By MICHAEL ANICH
EPHRATAH - The town will conduct a public hearing on its draft comprehensive plan, which recommends a new town center, at 6 p.m. June 24 at the Town Hall on Route 10.
The Town Board will consider approving the plan at a later date.
The document - assembled by the town's Comprehensive Plan Committee - represents a vision of where Ephratah wants to be in the future. The committee is also recommending the Town Board consider development of a town zoning ordinance to help implement the vision of the plan. A full version of the plan can be viewed at the Town Hall or on the town's website - www.ephratah-town.org. Copies of the executive summary are also available at the hall.
"I think it's a good plan," town Supervisor Todd Bradt said. "There's no major changes. It really shows the watershed properties."
Bradt said the plan tries to illustrate how economic and other civic commitments should be built in years to come around the "main traffic flow" of Routes 29 and 10 in the town.
The plan notes Ephratah's population is "stagnant" and getting older. The town population decreased by 11 residents from 1,693 in 2000 to 1,682 in 2010. During that period, the town's median age also increased by about seven years - from 37.7 to 44.2. The town's 65-plus population increased by 3 percent, while the number of school-aged children - ages 5 to 19 - living in the town declined from 412 in 2000 to 293 in 2010.
Among key recommendations in the plan is one calling for the town to "pursue the development of a town center at the intersection of Routes 29 and 10 heading south." The plan says the town should initially pursue acquiring a road right of way and pursue the development of a new town road through the town center site.
The plan says the town should seek a new gas station/convenience store at either the town center, or the Rockwood, Ephratah or Lassellsville hamlet areas.
"The town of Ephratah should pursue the development of a farmers market at town center or another appropriate location in the town," the plan said.
Ephratah officials should pursue development of an Ephratah Senior Housing Complex in the town center or at another appropriate site in the town, the plan recommends. The town should actively pursue grants to fund the development of senior citizen housing, the plan says. In addition, the plan says the town should apply for state and federal financial assistance to address "substandard housing and blight-influencing conditions in the town's existing housing stock."
Additional recreational activities recommended in the plan for the town's existing recreational complex include: public restroom facilities, more extensive playground for young children, designated snowmobile trailer parking area to access the Royal Mountain Moonlighter Snowmobile Club's trail located 1.2 miles east along Route 29, a book exchange, and the leasing out of recreational fields to private users to raise money for the town.
The plan says public access to the Rockwood Reservoir can be improved by developing a paved off-street parking area. The town can also develop a handicapped-accessible walking path from the parking area to the shore of the reservoir, and install signs along Route 10.
Another significant recommendation in the plan encourages pursuit of development of a new town hall in the town center to "meet the current and future needs of the town."
The existing Town Hall should be turned over to the town's Highway Department, the plan says. The plan says Ephratah should seek grant funding to help pay for the cost of a new hall.
The new hall should, at a minimum, have spaces for town offices, a meeting room, a community room, records storage, senior center, a town museum, a primary care facility and book exchange, the plan says.
Michael Anich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.