Tom Auringer does not give up easily. The environmental review for a proposed industrial plant on former quarry lands now surrounded by state forest and a growing network of popular hiking trails is set to resume with a virtual audio meeting by phone this coming Monday evening, June 15.
The Town of Kingston posted a legal notice last week that its planning board will hold its next meeting at 7 p.m. to discuss the application of Auringer’s company, 850 Route 28 LLC, via WebEx.
The public can listen in. “This is not a public hearing and no public comments will be allowed,” the notice stressed. “A public hearing on this application will be held in the future and will be duly noticed.”
Representatives from the applicant business will provide information sought by planners and their consultants, including consulting attorney Rick Golden. That information in the form of application amendments has been available on the applicant’s website at 850route28.com. Many of the changes, and planning board’s comments and questions, had been predicated by public outcry, much of it coordinated by the Woodstock Land Conservancy and Catskill Mountainkeeper, two of many regional environmental organizations that have expressed concerns about the proximity of the industrial uses next to sensitive public lands.
850 Route 28 LLC has applied to build two 120,000-square-foot manufacturing structures for the assembly of steel and cement bridge-repair components on the site of the former quarry. The large land parcel is now surrounded by state-owned and Open Space Institute-owned lands that are part of the Bluestone Wild Forest and Onteora Lake recreation area.
In January, nearly 200 people came out to a Town of Kingston planning-board meeting held in a Town of Ulster school, where they listened to planners’ questions about the application. In March, a workshop meeting was held to accept new materials created in answer to questions raised by the town’s engineer, Ryan Loucks of Crawford & Associates, planning counsel Golden, and Kingston planning board members.
What’s new in the application
The new application materials include a revised site plan, a newly revised environmental assessment form (which project opponents are saying should be jettisoned for a more comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement, given that the project’s initial EAF was rejected by the planning board last August), new letters and emails from state agencies regarding curb cuts and existing trail easements, and other supplementary materials.
A letter to the Town of Kingston’s planning-board chair John Konior from the applicants’ lead engineer, Barry Medenbach, further outlines specific answers and responses to matters raised January 22, including mention of the late congressman Maurice Hinchey’s facilitation of the site’s sale to a private company, Boccard Industries, in the late 1980s for a proposed manufacturing facility, with similar job numbers, in exchange for the donation of what would become the Onteora Lake and wild-forest lands. At the time, Hinchey was chair of the state Assembly’s Environmental Conservation Committee.
Greater environmental oversight
Woodstock Land Conservancy executive director Maxanne Resnick reported this week that her organization and Catskill Mountainkeeper have submitted a number of reports and letters to the planning board for review, including reports from consultants Hydroquest in regards to faulty hydrology tests submitted by the applicants. The site does have a significant history as a particularly rich example of the region’s bluestone quarrying cultural legacy. A separate report from local historian Glenn Kreisberg charts the presence of important Native-American routes through the property. Finally, studies by Barton & Logiudice associate Thomas C. Baird P.E. finds inconsistencies in the application materials, including with sound studies to consider cumulative effects.
In addition, letters from the organizations’ attorneys and several planning consultants have argued for the positive environmental declaration. The project’s impacts require not a short-form environmental assessment form review but the greater oversight involved in a full environmental impact statement.
A letter has also been sent from the Mid-Hudson Group Sierra Club to state assemblymember Kevin Cahill expressing “concerns regarding the increasing accumulation of cranes, trucks, heavy equipment, and other materials” at the 850 Route 28 site. “We believe that this usage is in violation of the current zoning and that there is no valid permit to allow these activities at the site,” that letter noted. “Lacking appropriate controls, noises and stormwater pollution emanating from the site may cause harm to adjacent wetlands and water bodies and diminish the public’s enjoyment of the Bluestone Wild Forest.”
“There seem to be great inadequacies in the application,” Resnick said on behalf of the Woodsotck Land Conservancy. “These would all be answered within a full EIS process.”
The January 22 meeting that the June 15 virtual meeting is to follow up on was the planning board’s first public session on the controversial manufacturing proposal since August 29, 2019, when an even larger crowd came out to hear the local planning board announce it was rescinding both an earlier negative declaration regarding the need for a full EIS and a zoning change the town board had made involving the property last year.
Raleigh Green, public relations officer for 850 Route 28 LLC, said this week that he wasn’t expecting any action at the applicant’s site until the autumn, at earliest. The planning board has planned no further meetings on his client’s application until then, he said. “This has been a very drawn-out process … and we have many more months to go,” he said. “This is still a long game, and the applicants are still committed, especially given Ulster County’s unemployment figures and the need for new revenue sources for local government.”
Those wishing to attend the virtual planning board meeting at 7 p.m. next Monday, June 15 should call 1-408-418-9388, access code 796 230 808, password: 2345.