Friday, December 30, 2005

No Development News From Audit Meeting

At the last Hurley Town Board meeting, the senior partner of the developer's law firm had requested an opinion about how many houses the Town Zoning Code would permit on the Hidden Forest acreage. Town Supervisor Gary Bellows responded that opinions from the Town Attorney, the Code Enforcement Officer and the Town Planner must be reviewed first. He hoped to be able to offer an opinion at the Town Audit meeting on December 29. This would be the last meeting of the Town Board before new members were inaugurated on January 1st. In short, nothing was done at the Audit meeting regarding the development. None of the principals involved were at the meeting, including any representatives of the developer. Mike Shultis, the newly elected Hurley Town Supervisor, and the Town Board will hold an organizational meeting at the Hurley Town Hall at 7 p.m. on Monday, January 2.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Hurley Town Board Meeting-Dec. 19, 2005

Background: This was the last formal Hurley Town Board meeting of 2005. It was also the last meeting for Town Supervisor Gary Bellows and Town Board members Al Mayone and Phil Meagher, all of whom were not reelected in November. The remaining Board members, whose terms of office were not up for election this year, are John Gill, who with his family is selling the property to the developer and who has recused himself from any votes on it, and Barbara Zell, whose husband is Chair of the Hurley Zoning Board. The following items discussed at the meeting were related to the proposed Hidden Forest 652-house development: Al Mayone read a letter from members of the Planning Board, the lead agency for the development, in which all the members requested that Paul Hakim be reappointed for another seven-year term as Chair of the Planning Board. Mr. Hakim’s current term ends on February 28, 2006. Mr. Mayone then presented a resolution which he had drawn up, resolving that Mr. Hakim be reappointed until February 28, 2013. The resolution carried. Some audience members privately wondered, without questioning Mr. Hakim’s ability, if this was an appropriate action considering that Mr. Hakim’s term still had two months to run and that a new Town Board would be taking office on January 1 and that the Town Board still had not taken action on members of other committees whose terms had run out last September. Various representatives of the Hidden Forest development were present at the meeting. All the speaking was done by Henry R. Hocherman, Senior Partner of the White Plains law firm of Hocherman Tortorella & Wekstein, the lawyers for the development (Geraldine Tortorella, the usual lawyer, was apparently busy with something else). The matter at hand was the PRD (Planned Residential Development) application, or what is the maximum number of dwelling units that Hurley will permit to be built on the 411 acres in question. Mr. Hocherman specifically wanted to know what the Town Code means by “gross acres of residential use”. So far there are four different opinions: the Town Attorney’s, the Town Building Inspector’s, the Town Planner’s, and, of course, the developer's. All differ, some widely. There may soon be more because the Town Zoning Board feels it has the right to an advisory opinion and the Town Attorney agrees with this, but the developer and the Building Inspector do not. Mr. Hocherman wanted to know what is included in gross acreage and what is not. Does it include the recreational building and related areas? Roads? Wetlands, steep slopes and other unbuildable areas? The developer maintains that as of right the entire 411 acres should be included and they could therefore build 822 units if they chose. The area is currently zoned for one acre per dwelling, but if the builders put in central water and/or sewer systems, the zoning may drop to half acre. However, federal and State wetlands and other areas where they can’t build take up at least a third of the 411 acres and roads and recreational areas would take up quite a bit more, all of which added together under a strict interpretation would allow the developer to build no more than 250 houses instead of the currently planned 652, or threatened 822. Supervisor Bellows responded by saying that if he could get all the relevant people together they might be able to offer an opinion at the Town audit meeting. This would be at 6 p.m. on Thursday, December 29 at the Town Hall, a meeting which is just supposed to, as Supervisor Bellows said, “close down the Town financially” for the year. Bear in mind, though, that a new Town Supervisor and Town Board take office just two days later so how valid any opinion offered on December 29 is debatable.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Public Information Sought on Scoping Issues

