Glasco affordable housing opponents focus on safety objections

The proposed 40-unit affordable housing project in Glasco was recently in the news because of the town board’s request that the developer sign a tax agreement or lose it. That wasn’t part of the agenda at last week’s planning board meeting though, a reminder that the controversial project has still not been approved, and that ultimate approval won’t be based on political or community opinion but the technocratic appraisal of that appointed body.

The main concern voiced was safety. Emergency vehicles would have a hard time responding to a fire or other emergency at the proposed 40-unit Dickerson’s Keep housing development, warned Glasco Fire Chief Mike Sasso and the fire commissioners in a letter to the town’s planning board.

The system of hollow pavers containing grass that would comprise the road to the development “will not support four of the five trucks that will be responding to this development,” said the letter, read at the board’s Feb. 21 meeting. One of the trucks weighs 30 tons. “The commissioners frown highly on vehicles going off blacktop surfaces,” the letter states.

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Finally, the commissioners note that there are no fire hydrants shown on the plans. “We would like to see fire hydrants on each end and the center of the buildings.”

Project engineer Richard Praetorius said changes have been made to accommodate safety concerns, and more could be done to meet the needs expressed in the letter. Regarding the inability of the proposed paver system to carry the weight of the trucks, which approach 30 tons, Praetorius said the system, now designed to handle 20 tons, could be upgraded to handle a 30-ton truck if need be. Current storm water regulations discourage blacktopping the internal roads, Praetorius said. “All the planning of today says ‘less pavement, less pavement, less pavement,’” he said.

He noted that the plans have been changed, with building heights reduced from 42 feet in the original plans to a maximum of 35 feet.

Praetorius said the parking areas had been redesigned to ensure that a fire truck could turn around. It’s not necessary to have enough room for a fire truck to turn around: with buildings under 30 feet, a ladder truck wouldn’t be needed.

Planner Ken Goldberg had a breakdown of emergency calls, and it turned out that most were medical or assisting homeowners who had locked themselves out or had similar problems. “I didn’t see a fire call in a year and a half,” he said. The figures were from a similar Regan development, he said.

“If the Planning Board feels that all these emergency events would warrant these things to be paved, you certainly have that choice during the site plan approval process,” Praetorius responded.

Board chairman Howard Post warned that if the access roads were paved, people would park in those areas, potentially blocking emergency vehicles.

The matter could be further discussed during the site plan approval process, and “the best idea can be put on the plan,” Praetorius said.

Michael Moriello, the attorney for the developer, noted that the board had received copies of a proposed negative declaration – a statement that no new issues requiring an environmental study had been raised. The board’s planning consultant, Dan Shuster, had amended the statement, Moriello said, and “I believe he improved it.”

At a previous meeting, the planners were informed that the developer, Larry Regan, planned to dedicate the road to the town once the project was completed. The plan now calls for the internal roads to remain in private hands, to be maintained by the developer, Moriello said.

Before the discussion, Gaetana Ciarlante, an opponent of the development plan, asked whether the planners would allow a statement. Ciarlante said she had applied for permission to make a statement prior to the meeting. “Was that request denied?” she asked. Board Secretary Juanita Wilsey said the board does not have a formal mechanism for allowing members of the public to speak at meetings, except during public hearings.

“We did make an exception two months ago; Pete Petramale had called up and we allowed Pete and Mike Sasso to speak because it was an update from the fire department at that time,” said Post.

About 20 project opponents were in the audience, many of them displaying signs opposing the project.

The board voted to approve the amended negative declaration – that is, the declaration that there are no outstanding environmental issues – which is based on the declaration for the earlier market-rate apartment project. The board then voted to submit the plan to the Ulster County Planning Board for review.

Following the meeting, Ciarlante said she was disappointed that the board did not honor her request to make a statement. She would have reiterated some of the information the board had discussed regarding the hazards of insufficient turning room for fire-fighting equipment, she said.

 

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