By Edie Johnson
One property back from the small rural Town Center of Blooming Grove, a developer wants a zone change for a property that would enter through an easement from Route 94, behind a planned new fire station, and onto 55 acres that would change from Senior Housing Overlay to Non-Nuisance Industrial (NNI). (Bear in mind that this was an extremely preliminary proposal). The entire property also includes a parcel or parcels on the other side of Tuthill Road, but because of its steep slopes and wetlands does not ("at this time") include any building plan. The NNI code that was developed by Blooming Grove's previous administration almost 10 years ago was designed for complexes of significant but low impact commercial uses that would have minimal environmental impact. The Attorney speaking for BG Holdings Group, LLC said the owner has not decided on a preferred use yet, but is leaning toward a warehouse, and that given the large amounts of wetlands on much of the property there is a high likelihood that there would be building space for only the one structure. He did not say why, with a project that would likely be only one building, the application would not be to simply ask for a zone change/special use permit for "Commercial" use rather than an NNI complex.
Residents have been uncomfortable with other NNI applications that seek to benefit by its potential option for 'floating zone' where the site gets board approval to begin before specific uses have been detailed. In fact, the Mountco Housing Project proposed a decade ago failed largely due to the developer's insistence on a "Floating Zone" area that might or might not include 250K sq. ft. of tax rateable commercial space. A further risk of "Floating Zone" is what might happen when the property changes hands. The NNI Code was also developed with intent to be near transportation routes like the Quickway, or other significant business hubs, rather than a small cluster of a town hall, rural post office, a police department, dance studio, cafe and church, again raising the question that if any of the other NNI eligible uses that are truly low impact such (Doctor's Office, Research or even Film Studio) that would fit better into the character of the ares are being considered, why not simply request to have it be a Commercial or Special Use Permit project with regular oversight. A project on that acreage could also have an impact on views along the planned stretch of the new Schunnemunk Trail and thus require visual impact mitigation. If the project was changed simply to Commercial it could avoid the pitfalls of a "Floating Zone" issue and the Planning and Zoning boards would retain better oversight over whether a resulting project fits into the Town Center of Blooming Grove's character, and it could still provide a good tax rateable project, and with the support of the community be very profitable. This retained oversight also serves to protect against overly broad interpretations of what kinds of mitigation is needed to preserve viewsheds and rural character, which have been an issue (see example below of the solar array at Johnson Road and Route 94 that is in Chester but very near the Blooming Grove border). The solar company at that site bragged to representatives of both Chester and Blooming Grove's boards that at the point of a protected bucolic view on the corner of Route 94 the panels would not even be able to be seen. Similarly the trucking complex at the corner of Mountain Lodge and Route 208 has been caught up for over a year in court complaints because it does not fit the Rural Crossroads intent. And both County and local comprehensive plans emphasize downlit lighting that does not go offsite, yet some roads (including Prospect) are dangerous to drive late at night because of LED high beam floodlights. Bottom line, municipal boards must hold onto their oversight powers throughout a project's development. This happens because several of the most critical words and phrases in code are open-ended and naturally subject to a fairly broad individual interpretation, one which town professionals and boards must repeatedly tie down. 1- "Preserve Rural Character"; 2- "Mitigate" 3- "Impact the View", and so on.
The actual NNI Code reads: "The overall design goal is to ensure that design of future development in the district is visually attractive and an asset to the Town."
Does it fit that intent for a warehouse between a 10-minute walking distance of the Town Center in one direction, a protected view 5 minutes northeast and possibly in view of the new scenic trail to the west?
On the other hand, most residents would probably agree that a professional office, or even a film studio would "fit the character" of the site and be happy with the project.
This project proposal had been planned to be presented with Town Planner, Bonnie Franson attending. Since she was ill and could unfortunately not attend, the presentation will be rescheduled and she and the public will have another opportunity to weigh in on the options.
Not only are these non-dowlit massive LED lights not "Night Sky Friendly"
they pose an unsafe driving condition at a sharp curve. It is only one of dozens such places where safety and environmentally supportive guidelines are being ignored.
This is supposed to be a protected view on Route 94 and Johnson Road. The solar developer said it would not be visible from the road.
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