The Hurley Planning Board did hold a scoping session November 29 related to the proposed Hidden Forest 652-house development. The purpose of the session was to obtain information on what issues the public considered important enough to be studied by the State-mandated Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Among the issues the Planning Board says will be studied in the Draft EIS are: • Project description, architecture and design • Land use and zoning • Geology, soils, topography and slopes • Wetlands, vegetation and wildlife • Surface water, drainage and stormwater management • Ground water and hydrogeology • Utilities, including water supply and sewage treatment • Traffic and access • Population and fiscal impacts • Community services, including fire, police and ambulance • Historic and archaeologic resources • Visual impacts • Alternatives to the proposed actions At the session, many area residents had excellent and knowledgeable comments about many of the above issues as well as others. The Planning Board considered it important enough to extend the period of public comment until December 31. Therefore, anyone with concerns about issues dealing with Hidden Forest is strongly encouraged to send them in writing to the Hurley Planning Board, Town Hall, 10 Wamsley Place, Hurley 12443 or to by December 31. The part of the development that seems to be attracting the most attention at the moment is something innocuous sounding called a PRD. This is a Planned Residential Development which the Hurley Zoning Book describes as “residential developments which are planned and developed as a unit, which are self-contained, and which occupy sites of sufficient size to provide adequate separation from adjacent uses and properties.” The Zoning Book has a good fifteen pages regulating such developments. In her December 1 Woodstock Times article, Andrea Barrist Stern writes: “The developers have asked the town to approved a planned residential development (PRD) designation for the site to allow them to cluster the dwellings. The town board, which will ultimately approve or disapprove of the designation, has asked the town planning board to act as lead agency during the project’s state-mandated environmental review (SEQRA) and make a recommendation regarding the PRD based on its findings. “If the planning board recommends against approval of a PRD and the town board follows suit, the developer could then build homes on one-acre lots at the site, noted [Paul Hakim, chairman of the planning board]. But it is unclear just how many single homes could be constructed under those circumstances since about one-third of the property is believed to be wetlands and much of the property is sloped. Hakim said the planning board is currently calculating the number of units that would be permitted without a PRD designation.” The 411 acres are currently zoned R-1, meaning that each house must be on a little under an acre. However, if the development provides public water and sewerage each dwelling could be on a little under half an acre. But before the PRD allowing the clustering of the dwellings can be approved, the developers must obtain the necessary permits for their planned public water and sewerage systems. Making it more complicated is that while the Hurley Zoning Book requires that “At least 30% of the gross site area in a PRD shall be set aside as open space and shall remain and be maintained open in perpetuity, ” this does not eliminate, at least to a non-expert in the field, the spaces which they cannot build on in the first place, such as wetlands and steep slopes. Judging from the last maps provided by the developer, they are planning on building on every square inch that they are allowed to, leaving as “open space” only such areas as the State-designated and some federal wetlands. The same holds true for “maximum land use intensities” where “two dwelling units per gross acre [including roads] devoted to residential use” are the most that are allowed. The developers claim a 0.63 dwelling density per acre, or slightly above the allowable limit, but this is for the 411 acre total, including the wetlands and steep slopes where they can’t build anyway. Considering that, with a conservative estimate, the developer could not build on at least a third of the 411 acres, one-acre zoning would allow 274 houses, or less if the recreational center and swimming pools and such are still on the agenda. Even on half an acre zoning this would allow 548 houses, or considerably less than the 652 now proposed in the PRD. As stated previously, designating a PRD is an extremely complicated process. If anything described here needs correction or comments, please do so. It would be most welcomed.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


