The review of an application to add three more cottages at Woodland Pond in New Paltz resulted in various reflections on the process that got this segregated senior citizen complex approved in the first place. It was a contentious process that resulted in a lawsuit, and current Planning Board attorney Rick Golden appears to have read that settlement with care. Golden was particularly interested in ensuring that any new construction on this environmentally sensitive site complies with the terms of that settlement.
Woodland Pond is on a site with a good amount of wetlands, and according to Golden the settlement refers to buffers. The attorney wants to ensure that any settlement terms are also complied with for this additional construction. Woodland Pond board member Michael Zierler — who has also served as chair of this Planning Board — pointed out that federal wetlands have no buffer in law, and that there is no wetlands law in the Village itself. The fact that this parcel was annexed into the Village at all frustrates some residents, as that’s what made it possible to build this high-density complex at all, but that decision was made in the 1970s, long before an interest in high-end senior ghettos emerged in New Paltz. While Zierler is correct on those points, Golden noted that since the settlement refers to “buffers,” then buffers should be considered.
Another aspect of the settlement was to require the construction of “critter crossings” that would prevent mass deaths from becoming the main legacy of George Danskin Way, named after the individual who was Planning Board chair when this project was first reviewed. Board member Rachel Lagodka, a longtime watchdog of this development, said that they do not work as intended. The crossings are supposed to ensure that salamanders make it safely across the asphalt keeping them from their spring mating grounds, but that they are too dry to be of interest to the tiny animals. Lagodka said that every year volunteers try to save as many salamanders from certain doom as possible, since they continue to try to cross the road the hard way. Golden said that reopening the environmental review would be appropriate to consider.
Seemingly without irony, Zierler closed the review portion by asking current board chair John Litton, “Is it premature to set a public hearing?” It’s a question that Zierler fielded on a regular basis while in Litton’s seat.
“It is,” Litton replied.