Bethlehem is growing and will continue to grow as people are attracted to our wonderful neighborhoods, strong schools, amazing library, vibrant commercial areas, and welcoming town character. This is a great place to live, and people want to live here. Like many other communities, the challenge facing the Town is to harness the power of growth in a manner that maintains and enhances the quality of life that Town residents have come to know and enjoy. Also, growth must be experienced in a fiscally and aesthetically responsible manner. In recent years, many concerns have been voiced in the community about the unplanned consequences of growth.
To help ensure that this growth supports and enhances the characteristics that make Bethlehem such an attractive place to be, the Town is undertaking a complete update of the Comprehensive Plan, which was last adopted in 2005. The plan will help to establish a shared community vision for the future and an action plan to achieve it. The planning process will weave together the realities of changing economic and demographic conditions while building broad community consensus on the key values that define the Town of Bethlehem. As part of the planning process, amendments to Town Zoning Law and Subdivision Regulations will be considered, and Town-wide policy and capital projects will also be considered to implement the vision. The project is scheduled to commence in late 2019 and to be completed by December 2020. There will be several public meetings, focus group discussions around key topics, and many other opportunities for public participation in the process.
The Comprehensive Plan Update Committee appointed at the October 10, 2019 Town Board will prepare a proposed comprehensive plan update for the Town. The Committee is required to hold public hearings and such other meetings and events as it deems necessary to assure full opportunity for citizen participation in the preparation of the plan. The Committee will ultimately approve a resolution recommending the proposed comprehensive plan update to the Town Board. The preparation of the comprehensive plan update will be spearheaded by a consulting team (TBD). The Director of Planning is designated to provide day to day project management services and support to the Committee.
Phase 1 of the Comprehensive Plan Update opened with community forums in Slingerlands, Selkirk, South Bethlehem, Delmar, Glenmont, North Bethlehem, and Elsmere from November 2018 to March 2019. Residents and business leaders discussed what each hamlet and Bethlehem were and what we want them to be in the future. Key themes that emerged from these conversations were Neighborhoods, Transportation, Aging and Housing, Economic Development, Parks and Recreation, Environment, and Government. These themes will be explored further and addressed in the Comprehensive Plan Update.
Phase 2 will involve using the insights and ideas from Phase 1, plus additional community input, to draft a vision for the next 10-15 years, goals and objectives, and strategies and actions for accomplishing them. We plan to work with a consultant and a Comprehensive Plan Update Advisory Committee to create this first draft of the Comprehensive Plan Update. We also anticipate holding additional town-wide forums on specific topics such as traffic, economic development, and farms, parks, and natural areas. We are looking to complete the Comprehensive Plan Update by the end of 2020.