Public Comments Invited at November 29 Meeting The Hurley Planning Board’s scoping session for the Hidden Forest development has now been rescheduled for Tuesday, November 29 at 7 p.m. It will be at the St. Joseph’s Mission on Zandhoek Road, near Lucas Avenue Extension. This is the meeting that was to be hold on October 26, but which was cancelled at the last minute. Let’s hope this one goes through. Scoping is part of the New York State-mandated Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) required of all large developments. It is the process by which the issues to be addressed in the EIS are identified. According to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the objectives of the process include focusing the EIS on potentially significant adverse environmental impacts, identifying the extent and quality of information needed about each issue, and specifying the range of reasonable alternatives. “Scoping must provide the public with an opportunity to participate in the identification of impacts ” is also one of the objectives. This is one of the very few times the residents of Hurley will have a chance to have a formal input about their concerns regarding the development. The DEC advises that the public be as specific as possible about concerns. Among the areas which the developers are to cover in the EIS are land use, zoning, geology, soils, topography and slopes, wetlands and watercourses [streams], vegetation and wildlife, stormwater management [runoff], water supply, wastewater treatment, traffic and transportation including access roads, town population and characteristics, housing supply, fiscal impacts such as property taxes, economic activity, historic and archeological resources, visual resources, air quality, noise, and community facilities such as schools, fire and emergency protection, police, parks and recreation, and libraries. Among environmental issues not mentioned is lighting. Comments on any or all of these topics and even those not mentioned may be made verbally at the meeting or in writing to Paul Hakim, Chair, Hurley Planning Board, Hurley Town Hall, 10 Wamsley Place, Hurley, NY 12443. They should be sent by the date of the meeting, although there is the possibility of an extension of a few weeks. The State does not require scoping comments to be accepted after this final date without a long, formal process. Judging from past meetings, residents most likely will not receive adequate responses to questions at this session, but your opinions will be noted. And the more people who attend the session, the more the developers and the town officials will be aware that the people of Hurley very much care about the town and its future.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


THIS MEETING IS CANCELLED-HURLEY -- The town Planning Board will have a public session Oct. 26 to determine the scope of an environmental review for the proposed 652-unit Hidden Forest development. The session will take place at 7 p.m. at the St. Joseph’s Mission, Zandhoek Road. The planned residential development is proposed for a site between U.S. Route 209 and Lucas Avenue.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Hidden Forest Development News

On October 3, 2005, the Hurley Planning board met with Ms Gerri Tortorella representing Hidden Forest Development. Ms. Tortorella confirmed that an escrow account for $50,000.00 is in place. This will cover the cost of hiring whatever experts the town might require for the development of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Hidden Forest has sent their finalized statement regarding the acceptance of the planning board as lead agency and the establishment of the escrow fund to Mr. Darwak, the town's lawyer. The board confirmed that they have received a Positive Declaration (POSDEC) from Hidden Forest developers of their intent to file a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). The State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) process begins with the publishing of the POSDEC in the Environmental Notice Bulletin. A public scoping session will be held. While the State requires that certain environmental aspects must be considered in the DEIS the public can require additional aspects to be examined. It was suggested that the meeting be held at St. Joe's since a large crowd is expected. A secretary should be available to record all suggestions. The following dates were proposed: October 20, 26 or 27 and November 2. The actual date depending on the availability of St. Joe's. Ms.Tortorella was also given Joan Paccione's name so that the Conservation Advisory Committee can be included in the information loop. For citizens who would like to know more about the SEQR process and timelines can go to the DEC SEQR website at or click on the link on right hand column on this blog. Submitted by Maeve Maurer, member of the Hurley Conservation Advisory Council.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


