The Saugerties Town Board last week issued a positive declaration on the Winston Farm project, a multifaceted development on land adjacent to Exit 20 off the New York State Thruway that once served as the site for Woodstock ’94.
“Okay, we’re off and running,” said Town Supervisor Fred Costello during the meeting held on Wednesday, July 13.
In January, the Town Board appointed itself as the lead agency for a comprehensive State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) study of the project proposed by local developers Randy Richers, Anthony Montano and John Mullen for Winston Farm. Under the SEQRA process, if the lead agency has determined that the proposed action may result in a significant adverse impact, declaring a positive declaration results in the need for an environmental impact statement (EIS), which must state when and how scoping will be conducted.
Costello said the positive declaration allows for the public to stay involved in the process.
“There will be a significant amount of input as we prepare the scoping document, and then there’ll be a…period of study,” Costello said, adding that Winston Farm has long loomed large locally.
“I think it’s important to note that this parcel is of major significance to our community,” Costello said, “Our community has rallied to protect this parcel on a number of occasions. I think the one project that is the one that may have gotten away was the siting of a community college there back in the late ‘50s. Other than that, projects that were proposed proved over time to be flawed.”
The public has already helped shape the Winston Farm project, which has seen the developer propose expanded property buffers on the northern and western borders to 125 feet to provide further separation from neighboring properties.
“We remain committed to closely collaborating with our community and Town of Saugerties leaders on the project’s details,” said Winston Farm project spokesman Josh Sommers in a press release following the meeting. “Winston Farm’s commitment to collaboration is fueled by our respect for our community, the nature and character of this property and the potential to create a vibrant development. We eagerly embrace suggestions that help shape how our dynamic destination will amplify economic opportunity, pride and quality of life.”
The Winston Farm project as currently proposed could include single- and multi-family housing, a job incubator, public multi-use trails, camping and an amphitheater. Developers have also said they planned to help the Village of Saugerties connect to an on-site aquifer as a municipal water source to supplement the Blue Mountain reservoir in response to concerns about the project’s impact on the local water supply.
Other concerns raised by members of the public include deforestation, pollution and increased traffic. Among the groups sharing those concerns are environmental group Catskill Mountainkeeper and Beautiful Saugerties, which was founded by some local residents in response to the Winston Farm proposal.
Kathleen Nolan of Catskill Mountainkeeper and local resident Bill Barr both expressed concerns during the Town Board meeting that tapping the aquifer on the property might not meet the demands for what they described as a water scarcity issue already faced by the Village and Town of Saugerties.
“The well or wells on the Winston Farm site cannot really provide the solution and need further evaluation to really assess what can be sustained there,” said Nolan.
Nolan also touted the need for a development that doesn’t go too far in using the acreage and resources on the property.
“I would really encourage that this approach used here really protect large, intact areas with very high natural resource value and not be portioned out and added up by front lawns or back lawns,” she said. “The more the natural resources on the site are preserved, the more it becomes something welcome as an addition to the community.”
Costello said that the goal of the ongoing planning process is to find a way to make the Winston Farm development work for its investors and the community.
“We are going to go through this process,” he said. “We’re going to do the studies and we’re going to hopefully come up with an outcome that will allow them the opportunity to recapture their investment and something that can be a model for other communities to follow in developing land that…the environmental footprint is small, our goals for climate sensitivity are achieved.”
Costello added that job creation and recreational opportunities are also part of the planning process.
“It’s going to be exciting, if nothing else,” he said. “It’s certainly a significant opportunity, and as representatives of the community, there’s a significant responsibility upon us to balance the community and the rights that developers have as the owners of the property.”