December 31 2004 – Update

Happy New Year!

I trust the holidays have found everyones well well, and basement dry.

While we are waiting for the next shoe to drop, I have been doing a fair bit of talking on the phone and networking.

The one thing which would be useful to have would be a checklist of all the things that need to happen and the order in which they have to happen for this project to move forward. I cannot find such a list and have therefore decided to try to figure it out myself.

Herewith some notes:

* Storm Water Drainage:
On December 9th the Ulster County Environmental Management Council held an informational meeting on the subject of the new stormwater / drainage regulations. These new regulations result from the next stage of the federal Clean Water Act and have extensive implications for municipalities, homeowners, developers and highway authorities. Most of the folks attending the session were officials and highway superintendants from the 11 towns which are part of an Ulster County coalition pooling resources for education, mapping and outreach.

Related information and tools are at the Department of Water site:
http://www.dec.state.ny.us/website/dow/mainpage.htm

In follow up discussions with the presenter and other attendees I have tried to pare down the information and regulations to the one factor most important to us vis-a-vis the South Peak project. It is this: if a town approves a development which eventually has a negative effect on drainage, water quality or run-off, the town is liable to suit.

Thus, no planning board should give permission for a project unless the developer has a stormwater drainage plan which has been accepted by the state DEC and has been thouroughly checked over by the town’s own engineer. Particular attention should be paid to the rainfall figures used in the calulations, as the rainfall in this part of the Catskills is markedly different from, say, the rainfall in Westchester County.

There appears to be no clear answer to what I call the chicken-and-egg question regarding the stormwater drainage plan. Namely: if a developer submits a plan premised on 41 houses, and the planning board says he can only have 20, does he have to go back and start again? The logical answer is no. He builds the original plan, knowing that it will be very well able to handle the drainage for 20 houses, as the drainage system is, in effect, overbuilt. As I said, though, there seems to be no answer to this question.

This leads me to another observation. It is becoming clear that these new rules, while they are law, have not yet really trickled down to the town level. That is, towns are not yet fully aware of the rules’ implications and the responsibilities which are now falling to municipalities. This can be a good thing for us, as we will be able to educate officials as we move through this process.

We should look into the efficacy of investing some money in a global test of water flowing out of the wetlands to Osnas Lane, Cottontail Lane and the wetlands on the Raycliff estate now (if that is sensible what with the freezing and everything), and then 2 or 3 months later to provide a baseline for pollutant and turbidity levels. We may be able to convince the developer to pay for this.

The folks from the Ulster County Evironmental Management Council will be holding an informational session on this subject on January 20 at the Saugerties Senior Center. It would be a good idea for us to attend the meeting to learn as much as we can about these new rules. While much of the presentation may be rather technical and jargon-ridden,
the overall implications are of intense interest to us. Unfortunately, this session comes a few days *after* the next Planning Board meeting (Tuesday the 18th) so if any member of the Planning Board is at the meeting, he will only be able to bring this new knowledge to bear on plans presented in February and beyond.

If the South Peak project is on the agenda for the January 18th meeting of the town planning board, we should move to table any discussions of the project until after the January 20th informational session. This will allow the planning board members to learn more about these new rules and their attendant legal responsibilities.

*Environmental Issues
=====>> I spoke with a naturalist friend who has worked for the DEC in this area and others over the last many years. He said that it is unlikely that there are any endangered species on this property. There *are* protected species on Overlook Mountain (and perhaps bobcats on the Raycliff property?), but the consensus is that this is probably
too far from there to be an issue. There may be “species of concern” on the property. This is the lowest rank of species when it comes to the endangered animals. Hog-nosed snakes and Timber Rattlesnakes were the ones which came to mind, and possibly some butterflies or moths.

As to the respnsibilities of the developer, it seems that they must hire a professional to look at the biology and assess the likelihood of use of the site by rare animals. Also, how will building affect this use? A letter of inquiry must be sent to the DEC in Albany asking
them if there are any species of concern. While the Natural Heritage Program lists such sites and animals, the problem is that the state is not fully surveyed and cataloged.

======> The DEC website lists other things to look out for, such as plants, but I am not qualified for this. Perhaps one of the group might work through the site and see if he/she thinks that there are opportunities for exploration here. The Region 3 office is in New Paltz
http://www.dec.state.ny.us/website/reg3/index.html#endnav

=====> The only filing that the developers have yet made with the DEC was one asking for a stream crossing in February 2004
http://www.dec.state.ny.us/apps/envapps/index.cfm?view=detail&applid=600161
the application was not granted and they are said to be revisinbg it. R. Scott Ballard at the New Paltz DEC office say the file is pretty thin so far. Confusingly, this application says that the crossing is to be over a tributary to Washburn Creek in Woodstock. I have no idea
where/what this is and can find no reference to it anywhere.