At their September 12, 2005 meeting, the Hurley Planning Board formally appointed itself the Lead Agency for the proposed “Hidden Forest” 652-house development in the absence of a request from any other Involved Agencies to take on the job, according to Chair Paul Hakim. A Lead Agency is responsible for undertaking, funding or approving an action, and for the preparing and filing of any required environmental impact statement (EIS). They decide what does and does not go into the EIS. Geraldine Tortorella, the lawyer and agent for the proposed project, made a site plan presentation at the meeting in which the primary change was that Lucas Avenue instead of Route 209 would now be the primary means of entrance and egress from the project. Route 209 would be listed as a designated alternative on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). The change was apparently made because they anticipated lengthy and possibly negative negotiations with the New York State Department of Transportation about the road cut and traffic light at Route 209. Ms. Tortorella stated that “they” (presumably meaning her law firm of Hocherman Tortorella & Wekstein, LLP and the “contract vendee,” Hurley 209 Company LLC) are currently working on a draft scoping document. “Many studies are currently under way,” she noted, and explorations for water are continuing. The next order of business will be to work out an agreement with the Hurley Town Board on an escrow account from which the Town could draw any necessary expenses related to the project. The Hurley Planning Board has yet to schedule a date for a scoping session to develop an outline with the details of the topics to be addressed in the Environmental Impact Statement. A series of relevant workshops might also be planned. According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), “The scoping process has six objectives: • focus the draft EIS on the potentially significant adverse environmental impacts; • eliminate non-significant and non-relevant issues; • identify the extent and quality of information needed; • identify the range of reasonable alternatives to be discussed; • provide an initial identification of mitigation measures; and • provide the public with an opportunity to participate in the identification of impacts.” A full environmental form is expccted to include information on: the project’s impact on land, water, air, plants and animals, agricultural land resources, aesthetic resources, historic and archaeological resouces, open space and recreation, critical environmental areas, transportation, energy, public health, and growth and character of community or neighborhood as well as noise and odor impacts. The law requiring all this is the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA). It states: “Scoping must include an opportunity for public participation. The lead agency may either provide a period of time for the public to review and provide written comments on a draft scope or provide for public input through the use of meetings, exchanges of written material, or other means....The lead agency must provide a copy of the draft scope to all involved agencies, and make it available to any individual or interested agency that has expressed an interest in writing to the lead agency. ..All relevant issues should be raised before the issuance of a final written scope.” Therefore, anyone interested in having a say or just knowing about the ways in which this proposed development is going to have an impact on the future of Hurley (and Marbletown and Rosendale), should request IN WRITING a copy of the draft scoping statement from: Paul Hakim, Chair Hurley Planning Board Hurley Town Hall 10 Wamsley Place Hurley, NY 12443

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Lead Agency for Development Still Undecided

The Hurley Planning Board along with the developer has finally sent out their letter asking if any other Involved Agency would like to be the lead agency for the 652-house development in Hurley. These agencies have 30 days in which to answer and if no agency says they want to be the lead agency, then the Planning Board will be it automatically. The end of the 30 days would be somewhere around mid-August. The Planning Board has cancelled its August meeting and scheduled their next meeting for Monday, September 12 at 7 p.m. presumably to announce the name of the lead agency then. If they don't re-schedule a meeting for August, nothing concerning the development can legally happen until mid-September.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Planning Board Holds Special Meeting

On Monday, June 20, the Planning Board held a special meeting to discuss the lead agency for the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) for the proposed Hidden Forest development. They agreed to send out a Lead Agency Coordination Form to the Involved Agencies. These are agencies which, as the title suggests, are directly involved in the process. They are the Hurley Planning Board, the Hurley Town Board, the Ulster County Department of Highways and Bridges, the Ulster County Department of Health, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the New York State Department of Transportation, the New York State Department of Health and the United States Army Corps of Engineers. This latter agency will receive a form mostly as a matter of courtesy because, we were told, federal wetlands are not subject to the New York State SEQR law. In addition, a number of Interested Agencies have requested to have advisory review power and/or be kept informed of what is happening with the development. They are the Towns of Marbletown and Rosendale, the Ulster County Planning Board, and the New York State Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, this latter because of the possibility of historic artifacts (e.g. Indian burial grounds) on the site. Paul Hakim, Chair of the Planning Board, said he thinks the Planning Board is the body best suited to be lead agency with the other organizations having input into the process. He mentioned that the DEC has recently accepted only one offer to be a lead agency and that is of the Crossroads Venture project in Shandakan. (Also, DEC has had a 25% cutback in full-time employees over the past few years and is extremely stretched to handle what they currently have.) Letters are expected to be mailed to the Involved Agencies in about a week from the date of the meeting asking if the receiving agency is interested in being the lead agency for the development. If there is no response to the letter or if they respond that they are not interested, then the Hurley Planning Board will automatically become the lead agency. No mention was made of what happens if a recipient is interested in becoming the lead agency, but, according to the State, if the lead agency cannot be agreed on within 30 calendar days, any of the involved agencies or the applicant can ask the DEC Commissioner to resolve the dispute. Mr. Hakim stated that no further business will be conducted regarding the proposed development until there is a lead agency. He expects to be be able to announce this agency at the the Planning Board meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. on Monday, August 1. Very briefly, SEQRA requires lead agencies to give equal consideration to environmental protection, human and community resources and economic factors when considering proposed housing develoments, among other projects. It requires a full Environmental Assessment Form to be completed. Click onto the SEQRA Information listing on the right for more details.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Latest 652 Development Information

