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.

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