No EIS required for Mohonk Preserve’s Foothills Project

The Testimonial Gatehouse in New Paltz. (photo by Al Alexsa)

The Testimonial Gatehouse in New Paltz. (photo by Al Alexsa)

AFTER EIGHT MONTHS of hearings that provided hundreds of pages and countless hours of testimony, New Paltz Town Planning Board members voted Monday night to make a negative declaration of environmental signifi cance regarding the two applications which comprise the so-called Foothills Project. What that means is that there will not be an environmental impact statement (EIS) prepared. What it doesn’t mean is that the project will be approved without any additional changes.

The Foothills Project focused on 857 acres of land sold to Mohonk Preserve by the Open Space Institute (OSI). One part is a site plan that describes several new trail heads and parking areas, including one near the Testimonial Gateway, as well as expanded parking at Hasbrouck House and a walkway through Humpo Marsh. The subdivision will take about 19 acres, which is on the other side of Butterville Road from the Preserve lands, so that it can be deeded back to OSI as part of the original deal between the organizations. Neighbors have expressed continuing concerns about impacts on traffi c, off -street parking and quality of life in houses that are now all but surrounded by such lands.


Testimony during the final portion of the hearing on the subdivision — the site plan hearing having been closed last month — came from only a handful of people. Nearby neighbor Lou Cariola recounted yet another accident that had taken place last week on Route 299 near the intersections with Gatehouse Road and Jacobs Lane, which resulted in a signifi – cant stretch of guardrail being knocked down. While a speed-limit reduction isn’t something that these board members can require, he feels it’s critical to get it reduced along this winding stretch where many other roads join 299 at acute angles.

Andi Weiss-Bartczak and Irwin Sperber spoke about what Sperber called the “continuing sense of alarm” regarding town engineer David Clouser’s recusal from this application last September, when these public hearings began. He recused himself because he was gearing up to sell his practice to the fi rm Barton & Loguidice, which has been retained by Mohonk Preserve on this project. Weiss-Bartczak pushed for information about when the recusal was announced, saying that it wasn’t in the minutes as town attorney George Lithco had claimed. Sperber said that he imagined such a decision would not have been made “instantaneously,” and that Clouser likely was in talks for some months prior, tainting his review of the application.

Board member Tom Powers continued to push for resolution of the speed limit question. While Lithco opined that the safety concern should be addressed with or without this particular project, Adele Ruger noted that the Town Board could have acted to request the reduction for over a year. Chairman Michael Calimano took responsibility for that delay, explaining that he’d been advised it would be better to perform studies to justify the reduction before making that request; only in the past few weeks did he learn that those studies are performed by state DOT employees, and all that’s needed is a form to be fi lled out and submitted. He promised to bring it to the next meeting. Lagusta Yearwood said that the question of the speed limit was holding up this project “to a ludicrous degree,” and the two issues rightfully should be addressed separately.

While board members were unanimous in their agreement that an EIS should not be required for the site plan, Amy Cohen still had lingering questions about the subdivision, and ultimately abstained on those grounds. Any subdivision presumes a building according to the code, and this one shows an envelope in which to place on that’s up to 5,000 square feet in area. Because it’s a residential zone, it’s shown as a two-family home. Those data points have struck several board members as being peculiar, but most appear to have chalked it up to trying to comply with zoning requirements while also ensuring that further building and subdivision on this lot are severely curtailed. Cohen still wanted more information.

Now that the environmental review is complete, board members can focus on those and other lingering issues before deciding if these applications can be approved. The process may be months from completion.


CVS returning to agenda

Now that applicant Trans-Hudson Management has paid the outstanding escrow bill and replenished those funds, Chairman Calimano confi rmed that the CVS/Five Guys application will be back on the agenda for June 13 after several months of no action. At that time, he said, a new design for the drug store will be submitted, something that is being called a “New England look.”