Most of you have already read the May 20 front page Freeman article on the public informational meeting conducted by the Hurley Planning Board and the developer on May 18. If not, you may want to click onto it in the column on the right. ADDITIONAL INFORMATION • Darren Davidowich of U.S. Homes, soon to change its name to Lennar, gave the attendees a long sales presentation on the houses which will range from almost $300,000 for the 3,600 square foot duplexes to almost $400,000 for the 3,600 square foot detached houses. Currently, the median price of an Ulster County home is about $220,000. A November 28, 2004 Freeman article quoted Chester Straub, president of the Ulster Country Development Corporation, as saying that the median family income in the county is under $57,000 a year. This family, he said, may be able to secure a mortgage in the $130,000-$160,000 range, but not more. • Most of the audience’s questions were taken by Geraldine N. Tortorella, an attorney with the firm of Hocherman Tortorella & Wekstein, LLP, One North Broadway, White Plains, NY 10601. As the Freeman headline stated, “Hurley residents get few answers about gated community.”Ms. Tortorella has written that the limited liability company, Hurley 209 Company, LLC, is a joint venture between Tomlew and U.S. Home. Tomlew will be primarily responsible for the development approval process while U.S. Home will handle the buildout of the project. • Tomlew’s head is Richard Lewis who is based in Newburgh. He was at the May 18 meeting, but did not speak. Tomlew, under the name of Tomlew of Pine Plains, LLC, is in the process of developing a project in Pine Plains of 280 residential units, 7 office buildings and a grocery store on land purchased from a local farmer and the town supervisor. Tomlew is also incorporated as Tomlew of Gardiner LLC. At the May 18 meeting, the developer did not rule out construction of commercial buildings at or near the site. • Lennar, see This Miami-based corporation is one of the largest in the country in its field and has constructed 45 “active adult” communities across the U.S. This would be the first in New York. None are in New England; the nearest are in New Jersey which has three with the largest in Waretown, near the shore, with 1,400 houses. By “active adult” they mean that one person in the household must be 55 or older. • A recent issue of CNN Money says that Lennar is not only in the construction and home sales business, it also has a financial services section that provides mortgage financing, title insurance, closing services and insurance agency services to the buyers of its group homes and others. In addition, it provides high speed Internet access, cable television and alarm installation and monitoring services. • A lead agency for this development has yet to be decided. The lead agency is very important because it oversees and sets the direction of the inquiry. Dan Shuster, the Hurley town consultant, noted at the May meeting that this agency could be any of many involved agencies including the Hurley Planning Board or Town Board, the Ulster County Planning Board, Department of Highways and Bridges or Department of Health, or the State Department of Environmental Conservation, Department of Health or Department of Transportation or even the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In addition, Marbletown and Rosendale have requested status as “interested agencies.” • One Hurley resident claims there are Indian burial grounds on the site which should be investigated and marked. • Traffic. The development must still procure permission for a road cut onto the controlled access highway, U.S. Route 209, from the State Department of Transportation. The only exception to DOT’s access-control rules has been for the state police barracks. The developer has proposed a traffic light at the site. Others have requested a public connector road there between 209 and Lucas Avenue. • Water. The project is expected to generate a daily water demand of 250,000 gallons. Outflow from the sewage treatment plant is to go into Mill Creek which flows very close to the main Hurley/Marbletown aquifer where most of the towns’ drinking water arises. The proposed site is currently full of bore holes for water, sites which were accessed by bulldozers. Residents are strongly urged to take a walk through the area to see the resulting damage to the woodlands. • The development must be built under the provisions of the PRD (Planned Residential Development) provisions of Hurley’s local zoning laws. The Town Zoning Code states that “In order to carry out the intent of this section, a PRD shall achieve the following objectives: a) A maximum choice in the types of environment, occupancy, tenure, types of housing, lot sizes and community facilities available to existing and potential town residents at all economic levels. b) Flexibility in the location and design of small scale nonresidential uses which support and are compatible with residential areas. c) The preservation of trees, outstanding natural topography and geologic features and prevention of soil erosion. d) A creative use of land and related physical development which allows an orderly transition between lands of differing characteristics. e) An efficient use of land resulting in smaller networks of utilities and streets. f) A development pattern in harmony with the objectives of the Town of Hurley Comprehensive Plan.” • A draft of the upcoming Hurley Comprehensive Plan states: “The general consensus of the citizens of Hurley was to maintain the rural character of the community and our township. They were concerned that overdevelopment would change Hurley and its culture. They did not want to see Hurley become a victim of urban sprawl and wanted to maintain the rural atmosphere, peace and quiet of this uniquely residential town.”

