Developer 850 Route 28 LLC’s proposal to build two 120,000 square foot manufacturing facility structures on former quarry lands now surrounded by a state Wild Forest and hiking lands presented amended Environmental Assessment Form (EAF) materials, seeking a new Negative Declaration under the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQRA) that would ease the way for its project, at a January 22 Town of Kingston planning board meeting held in the Town of Ulster.
The meeting, which allowed no public comment but nonetheless drew approximately 200 citizens, was the first for the controversial project since another public session at the same M. Clifford Middle School in Lake Katrine at the end of August. At that time the Kingston Planning Board announced that they were rescinding both a Negative Declaration they had previously made regarding to the developer’s application, and a zoning change the town board had made involving the property at 850 Route 28.
The manufacturing facility application was first proposed in July, 2018. The planning board’s initial Negative Declaration was made on March 18, 2019. Such a declaration allows a project to go forward without having to conduct extensive environmental studies.
By May, representatives from the Open Space Institute and Woodstock Land Conservancy were present as the planning board sought to close out its public hearing process. The organizations noted that they had never been notified of the proceedings, despite being contiguous landowners. Moreover, both environmental groups noted how the EAF the town had approved only weeks earlier had made no mention of the nearby Onteora Lake state park lands, or the surrounding Bluestone Wild Forest, used by many for hiking, in its considerations.
At the January 22 meeting, Engineer Barry Medenbach, of Stone Ridge, a representative for the developers, who are looking to manufacture steel and precast concrete bridge decking out of the two proposed 120,000-square-foot buildings, did the majority of the talking, backed up by attorneys and others.
After Medenbach’s presentation, which focused as much on typos and minor shifts highlighted in their nearly 600-page submission from December as any substantive shifts in plans suggested by public comments last summer, Town of Kingston planning board engineer Ryan Loucks of Crawford & Associates brought up several discrepancies he had found in the amended EAF, and also made suggestions.
The key takeaways were calls for greater detail regarding blasting plans at the site and full paperwork from other permitting entities.
Areas of concern
Before reading his own remarks, planning board counsel Richard Golden, from Orange County, told the audience to address their e-mailed comments to the planning board, and not the town clerk, with a reference to the 850 Route 28 LLC case for each submission.
Golden then noted that the current EAF process did not mean the proposal would receive a “positive” declaration this time around, which would force the developers into a full environmental impact statement process. It could easily result in a second Neg Dec on the new EAF materials, with mitigation.
“This is an entirely proper process,” he added. “At an appropriate time in the future the board will make a decision on significance. The same for the changes that were rescinded on the town zoning map…There will be public hearings.”
Key among the errors and oversights he wanted corrected in the applicant’s new Environmental Assessment Form was a reference to the planning board’s August 29 rescinding of the first EAF being due to a procedural error. No, he pointed out, the board’s resolution on the matter had actually referenced it being due to new information that arose from public comments.
Golden also said the developer needs to eliminate the term “industrial use” from a section of the application that describes what current zoning allows on the property, pointing out that the still-valid zoning for the site, until the town board possibly corrects its earlier change that had also been rescinded in August, was actually MU-2 — “primarily a commercial zone.” Similarly, the lawyer pointed out that the use of heavy equipment on site was deemed acceptable by the Kingston building inspector, and not approved by the town, as the application had suggested.
Golden also stressed that noise tests would have to be much more comprehensive, given the 24/7 nature of the proposed operations, and park setting that surrounds it.
Mention was also made of concerns expressed by the Hurley Conservation Advisory Council about possible runoff problems into the adjacent town’s waterways, including the Esopus Creek.
Next meeting on the project is March 16
Keith Bennett, a new member of the Kingston Planning Board, asked a number of specific questions of Medenbach in regards to proposed tree buffers, and what they would consist of; how other temporary 15 foot tall sound baffles will be made, and how water would be used on site, in terms of both waste and stormwater.
Golden asked the applicants to make their changes easy to spot before resubmitting and added that there would be no discussion of the 850 Route 28 LLC application at the board’s next meeting in February.
“You can expect another meeting like this one on March 16,” he added, pointing out that it would likely be held in the same spot.
He further pointed out that the town board would be voting on the addition of one or two new alternate members to the Kingston planning board as a means of dealing with possible quorum problems in the future.
Golden said that the town’s process regarding a revote on its zoning amendment was on hold until the planning board completes its SEQR process.
By all accounts, that may take the process into the summer, at least.