Clovewood DEIS Gets Big Thumbs Down
From Village of South Blooming Grove Residents
By Edie Johnson
A capacity crowd filled the South Blooming Grove Firehouse auditorium on Monday night to hear the latest version of a DEIS (Draft Environmental Impact Statement) for a project on Clove Road. Originally slated to be a Golf Course/Country Club, it has had several iterations over more than a decade. Dozens of residents representing homeowners, Schunnemunk Trails advocates, Preserve Blooming Grove and even a realtor spoke about the deficiencies they said they saw in the document, the realtor describing the lengths she has to go to assure that Fair Housing Laws are followed. The development, including 600 houses, each proposed for 0.23 acres is described in the actual DEIS as a Hasidic Community, a fact which she said is at the get-go “clearly biased and illegal.”
A lengthy list of other items in the document which they called “faulty or skewed calculations” was pointed out by one after another speaker. The crowd got a little rowdy twice, particularly when one of the applicant’s attorneys commented that the public hearing, at a Draft status, might be confusing to those in the audience. Clearly insulted after participating in numerous planning processes over the years, and indeed previous versions of this plan, several people responded “We know exactly what is going on.” The second outburst happened when a Hasidic gentleman, an out-of-towner from Highland Mills, spoke to the crowd saying that the complaints were not really about water and the like, that the complaints about the DEIS were “Because people hate Jews. These people are stirring up noise for no reason at all”. After being told to address the Town Board rather than the audience, Mayor Jim LoFranco warned the audience that if there was further disturbance, the police would escort anyone creating disruption out. Several individuals in the crowd started videotaping the disturbance which was later passed around on social media by both sides.
The primary complaints voiced about the DEIS were:
- “It does not fit in with the rural character and will impact highly sensitive views from major trails along the Schunnemunk Ridge.” The DEIS noted that the 600 homes, possibly with accessory apartments, along with 2 community centers and two Park and Rides, would not impact the view from Schunnemunk.
- Water in the Village has been on restriction for years, due to issues in both quality and quantity. Blooming Grove Supervisor Rob Jeroloman noted that particular problems at the Orchard Lake Well share the same aquifer as the proposed development. He added that there were other deficiencies he believed need further review in the DEIS. Numerous other residents noted the longtime water problems, including John Salka who said “We can’t wash our cars or water our lawns, but we are supposed to support 600 new homes with a possible 1400 residents? How can the board even consider this? This is America.” A woman asked “Well testing included 9 days between tests for recovery. Who lives like that?” The backup plan for the development’s water includes an option to run a pipe through the Schunnemunk Mt. to Kiryas Joel. The Ridge is a highly sensitive environmental area with endangered species and is protected.
- Ward representative and Blooming Grove Deputy Supervisor George Doering who represents Ward #5 (which includes part of the Village of South Blooming Grove, commented on the option in the design for eventual pipeline connection to Kiryas Joel.
- A plan to release sewage effluent into the Satterly Creek, they said, is an untenable alternative since the Satterly is an intermittent creek and runs dry during Summer dry spells. An active downstream farm uses the water to irrigate their vegetables.
- There are no details about how the open space is to be protected.
- The number of buses to provide service to school children is likely underestimated since Hasidic boys and girls are transported otherwise. House counts, they said, are also probably off, with most Hasidic families including more than 4 residents. Swimming pool calculations they said were probably off as well, with the estimate of only 2 swimmers at any given time.
- The increased traffic on both Route 208 and the few narrow and curving roads that go up to Clove Road, they said would cause untenable congestion, a dangerous nightmare for commuters and there is no plan for the applicant to improve infrastructure.
- The site includes a superfund dump, which they said could contaminate neighboring residences and farms if disturbed.
- A visual impact study that was supposed to determine impact from a number of protected viewsheds was said to have been done improperly, not at the time it was scheduled, and with only a balloon or two that were raised from low spots between the many bungalow buildings, buildings that would be razed if the project proceeded, and no one at Route 94 to photograph.
- The shuttle referred to in the document is no longer permitted.
- Someone asked “Who is going to use the Park & Rides. Will there be thousands of people coming for celebrations?”
- The DEIS refers to the need for affordable housing, but residents said it in no way gives details of what the houses will look like, what they will cost or how it solves the problem, while the Village indeed has other problems and sufficient low-cost homes for its residents.
- A Village firefighter asked “How are we supposed to fill our tankers for this? It puts the safety and lives of local firemen at risk.”
Additionally, blockbusting (harassment of homeowners by pushy realtors) seems to have returned in the area surrounding the proposed project. Residents have put signs up again. Soliciting without a permit at a house with a “No Soliciting” notice is illegal. A resident said “Don’t knock on my door. I’m not leaving!”
This Public Hearing was for the purpose of collecting people in the municipality’s concerns. After reading all of the comments the applicant will be required to respond to each and every one of them. Additional written comments from the public will be accepted for 10 days following the hearing. The hearing was not closed, due to the possibility of some residents being away for the holiday. A date for its continuation will be announced.
Mayor LoFranco clarified that the hearing in no way constitutes acceptance of the project, or its number of units, or subdivision, or site plan. The public hearing was adjourned.