Auto facility prompts county questions

By Laura Fitzgerald
Posted 4/10/19

The Orange County Department of Planning expressed several concerns over water resources and zoning definitions as the final scope for BHT-Montgomery, an auto recovery facility, was adopted.

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Auto facility prompts county questions

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The Orange County Department of Planning expressed several concerns over water resources and zoning definitions as the final scope for BHT-Montgomery, an auto recovery facility, was adopted.


The final scope for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement was adopted at the Town of Montgomery planning board meeting on March 25. The planning board issued a positive declaration for the project, finding it may have potentially significant adverse environmental impacts. The action requires the assembly of a DEIS, which will address potential environmental impacts and mitigation measures.


The 118-acre project will contain about 4,115 parking spaces for storage of used inoperable insurance salvage/resale vehicles, according to the draft scoping document for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). It also includes a 9,900 square foot motor vehicles sales building and a 70,000-sqaure-foot drop off and pick up area. Cars will be sold through an online auction.


It is located between Stone Castle Road and Browns Road, with 17K bordering the southern portion.


The project also includes stormwater management controls, fencing that will fully enclose the vehicle storage area, an access from NYS Route 17K and an emergency access through Lotocke Drive to Browns Road.


In a letter to the Town of Montgomery planning board dated March 19, Orange County Planning Commissioner David Church expressed concern over damage to nearby water resources from vehicle leakage. The Tin Brook adjoins the site, and it lies in a floodplain district which contains about 53 acres of wetlands, less than .1 of which will be disturbed, according to the Environmental Assessment Form (EAF).


The EAF also states unmapped potential wetland buffers will be encroached upon and developed in some locations. It includes 27 acres of impervious surfaces.

“There is concern over likely and potentially inevitable water quality and quantity impacts to nearby water resources due to operational realities of the proposed land use action,” Church’s letter states.


Church expressed special concern for the Tin Brook, which adjoins the site and is drainage for a drinking water aquifer which serves numerous public water supplies, including the Village of Walden, the hamlet of Wallkill, and numerous neighborhoods and farms.


“Indeed, without significant reduction in scale, thorough environmental assessment and evidence, and substantial mitigation measures, this Department may in the future be inclined to recommend disapproval of the proposed action relevant to the priority policies found in the county comprehensive plan and water master plan, which positions drinking water supplies and source water protection of utmost concern,” Church said.


The department questioned the rationale for allowing the land use near a water source and recommended the town promptly consider adopting a stream corridor and aquifer protection. Nearby communities have protections in place, such as Shawangunk, who has adopted a critical environmental area designation and a protective overlay for the Tin Brook.


Church also expressed concern over inconsistences in definitions and permitted uses in the town zoning code.


There is some question as to whether the proposed use is permitted, as junkyards are not permitted in any zone in the town, Church said.


“Any land or structure or part thereof exceeding 300 square feet in area used for collecting, storage or sale of wastepaper, rags, scrap metal or other scrap or discarded material; or for the collecting, dismantling, storage or salvage of machinery or vehicles not in running condition, or for sale of the parts thereof,” the town’s zoning code states as the definition of junkyard.


Automobile recycling facilities, which town building inspector Walter Schmidt determined the use to be, are permitted in the I3-zone, but the term is not defined in the town code.


“Thus, there is confusion and interpretation may be needed from the zoning board of appeals,” Church states. “Further explanation and elaboration needs to be documented differentiating the proposed use from a junkyard as defined in the Town of Montgomery zoning code.”


The Town of Hamptonburgh received an application from BHT but determined the use to be a junkyard and denied the application at a meeting on Feb. 1, 2018, according to Town of Hamptonburgh planning board meeting minutes.


The final scope will require the DEIS to include potential impacts of the proposed project on land use, zoning and public policy.


The Orange County Agricultural and Farmland Protection Board (AFPB) sent a letter to the planning board, stating the project was not appropriate for the site because of potential adverse impacts on area farms.


The AFPB also expressed concern for the potential of degraded groundwater and water resources, which would negatively impact neighboring farms who feed their crops and livestock using this water.


“Contamination could negatively impact the ability for farmers to grow crops or keep livestock. For example, if some of the vehicles leak antifreeze and the anti-freeze gets into the drinking water (surface or ground) of livestock, the animals are likely to die as anti-freeze is lethal to animals."

Furthermore, if crops absorb components of the leaked fluids, it is possible that crops will not be able to be used or sold because the pollution could impact the safety of the crops.”


The AFPB said the noise of the operation could cause stress to animals on neighboring farms.

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