One of the areas of clearing for building at the foothills of Schunnemunk Mt. which poses environmental dangers, hiking trail impacts, view and open space impacts and drainage challenges down steep slopes.
Update: See attached PDF files below:
Over the past decade, a series of proposals have been made to build 600 homess at the foothills and Valley beneath Schunnemunk Mountain and Ridgeline in what has been a large expanse of forest adjacent to New York State Parkland. This week, when DEC sent the Village of South Blooming Grove a letter of Acceptance of the developer's Application, residents in the Town of Blooming Grove, and both villages (the Village of South Blooming Grove, and the Village of Washingtonville), sat down in large numbers, and explained, for about the 11th time, their reasons for protesting the Clovewood plan as currently designed. The DEC clarified in its letter that this was NOT an acceptance of the plan, but "only" an acceptance of the APPLICATION AS COMPLETE. The deadline for the DEC to receive letters about the application is December 22 , (Clovewood application link, and submittal address in PDF files below). But residents are wary of promises and assurances that have too often not been responded to in ways they expected. For instance, road building and construction that began without permits had received notices of violations of conducting work without required permits for months and months, resulting in turbulance in the Town's waterways (including Perry Creek, the Satterly Creek and the Moodna Creek), The DEC could have had daily fines issued for millions of dollars and thus might have deterred future such violations. The developer received only one fine, and not only continued to disobey the stop work order, but dumped some kind of dye in the stream that turned the water in nearly half of the Town an irridescent greenish blue, including numerous places where the water was used for drinking.
The application to DEC shows the insensitivity to environmental issues, such as its reference to "NEEDED INCIDENTAL TAKING" OF CRITICALLY ENDANGERED TIMBER RATTLESNAKES, and then referring to them as "Nuisance Rattlesnakes".
Would you want your drinking water to look like this?
Two other projects (see tomorrow's story) ""Prospect Gardens" and "New Yeshiva" now appear to follow similar pathways in the Village; ie "Go ahead and build and don't worry about fines". Along with this are a myriad of other worries if Clovewood were to proceed without further review and design modification, including: 1. Chronic water shortages in VSBG that already plague residents; 2. An aquifer that one of the top hydrobiologists in the WORLD has said would incur damage to its ability to refresh/regenerate from its sources; 3. Potential Impacts on protected viewsheds; 4. Impacts on critical species including the critically endangered Timber Rattlesnake; 5. Unsustainable impact on support infrastructure (police, fire and other necessary services that will increase dramatically due to an influx of thousands of new residents in a tiny village); 6. Traffic that existing residents say its country roads, already overburdened, will not be able to handle ; 7. Lack of an Economic Impact Study including likely effect on taxes and especially costs due to school and elder care with accessory dwellings being included for aging relatives; 8. A plan to discharge treated sewage effluent into a tributary of the Satterly Creek, which is known to trickle and go dry at times.
The project began with a road that went deep into the 600 acres, with piping and no permit.
Why is so much housing being planned that existing residents say is in an area close to "Build-Out" according to the needs of the environment and area's Comprehensive Plans, especially when many existing residents either came here for the views and hiking opportunities, and other locally historic and farm families remain here because of them ? With a real need for additional housing resources there is clearly need for a "Smart Growth Plan" that can meet the housing need, but without seriously damaging the environment and Blooming Grove's image as bucolic, having been named because of its beautiful natural extensive landscape. With this project proposal becoming as adjacent as possible to Kiryas Joel where other Hasidim live, and where there is might eventually be a Catskill Aqueduct connection. One has to wonder if the developer remembers that Kiryas Joel made extensive promises that if "Palm Tree" was approved there would no longer be "a need for spillover of housing to adjacent bucolic areas", and that they were told there would never be approval for a water connection across the Ridge. Despite the accuracy of claims about code violations, quick retorts of "Antisemitism" have been heard whenever building projects are opposed, and one Village of South Blooming Grove official in fact threatened the Town of Blooming Grove Board, claiming that seeking a PDR program had "nothing to do with the environment" when it tried for the 3rd time to get New York State approval for its land preservation efforts (PDR Program) . This program has been very successfully used by numerous other Orange County towns including Goshen and Warwick, to preserve farmland, viewsheds and environmental resources, goals that are an essential part of the Town's Comprehensie Plans .
What do many residents want now? At least an extension preventing continued work and any further requests for approvals until questions have been adequately answered from many SCOPING sessions like the one below which was held 4 1/2s years ago.
(Zoom to read). Residents want State officials to acknowledge how few of these concerns have actually been adequately addressed in design changes.
What other alternatives would residents have to keep the local sensitive environment intact? The only likely potenttially effective action may be filing an expensive Article 78 lawsuit. New York residents are very proud of the State's "Home Rule" safeguards, But residents say that State oversight protections are important too, and they would rather just see people follow the law and smart growth practices. Most "locals" just want any needed housing to be located where it will not destroy the environment, treasured views, and Tourism potential that increases the beauty and environmental health of the area rather than builders and developers who dismiss or downplay their value.
PDF FILES RE. CLOVEWOOD DEC APPLICATION DEEMED COMPLETE
RESIDENT RESPONSE LETTER