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Bethlehem Town Supervisor delivers State of the Town address

Bethlehem Supervisor David VanLuven delivers his State of the Town address at the Town Hall in Delamr, January 25, 2023.
Town of Bethlehem
Bethlehem Supervisor David VanLuven delivers his State of the Town address at the Town Hall in Delamr, January 25, 2023.

Bethlehem Supervisor David VanLuven has delivered his State of the Town address.

In his sixth State of the Town address Wednesday, VanLuven said the Albany County town of Bethlehem instills optimism and encouragement within him, especially during times when he feels he is confronted by negativity.

"If one spends much time on different social media platforms, they can easily come to believe the chatter that everyone and everything is terrible," VanLuven said. "But those narratives are wrong. Today’s perpetual election cycles are seemingly addicted to negative posturing. When in reality, we have so much more to be positive about. Because, life is real interactions between real people. And those real interactions strengthen our community and make our lives better. We saw this in wonderful ways throughout 2022: hundreds of families enjoying the First Night fireworks and Summer Concert Series, Scouts gathering goods for the Food Pantry, neighbors laughing together during the Memorial Day Parade, friendly volunteers helping their neighbors. These real interactions between real people together are what Bethlehem really is."

The Democrat nodded to the effect COVID has had on the community and encouraged residents to log off and have real interactions.

VanLuven noted that as the town has grown, its workforce has shrunk from 241 in 2009 to 224 in 2023. He praised town employees’ dedication and ability to adapt.

Addressing the perception that taxes are high in Bethlehem, he presented a breakdown of how collected taxes are distributed.

"In 2023, 67% will go to your school district, 4% will go to your fire department, 4% will go to your library, 13% will go to Albany County, leaving just 12% for the Town of Bethlehem," said VanLuven. "So for every property tax dollar you pay in 2023, the Town of Bethlehem will only see 12 cents."

VanLuven then rattled off a list of services the town provides, and touted completion of the Bethlehem Forward comprehensive plan update, citing development as a critical component.

"This plan is called an update because it builds upon the 2005 Comprehensive Plan, but it is also a wholly new plan that draws on 15 years of experience implementing that earlier plan," VanLuven said. "Its principles, goals, and recommendations stem from core community values and a vision that recognizes the many challenges we’re facing now and the growing challenges we will face for many years to come."

He added the town recently received a $90,000 state grant to undertake updates to its zoning codes that reflect the Bethlehem Forward vision and smart growth ideals. He says Bethlehem continues to see economic development like the new Plug Power plant in Slingerlands, and he notes the town is working to identify ways to promote historic preservation. VanLuven vowed to continue protecting open space following a contentious local ballot question.

"But our biggest open space victory came last year with Prop 2, in which residents overwhelmingly voted in favor of protecting 307 acres in Glenmont and Selkirk," said VanLuven. "These properties include the historic 150+ acre Heath Dairy Farm on three corners of Wemple Rd and Route 9W which have been growing crops for more than 250 years, plus a 122-acre farm off Clapper Rd and 31 acres on Weisheit Rd. I’ve been working on this project for almost four years, and thanks to our residents, it is now the largest municipal farmland conservation project in Hudson Valley history."

As for this year, VanLuven says police reform efforts will continue; traffic safety projects will include installation of speed humps in certain residential areas, along with sidewalk improvements. Upgrades are also pending for Bethlehem's more than a dozen parks.

You can watch the addresshere.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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