TOM not ready to act on well protection resolution

Posted 5/24/22

Four months after its first presentation from the Town of Montgomery Conservation Advisory Council (CAC), the town board is not ready to designate any Critical Environmental Areas within its …

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TOM not ready to act on well protection resolution

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Four months after its first presentation from the Town of Montgomery Conservation Advisory Council (CAC), the town board is not ready to designate any Critical Environmental Areas within its boundaries.

At last week’s meeting, the town board resumed the public hearing begun that last month when it heard from many supporters of action to protect two watersheds within the town.

The CAC is asking the town to protect two major aquifers: the Tin Brook Aquifer which includes the wells that feed the Village of Walden’s Water Supply and the Beaver Dam Aquifer that includes wells that supply Valley Central High School and Middle School.

A Critical Environmental Area is a geographic area with unique or exceptional characteristics. Local governments are authorized to designate CEAs under State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) regulations. Among the regions CEAs include a 9-mile stretch of Greenwood Lake and the Chadwick Lake Reservoir environs of the Town of Newburgh, both in Orange County, and the Shawangunk Ridge and the Wallkill Public Water Supply water Shed and Aquifer in Ulster County.
CAC Chair Patricia Henighan told the town board that the CEA designation focuses on protecting the wells within the two aquifers, but imposes no land use restrictions.

In addition to the speakers at last month’s public hearing, the proposed Tin Brook CEA also has the support of the Walden Village Board, which adopted a resolution of support last week. Two nights later, Walden Trustee Becky Pearson appeared before the town board, and appeared surprised to learn that the town board members had not received a copy of that resolution.

“If we don’t have clean drinking water, we will have nothing,” Pearson said to Supervisor Brian Maher. “This is so important for your communities. We’ve been talking about this for 20 years. I was mayor. You were mayor. You don’t want to be a Flint Michigan. You don’t want to be a Newburgh.”

Maher said the town still had questions that needed answers before they would vote on any proposed resolution.

“I know that many folks have had some questions on the CEA and I think several of you hit it on the head. It’s important to educate ourselves, it’s important that we’re all informed, so what I suggested was, if the board wasn’t comfortable with passing this as is tonight, we have some more meetings, and that’s something that I think is a good thing,” Maher said. “I don’t think anyone up here doesn’t care about our water, doesn’t care about our water quality, of course we all do. We just want to make sure that we understand what we’re doing and its impact. So that’s a comment that I have.”

Councilman Michael Setteducato added that he didn’t feel educated enough on the matter to vote on it.

Deputy Supervisor Ronald Feller was not convinced that the proposed document would not restrict development.

“On page 8 and 9, it gets very restrictive,” Feller said. “It goes into great detail on meadows and trees and streams. It just gives the impression from some people who read it, that it’s a big stop sign here. ‘Don’t … don’t come to Montgomery because you’re not welcome to develop.’ So that’s the other side of the argument.”

With the public hearing closed, the town board will accept written comment until Wednesday (May 25) at 5 p.m.
“Hopefully at some point in the future we can come up with some language that makes sense,” Maher said.

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