Friday, April 08, 2005

Posted by Paul Economos re 4/7/05 Meeting with Developers

At the request of Jack Darwak, Paul Hakim asked the developers to be left off the agenda for the Planning Board meeting last Monday(which they did) until some issues could be clarified. At the meeting were Paul Hakim, Jack Darwak, Gary, Al Mayone, Karl Brueckner, and Dan Shuster. Dennis Larios could not attend. Essentially the Town told the developers that they would not do any PR for them, and that if they wished to proceed, first an open public meeting would have to be held to let the public know EXACTLY what is involved in the development process here. Not just to say, for example, that a water study would be conducted, but to explain what would be involved in such a study. Who would be performing it, how are they credentialed, what the scope of it would be, along what agency guidelines, what the long and short term ramifications would be, how accurate it would be regarding site specifics, etc. That's just one thing as an example. They were also informed that some preliminary info would have to be provided before the Town would even consider reviewing the project, such things as: Do they have access to the State Road? Do they have a plan regarding the rail trail and any encroachments?, Are adjacent property wells going to be addressed as well as on site water?, etc. They were told that without first having a COMPREHENSIVE open public forum, NO REVIEW WOULD BE CONDUCTED. And, that if any of the people presenting were out of line, the project consideration would most likely be summarily rejected out of hand. I only heard about the meeting around 6:30 this morning. Also of note, the developers were told that the Planning Board, on the advice of Jack Darwak, would request that the State D.E.C. be declared as lead agency for the SEQRA review. They may or may not accept lead agency status, sometimes tending to not be involved in anything with home rule implications, but all at the meeting felt it was most appropriate to follow that path. The public presentation will also include an explanation of section 210-45 of the Zoning, which is for PRD districts. This is just a beginning, of course. They must present a step by step, well defined course of action so the residents know what is involved in the process from the developers end as well as the Town with the review process. Proposed timetables are of course part of this. Paul Economos

Thursday, March 24, 2005

"Hidden Forest" Comments Welcome

At the Febuary 6, 2005 meeting of the Hurley Planning Board a developer named Richard Lewis outlined a proposal to build 652 houses on 400 acres in Old Hurley, replacing the beautiful and historic Mill Creek woods between Route 209 and Lucas Avenue. The land is owned by the Gill family. The security “pavilion” to this gated development would be where the parking lot of the Rail Trail is now. Only residents and those with permission would be allowed into this luxury site where the price of houses will range up to nearly $400,000 in current prices. The plan is to restrict residents to “active seniors” 55 and over. In other words, this is not what is normally thought of as senior housing, but a development which will include two swimming pools, tennis courts, a large community center and similar recreational facilities solely for the residents. The development's lawyer in a letter to the Planning Board states: "The project is intended to be constructed in six phases of roughly equal numbers of units over approximately six years. Each phase will include a variety of unit types. The phases will be built successively and each will include sufficient roads, stormwater management structures and practices, and utilities to support the phase. Construction of active recreational facilities, including the club house, and the sewer and water plants will be commenced at the time of commencement of the first phase." Recently, there was a great deal of bulldozer activity in the area which, the developer claimed, was digging to determine if there was sufficient water. Ulster County regulations only state that the builder has to show that there is enough water for that particular site, not if it will dry up the supply to other residents. In addition, this site is extremely close to the main aquifer for Hurley and Marbletown. The area consists mostly of highly permeable soil with a limestone bedrock, meaning that any pollutants are conducted rapidly downhill. Thus, any spilled pollutants will most likely end up in the aquifer and, thus, into our drinking water. The developer plans a nearby sewage treatment plant.