of the Hudson River Valley (1993) and The Village and Town of East Hampton, Long Island (2010). The application process is very specific, detailed and thorough as prescribed by the DOS.

I first became aware of the SASS designation during the 2009 campaign and thought that it would not only be an appropriate way to recognize and assure the goodness of the scenic view shed assets that we all enjoy in the Thousand Island region, but as possible byproducts, it could offer an opportunity to encourage multi-town cooperation, develop additional tourism, assist in obtaining grants from public and private sources that we all can benefit from, and give all of us “bragging rights”. Come to find out, when the state legislation creating this designation was passed in 1991, the Thousand Island Region was used as a prime example of the type of scenic area that the state wanted to recognize.

In 2012, after some of the other Hammond issues were addressed, I contacted the towns and villages along the river to assess their interest in working together for the purpose of applying to the DOS for SASS recognition. All agreed to take a hard look at the proposal. I then asked several individuals to assist me in coordinating the effort. In June 2012, the first organizational meeting was held at the Antique Boat Museum with almost every town and village in attendance, along with Assemblyperson Russell and representatives from the DOS. Based on the interest exhibited, the steering committee proceeded with the process of applying for a $75,000 grant to cover expenses of retaining the necessary professional assistance. The Town of Hammond, with the unanimous support of the Town Board, acted as the lead agency for the purpose of the grant application. In December of 2012 the state approved the grant application from the Town covering costs related to the project. It should be noted that the grant approval also required a $75,000 contribution from the local community “in kind” or in other words, community involvement equal in value to the amount of the grant. At this time, over the past two years, numerous volunteers from Cape Vincent to the Village of Morristown have worked on this project in varied forms and that requirement has been met. Over $75,000 worth of volunteer effort has been contributed to the SASS project to make it a success. After the grant approval, Dodson & Flinker, a professional organization, had been retained to undertake the evaluation and draft the application to the DOS, an effort now approaching completion. We expect the final draft to be available shortly and the final public hearing to be held in April. During the past two years, several regional open meetings and public hearings have been held; much work in identifying and evaluating the scenic view shed of the Thousand Island St Lawrence River region has been accomplished with both volunteer and professional efforts; many town meetings have been held including several in Hammond; a web site has been maintained (www.scenic1000islands.com). In other words, a lot of work has been done.

What is SASS? That is the question I am hearing most often. Simply put, aside from all of the possible incidental side benefits that our region might enjoy as a result of this project; multi town cooperation, tourism, improved grant activity, the sole purpose of SASS as part of the NYS Coastal Management Program is to identify, evaluate and preserve the valuable and greatly appreciated view shed of the Thousand Island Region.   The identification and evaluation process is nearing completion.

Here is how the preservation portion works. First, there are NO new permits, licenses or regulations that would be required within the SASS designated area. If a preexisting state or federal permit or approval is required under existing state or federal programs, then there is one additional step in that evaluation process that asks the appropriate permitting authority to comment on any impact the request may have on the view shed. This ONLY applies to pre-existing permit, licensing or approval reviews for projects located within the SASS designated area along the river, Chippewa Creek and Crooked Creek shoreline and inland for up to one and a half miles in certain designated areas. In other words, if a proposed project already requires a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of Environmental Conservation, the DOS or other agency, those agencies will also review the project for its scenic impact. Again, SASS will impose NO additional permits, licensing or approvals.

This shoreline area will be the only area of any concern, SASS has no impact on the balance of the town. In addition, there are NO mandated controls, regulations or modifications to existing town laws. SASS will neither encourage nor prevent any type of development in Hammond or along the Thousand Island St Lawrence River shoreline other than to provide for a scenic view shed impact evaluation if a pre-existing permit or approval is required.

To put the impact of SASS in perspective, for the period of 2000 – 2014 within the SASS designated area on the Hudson River, there were 1917 applications requiring evaluation. Of these, 23 were considered for closer review and only four were found to have a significant issue relative to impact on the view shed. The town and the region already lives easily with many state and federal programs, wet lands preservation, building codes, health laws, Corp of Engineers, DEC. We live with these regulations with little or no disturbance to our lives and they are here to protect us and our community. SASS is of the same nature. I believe that it would a great loss for all of us if we were to lose any our scenic view shed asset to trivial and meaningless actions because we didn’t take this opportunity to achieve SASS status.

If you have any questions, please contact me at ron@acecontractorsny.com and visit the SASS website at www.scenic1000islands.com.

Thank You.

Ron Bertram

Hammond Town Supervisor