Apple Trees Or Affordable Housing
By Edie Johnson
A cluster development near the border of New Windsor and Washingtonville in the Town of Blooming Grove will soon be the subject of a Public Hearing in New Windsor. Originally scheduled for February 13, the Orange County Post learned as we go to press that the hearing has been canceled and is being rescheduled for a new date, to be determined. Along Shaw Road, the site includes hundreds of apple trees that reach as far as the eye can see, surrounded by a wall of decayed branches and trunks from the many trees that have already been felled. The Washingtonville soccer fields are immediately across the road. Children from the development are expected to attend Washingtonville School District schools. It is not known what, if any, conservation easements are planned on the acreage that is going to be restricted and used for preservation. The cluster development as currently designed consists of 172 homes on 418 acres with 334.4 acres to be preserved. There is significant concern about what kind of impact there could be to the Moodna Creek from 2 tributaries which are slated to be used for sewage effluent from an onsite sewer plant. As we looked today (see picture on page 3) there was very limited water flowing in the tributary that runs along the ravine on the northern portion of the site.
The builder will have to prove that there will be adequate water from these tributaries all year around to treat the sewage properly. Esposito and Associates, of Goshen, the engineering group doing the design for the cluster was not immediately available for comment. The firm has designed numerous other cluster developments with well planned amenities and conservation easements, in Goshen and surrounding towns, some of which allow limited environmentally-friendly uses.
Orange County rural advocates are faced more each day by the demand for affordable housing while they watch farmland disappear. Both needs are great, as is accurate assessment of the development’s impact on local taxes. This site with its 334.4 preserved acres has a plan for ample open space, and conservation easements can be drafted in dozens of ways. The challenge arises when officials have to decide about the tradeoff of designing various uses for that open space (uses that may cost significant money to maintain), compared to leaving it vacant and allowing it to return to a natural state, of fields that ultimately become overgrown. Back in the 90’s urban planning recommended clusters, many including walking paths, boat launches and such. Others attached the large parcels to one or two of the smaller lots, with restrictions on their use. Many towns turned them into ball parks. What these 334.4 open space acres will be used for remains to be decided. Others ask what we will do for fresh produce as our farmland disappears. Might one of the parcels end up with someone who has a penchant for lots of apples? Might a conservation group place its own easement that would protect the remaining trees? Meanwhile with many acres of wetlands on the site the builder can be assured of adequate wells for plenty of drinking water, but hydrogeologists, especially from bordering Washingtonville/Blooming Grove may be taking a close look at the sewage treatment plans, and assessing how they might affect the Moodna Creek, which has already been the victim of some level of PFO toxicity as other tributaries flowed down to the creek from Stewart.
Stay tuned for follow-up news when the New Windsor Public Hearing is rescheduled.