Blooming Grove And Cornwall
Finalize Community Preservation Plans
By Edie Johnson
The Town of Blooming Grove was treated to a presentation of the work this past Tuesday that is a culmination of more than 3 years of study. It started with a DEC Wetlands Grant in which both Cornwall and Blooming Grove collected lists for a Natural Resources Inventory that formed the basis of the Cornwall-Blooming Grove Natural Heritage Project. This in turn formed the basis of the Town’s new Community Preservation Plan.
Johanna Kiernan, at the time Deputy Supervisor, did much of the early work on the Inventory with Cornwall (which shares many of the same borders along Schunnemunk Mt., the Moodna Creek and adjacent farmlands) as well as coordinating the inventory study with the newly formed Conservation Advisory Committees which studied the land resources, listed priority preservation sites and then rated them in terms of importance. The tome of results and recommendations from these environmental studies is part science, part environmental understanding, part historical importance and recognition of how these resources must be managed for sustainable living as well as its recreational assets. It is a work of science interwoven and practically turned into a work of art. If that were not enough, its contents had to be integrated with the environmental goals of the county, state and federal governments. At Tuesday’s Town Workshop Meeting, CAC member Eli Hart began the presentation and Town Planner Bonnie Franson gave a final summary.
The result is that the framework for future land, water, mountain and scenery protection is done. Notwithstanding the need to protect and link the areas of important environmental resources and recreational amenities (trails, lakes, ponds, streams, biodiversity corridors and species protections), it also shows what areas remain for growth potential (housing and commercial). Implementation of the stated goals in the Preservation Plan will largely be done by the municipality’s Planning Board, so it is therefore very important that they receive and understand every element of it. Supervisor Rob Jeroloman, council members Jason Kramer, Tom DeVinko, Chuck Quick, Sonia Ayala and Steven Amante have each had to dig deep and become studied environmentalists in their own right.
Public Hearing to be Held On February 4
One of the most important benefits of the Plan’s completion, other than helping to brand the Town of Blooming Grove as an environmental and tourism center that respects and knows how to take care of its assets, is that these priorities will be used for specific protections and possible PURCHASE of open space. As such it can present justification for the kind of Real Estate Transfer Tax included in a PDR (Purchase of Development Rights) program. And, because this particular set of studies by both Cornwall and Blooming Grove is so thorough, it bodes well for a PDR program being approved in Albany Legislature. If by any chance it is not, the town can pass it as a Local Law via Home Rule instead. It also bodes well in applications for other grants, efforts to connect to regional trail systems, habitat preservation for endangered species. It’s all interwoven. For instance, as Town Planner Bonnie Franson said “From a geographic perspective, the Moodna Creek and its tributaries in turn protect a lot of the town’s other priority values (like farmland and aquifer recharge). Agricultural lands also serve as Open Space and habitats.
The completed document will be displayed on the Town’s website in the coming days, so that the public has a chance to study it before a Public Hearing scheduled for February 4. The document will also be forwarded to Orange County Planning for any additional comments or recommendations, though they have already been involved and have been supportive of the study results. A SEQRA Study and “Long Form EAF” is also required to be sent to the County, and incorporation of any of their recommendations will make the Preservation Plan official. The SEQRA study is not as complex as those required for building projects. Its consistency with the county and state comprehensive plans serve to reinforce its value. If by any chance the Town (and in Cornwall’s case Village) Boards disagree with any of the County’s recommendations, a 2/3 majority vote will be required. The County has 30 days to respond. Otherwise, acceptance of the Plan is implied.
The final approved Community Preservation Plan will be an addendum to the town’s Comprehensive Plan.
The studies began in tandem with Cornwall, and they too are near to final acceptance of their Preservation Plan.