New Windsor Moratorium
Vote Brings Warnings Of Lawsuits
By Edie Johnson
New Windsor’s Public Hearing on Tuesday night, February 6, set a moratorium that will last at least 3 months. At the outset of the meeting Supervisor George Meyers assured residents and developers they were eager to hear both the public and developers’ concerns along with any suggestions they might offer. Meyers said that on Tuesday he had spent a good part of the day reading messages threatening to sue the town. He added that even before being sworn in as Supervisor he has been acutely aware and working on solutions. Town Attorney, David Zagon, and Engineer Mike Weeks of McGooey, Hauser & Edsall described in detail the critical status of the Town’s water and sewer infrastructure and the potentially disastrous consequences of continuing to grow without a plan to correct existing sewerage excesses and the Russian Roulette they are now playing with processing just enough water from 4 different sources The two largest water contributors are Butterhill Wells (which is using a temporary GAC Filter), and the Catskill Aqueduct (which is in and out of repairs ) are not entirely unreliable. The other two water sources (Kroll Well, which is also filtered by a GAC system and St. Anne are insufficient by themselves). The DEC is responsible for the filter system at Butterhill until September of 2020 and agrees to leave it. But they have not committed to installation of a permanent one. Fortunately the Catskill Aqueduct comes back online on February until its next phase of repairs which is scheduled for October of 2020. A loss with any of the suppliers could have a major affect on the health and welfare of citizens.
At the same time the Town’s Sewer Processing Plant on Caesar’s Lane is already processing more sewage than their DEC permit allows. Mike Weeks described the system which was built in the 60’s and with a life expectancy of about 30 years is experiencing increasing lack of efficiency and need for repairs. It is in serious need for an infiltration (INI) analysis since water infiltration raises the proportion of unnecessary water that counts in the processing totals. Over the past 3 years the sewer plant has exceeded its capacity during nearly half of the months. It has been under a consent order because of the excess flow, thus making the INI studies urgent. A series of repairs have allowed it to continue operating, however allowing more rainwater, stormwater and groundwater inflow to the system. A fairly significant upgrade will also be needed to meet new state code requirements. Obviously, any new development will further negatively impact its effectiveness. With an average daily flow of 5.054 million gallons per day, if those building projects already in the pipeline proceed, the flow will approach or exceed 5.411 million gallons per day.
But developers have put large amounts of money into their projects and are already partly through the planning and approval process. These commercial developers were polite, but also warned that due to the potential finances lost by their clients, they would represent them as “necessary”. They argued that the footprint of their projects is much less than the footprint of housing developments like Apple Ridge. As such, they feel they should be eligible for an exemption from the Moratorium. A trash to fertilizer company says that if allowed to proceed on their project it will solve more problems than it will contribute to. And a plastic surgeon planning a new office across from Cornwall Landing says if he doesn’t get an exemption he will reach the end of his lease at the current building he operates out of, and will have to seek a site to build in a different municipality.
Residents Speak: The public that was present was very supportive of the Moratorium and thanked the Town’s board and advisory professionals for working hard to identify details of the problems and striving to take big steps to rectify them. They implored their board to “DO it right. Make sure your ducks are all in a row.” One woman described the town she moved to New Windsor from in Illinois, saying “It was choked by urban sprawl. Ultimately an endangered turtle stopped the overbuilding because of protest and actions taken by the school’s 4th Graders who spread the story of “The Plight of the Turtles. Addressing Supervisor George Meyers she said “Believe me, you don’t want to be faced by a group of assertive Fourth Graders. Other residents impressed the need for the Town’s Planning Board to look at the broader picture of area development, saying ‘They need to be told to connect the dots and consider the whole community. That’s what we elected you for.” Another emphasized “New Windsor has existed since 1763. George Washington was here. If we’re going to do this (moratorium), we need to do it right. Get your ducks in a row.”
Project Developer Attorneys Have Their Say: Developers (Banta Hospitality, New Windsor Hospitality, Simone Developers, DP Stonegate and others) were respectful but assertive that their clients have already spent large amounts of money toward their projects, They argued that at least in some instances their projects require less from the town, and offer more in return than proposed housing developments. Rather than become involved in contentious legal suits, several commented “We can be part of the SOLUTION.” Their new rateables, they said, can help pay for the infrastructure upgrades. John Capello, who represents DP Stonegate said “There’s not a developer here who wants to have a development where you can’t flush a toilet”.
The Public Hearing unanimously closed, and the Moratorium unanimously passed, the board will accept letters from the public. A copy of the proposed Local Law can be found on the homepage of the Town’s website at http://newwindsor-ny.gov/