Macks Lane resident Gordon Hamilton reminded the Town Board last week that a petition was submitted to the Planning and Town Boards from approximately 50 residents in his area, highlighting the fact that 6 large development projects have been proposed in their small area in the southern side of town.
“There is going to be an impact on the quality of life, natural noise barriers are being removed, light pollution is going to increase and traffic is going to become complicated,” he said. “We are seeing a degree of sprawl that is going to change the character of this town.”
Hamilton said these projects should be looked at, “as a grouping; essentially being pecked to death by doves is not necessary better than getting mauled to death by a bear and this is what’s happening at this point.”
Hamilton suggested that the Town Board pass a moratorium, “until such times as it can be determined what are the environmental effects, the quality of life effects, the transportation effects upon the town and what has to be done in order to keep this under control.”
Councilman Joe Mazzetti said he supports smart growth development but is concerned that by 2025, according to a recent engineering study, the town will have to put a second shift on at the Water Department to meet the rising demand, more roads will need to be maintained, paved and plowed in winter and there will be pressure to hire more police and dispatchers.
“I believe we need to do something because as we progress forward and these plans keep moving...and we keep waiting, our whole landscape and infrastructure is going to change and there will be a huge tax burden upon the taxpayers,” he said. “We as a board need to be responsible to our residents and somehow slow this down or stop it until we can really decide what way to go. I support a moratorium if we can get the numbers (board votes) together.”
Councilwoman Claire Winslow said she is holding back on approving a moratorium until she has all of the facts. She wants the Planning Board to evaluate if a moratorium is needed.
“I’m very nervous about it and I don’t want to do anything that’s going to make this town look ridiculous in years to come and I certainly don’t want to hurt neighbors,” she said. “We think about it and we’re trying to come up with a plan that will slow things down.”
Councilman Mike Guerriero said traffic is the first thing that must be addressed in the southern section of town. He favors a moratorium to allow time for a proper traffic study to be conducted.
“It’s going to be a nightmare if it’s not done properly,” he said. “You can’t just put one project in and then put another one. I think they all have got to find a way to get everybody together and make that whole thing work instead of Mickey-Mousing it.”
Supervisor Paul Hansut acknowledged that the Town Board has the authority to put a moratorium in place but believes the matter has remained undecided because of politics.
“These things should have been looked at two years ago and decisions should have been made,” he said. “It takes a majority of the Town Board to make a moratorium; it doesn’t take five, it takes three. So if the moratorium is what we wanted to do or that was the vision that was in the political conversations over the last four years, then it should have been done.”
Hansut noted that some members of the Town Board criticized other boards about how “out of control” development was in town. He urged his fellow board members who favor a moratorium to to take the initiative to have a legal resolution drawn up, “and move forward, that’s my opinion. I am not in favor of doing a moratorium without a vision moving forward; if you’re going to do it, do it the proper way and have a plan of action coming to the end.”
Councilman Lenny Auchmoody said the Department of Transportation is in charge of doing a traffic study, “a decision that is not ours to make.” He believes that the Planning Board and the Building Department have the expertise needed to evaluate these projects and that the Town Board should listen to them.
“Right at this moment I don’t see a moratorium but if those guys can convince me that that’s the thing to do, then I will follow their lead,” he said. Attorney Sean Murphy said none of the recent development projects have “vested rights” since they are only in the proposal stage, so a moratorium can be put in place by the Town Board.
Murphy said the process for a moratorium would be to have him develop a resolution ready at the next Town Board meeting on September 16, with a public hearing then set for November. He asked whether the moratorium would be town-wide or limited in scope to certain areas of town, a distinction that was left undecided.
Mazzetti said a moratorium would allow time for the town to review and clarify density issues, maximum height allowed for buildings, perhaps increase setback buffer zones when a development is infringing upon a residential neighborhood and also study traffic patterns. He asked Fred Pizzuto, Chairman of the Planning Board, to discuss this issue with his members. He responded that the Planning Board does not legislate but deals with the details of proposed site plans.
“We have the Village in the Hudson Valley, we have the Views, we have the hotel behind Rite Aid and the potential of another nursing home; you’re looking at 800 to 900 plus beds,” he said.
Pizzuto said taken separately each project may be a benefit to the town, “but how do you make it work without inundating the town and the water and the sewer, the police and everything else in one fell swoop. I don’t know if the town can swallow a 10% growth in a year or two when it is 1% a year ongoing. You [town board] are the legislative piece of this, you need to tell us what to do or how to do it.”
Planning Board member Sal Cuciti suggested the board pass a moratorium just on larger, multi-family, mixed use projects and not on one or two family homes or renovations so that a thorough review can be done on the Comprehensive Plan. He said if this is done, “a lot of the problems that we’re facing would be less. How much less is up to all of you [Town Board], but it would be somewhat less traffic and less impact on the town’s infrastructure.” He said this would be a reasonable approach.