With a vote of 4-3 vote, New Paltz Town Planning Board members voted Monday to make a negative declaration of environmental impact for the Trans-Hudson Management application. The so-called CVS proposal calls for the titular drug store, as well as a Five Guys Burgers and Fries, to be placed on the 5.6-acre parcel bounded by the Thruway, Route 299 and North Putt Corners Road in New Paltz, with a third potential pad site to be developed at a later date. The votes mean no in-depth environmental impact statement is to be prepared for more detailed analysis of issues such as traffic and the clear-cutting of the premises. The vote is a statement that the impacts don’t rise to the level of significance required under the State Environmental Quality Review act, or SEQR.
Board members didn’t broach the subject until after 10 p.m.; the agenda was doubly long due to a cancelled meeting, and CVS was last on the list. Without discussing the content of the resolutions before them, board members were closely split on two critical votes: the first to accept the revised part three of the environmental assessment form, or EAF; the second was a resolution on the significance of the environmental impact. In both instances, co-chairs Adele Ruger and Lagusta Yearwood were joined by Amanda Gotto in their dissent.
Gotto, the newest member of the board, pressed board attorney George Lithco for information on what comes next. He assured her that options up to and including denying the application remain available through the site plan review process, but more than once he stressed that the reasons must “relate to the site plan standards.”
Justin Dates, a consultant on the project, immediately offered to prepare a response to those lingering concerns, which include questions over clearing of living trees, filling with tons of material to level the property, and traffic impacts for a project adjacent to the most congested intersection in the town.
The news was not welcome by the few elected officials reached on short notice to comment. If this project “doesn’t require at least looking at an EIS, I’m not sure the system is working well,” said Town Supervisor Neil Bettez. “What would you have to do” to make that case, he wondered, adding that the notion that such a large project doesn’t warrant an EIS is “shocking.”
Deputy Supervisor Dan Torres is clear on where his duty now lies. “If 13,000 trucks worth of fill and cutting down six acres of trees does not warrant further environmental review, I am not sure what does. That decision highlights the need for a moratorium and in my mind is a litmus test for current planning board members who may seek reappointment.”
After the votes Yearwood said, “We didn’t do our job” with the environmental review. “I’m ashamed of us,” she added.