The Ferris Woods application, now featuring a smaller number of senior apartments, is being considered by Town of New Paltz Planning Board members again. Originally, the Ferris Woods proposal was for 60 two-bedroom senior citizen apartments in five buildings on 43 acres that would be accessed from the end of Brouck Ferris Boulevard in New Paltz, with an emergency access route running from the back of the nearby car wash on Route 299. Now, the proposal includes 48 apartments in four buildings, which shrinks impervious surface by three-quarters of an acre, parking from 106 spots to 89 and the total disturbance from 7.1 acres down to five and a half. Storm water runoff, and the basins needed to capture it on site, would also shrink. The developer’s consultants believed this would also get the project retyped pursuant to state environmental laws as “unlisted” rather than type 1, which would result in a closer look at the impacts; board attorney Ashley Torre, however, disabused them of that notion. Under new state rules, property “substantially contiguous” to a public recreation area qualify for type 1 review; the Empire State Trail may well trigger that condition.
Brouck Ferris Boulevard resident Michelle DiDonna’s house is closest to the proposed entrance to the complex. She brought to Planning Board members concerns she and other neighbors have been raising since this project was first proposed, including that the entrance to a development of this size should be on a collector road, which this boulevard is not. Orna Gorosh, who operates a day-care center a few hundred feet away, said she’s concerned how the additional traffic will impact the safety of walking with children along the now dead-end road. Another neighbor, who identified herself only as Phyllis, said traffic on Ohioville Road is already “impossible,” and fears “we’ll be trapped” in that traffic should this development be approved. There won’t be services comparable to those found at Woodland Pond, DiDonna added, meaning that residents would be making more frequent trips than traffic engineers have predicted.
Peter Setaro, engineer for the developer, said that it is “rightly so” that traffic is a concern, but he feels the smaller project — together with his assessment that the traffic impacts were “overstated” in an earlier report — leads him to believe that Brouck Ferris Boulevard has “ample capacity” for the additional car trips, which would result in “little to no delay impacts” on the road. The impacts on groups of small children walking to the woods to look at animals and plants was not considered in that traffic study.
DiDonna also recounted some history as she knows it: the entire neighborhood, as well as the adjacent car wash and hotel on Route 299, was once owned by the Panessa family, and selling that frontage deprived them of an entrance on a state road for this project, which she believes would be more appropriate. Developers, she believes, “want access to what was once theirs,” but are constrained by a lack of foresight.
DiDonna is married to Matt DiDonna, a member of the town Planning Board who, before his appointment, also was an outspoken critic of this particular project. When Planning Board members turned to reviewing the application, he recused himself for that reason. That’s the only occasion under town law when an alternate member can step in, and Brendan McLaughlin will thus be a voting member for the purposes of reviewing this application. Charles Martorana, attorney for the applicant, thought it a “wise choice.”
In addition to access for motor vehicle drivers, another major concern is water. The property is riddled with wetlands, and pumping water for this complex, in addition to impact nearby wells, could impact those environmentally important areas. Setaro said that if pump tests showed this was the case, they’d increase the size of planned storage tanks to compensate for what cannot be immediately pumped. However, it’s his preference to make that a condition of the approval, rather than holding up the environmental review for a test that’s central to the impact of the project on the environment. Town engineer Rebecca Minas is already paying close attention to the wells, as they’re intended to be in the wetlands buffer established by town law, where nothing is supposed to be built. She suggested that the new plans be reviewed at the DEC, and by the town’s wetlands inspector, since both the project and the inspector have changed since a report was issued for this application.
Setaro pushed back on the additional review, and while Minas conceded that allowing the building inspector to take the first look might be acceptable, she held firm on the pumping. She pressed Setaro on the location and size of the storage tanks, which he was unable to provide at this juncture. Variances will be needed to get this project approved, and Minas sees far too many variables at this point.