=======> I have a call in to an environmental law firm. The call is yet to be returned as the office was oficially closed for the holidays. I’ll give them a brief rundown of the situation and seek advice. The questions I’ll ask will be general and will mostly have to
do with “what’s next” type of stuff. I will also ask how far certain amounts of money will go… If anyone has specific questions they think I might ask, please let me know.

=========>> See the “To Do” section for more enviromental notes.

*Other Stuff
======> On December 29, I spoke briefly with Paul Andreassen, the Town of Saugerties Building Inspector and Zoning Administrator. He knew of the project in passing. When I described it to him in detail he said (several times) that it was obviously a “bold” project. This is a good word, and a non-committal one. He reffered me to Chris Round of the
Chazen Company, who are the planning consultants for the town. I put in a call, yet to be returned, as the office is closed for the holiday. He also suggested I have a drive around the Glacier Park subdivision off Marys Ave., off West Saugerties Rd. This represents a
well-done development, apparently. I’ll do that this weekend if I can.

When questioned about the issue of wells and well water, he mentioned hydrologists and their potential role in this process. A developer would be well-advised to have a complete hydrological study done to determine the soil types on the site, the water flows, whether those water flows are part of a recharging system for an aquifer, etc. The Ulster County Board of Health will require the developer to make “perc” tests and might be pursuaded to take water samples from surrounding areas before construction begins on test wells. This way they will have a baseline of water quality in the area.

In addition, we should look into the efficacy of investing some money in a test of all wells in the area now and in 2 or 3 months, to provide an independent baseline for water quality measurments. We may be able to convince the developer to pay for this.

One other aspect of our conversation disturbed me, but not until after it was over. Andraessen asked if the Public Hearing in front of the Town Planning Board was closed. I said “yes”, because I remember that Richard Rothe had gone back in to the meeting room to “make sure they close the hearing” when we were all chatting outside in the hall after
the meeting in November. I do not know if this is significant in some way. Does it mean that the public can no longer comment on the plan? Does it mean that the Planning Board now takes what we said under advisement and we can not add to it?

*To Do
=====> Make contact with Army Corps of Engineers. They are in charge of Federal Wetlands. It seems that they are chronically underfunded and understaffed. I have put in 3 calls and gotten nowhere. Are they merely there to rubber stamp the development?

=====> Get minutes of meeting in November, when we all spoke. These will have been approved at the December meeting and published thereafter. I have forgotten to do that until now.

=====> Investigate: I got a copy of the Town Of Saugerties Land Subdivision Regulations and have started to read them. I think I am correct in saying that a developer has to put up some form of bond, money in escrow or other guarantee at the beginning of the process. This ensures that if they go belly-up some time later, there is money for the Town to take care of what is already built. I do not know whether South Peak has done this. We should find out.

=====> Attend: Barbara Kendall of the New Patlz Office of the DEC will be giving an informational talk about development, water and other stuff at the Marbletown (Stone Ridge) Town Hall on Monday the 10th of January at 7pm. I will NOT be able to attend, but we must send someone to take notes and observe and ask questions. More than one
person would be good. Car pooling?

=====> Who are 212 Developers? All we know is:

212 Developers, LLC
Steve Faust
641 Route 212
Saugerties, NY 12477
516-374-3044
sfaust@optonline.net

Who and/or what else are they? How do we find out?

=====> Noise: Investigate the regulations having to do with construction site noise. How much is allowed? When is it allowed? Are any of our neighbours third shift workers? Will this give us one more subject to talk about with the developers?

=====> Show Others: (Perhaps a guided walkabout?) I have walked around the site a few more times and I am starting to realise what a big project this is. The number of trees which will come down, the number of rocks which will be blasted is really amazing. Walking around with map in hand is even more convincing: the project is too ambitious and needs to be scaled back.

*There are at least 2 and probably 4 places where the road crosses a federal wetland and they will have to construct bridges to get over it (culverts are not allowed).

*The marked wetland on the Cottontail end is so close to the property line that there is no way they will be able to build a town spec road between the wetland and the property line, to say nothing of the emrgency road extension to Cottontail.

*I have identified *at least* 5 plots which are entirely unsuitable for building.

Conclusion: There is work yet to be done. When I have a few more answers to some of the above questions, I think we should get together and discuss.

For those of you getting this note via regular email and not via the listserve at yahoo, please note the address of the yahoo listserve and consider joining. You will be able to post messages yourself. It’s free, and easy to join:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/southpeakneighbors/

The “links” section on the Yahoo site also contains links for various
resources and useful sites:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/southpeakneighbors/links/

If any of your neighbours is not getting these occaisional notes, may
I suggest you pass them on? The more folks we have involved, the more
likely we are to achieve a good result for all of us.

You can reach me at 845 679 9907 or
mark@southpeaknabe.com

(originally published on the Yahoo Groups site December 31, 2004)

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