Neighbors fear lake development

By DAVID HULSE

SWAN LAKE, NY — Some property owners at Swan Lake are trying to play catch-up in the approval process for a 40-lot, second-home development project that Long Island developer Anthony Murolo has already begun.

About 15 owners, a couple of lawyers and reporters met privately with Murolo on June 7 at the Liberty Town Hall prior to the town planning board meeting. Following that session, the neighbors waited until the end of the planning board agenda and questioned the town’s planners.

Last year Murolo purchased 768 acres, including the lake itself, and proceeded with plans to subdivide. He came to the planning board in October and the first phase, 21 lots on 114 acres on the lake’s north shore, was approved in January. A second phase, 19 lots on 121 acres west of the first, is before the planners now.

The neighbors, many of whom admittedly pay little attention to planning board activities, did not learn of the project until trucks and equipment arrived this spring to cut arterial roads. They wondered how a development could win quick approvals on a lake where the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) had posted warning signs about nesting bald eagles. They worried how the septic systems for dozens of new homes would impact the water quality and how open access would change a 352-acre lake that has seen limited recreational use.

Murolo assured residents, at the earlier session, that only one home site would be within 200 feet of the lake, others would be set back a minimum of 300 feet and all would have DEC approved septic systems. Murolo said he planned one common lake access but was uncertain whether a ramp or a floating dock would be installed. He offered assurances that deeds in the gated community would contain “lots of rules and regulations” to maintain the existing look of the property.

But residents Sam and Cynthia Karras said Murolo’s road construction was already damaging the lake. They produced photos of the muddy lake waters near the project following thunderstorms on June 5. “When this happens, you kill wildlife and make neighbors angry. You weren’t here. I saw it with my own eyes,” Sam Karras said.

“You can’t build roads without moving dirt,” engineer Randel Wasson said, adding that the contractor was working as quickly as possible to get the road-base material in place, which would stop the runoff situation. “We need some time to do these things,” he said.

Karras went on, saying that residents on his side of the lake have town sewage lines. “We [The town sewage system] can’t accommodate your 40 homes. You should come up with the money for a treatment plant for those properties.”

Cynthia Karras asked how environmental approvals could be made with nesting eagles on the lake. “You knew about the eagles,” she charged.

Murolo said a query to DEC about the property had come back with no red flags. “We had a letter from DEC. I’m no expert and my engineer is no expert either,” he said.

DEC cites known eagle habitat by latitude and longitude and the coordinates submitted did not signal any response, even though the agency posted the lake earlier. “The DEC admitted their mistake,” neighbor Cora Peterson said.

Peterson said the trucks have damaged the town road and their noise has ruined her feeling about her home. “Now I go to my apartment in Manhattan for some peace and quiet,” she complained.

Resident Nancy Levine said she worried about the lake too but wanted to give Murola an opportunity to respond to their concerns. “Give him a chance to follow through,” she said.

Planning Board Attorney Walter Garigliano later told the neighbors that the project was handled like any other, and that Murolo had been prompt in addressing planners concerns and making any changes. Engineering work and environmental approvals are yet to be completed for phase two, he said.

Phase two is closer to the eagles’ nest on the opposite side of the lake, but the nearest home site is about 1,000 feet away, Wasson said.

Planning Board Chair John Schmidt said the DEC would determine setbacks from the eagles.

Murolo also owns the nesting property and said he has no plans to develop it.

Peterson’s attorney John Parker asked if Murolo would consent to an additional public hearings on the project and Murolo said he would consider it.

TRR photo David Hulse
Developer Anthony Murolo, right, and his engineer Randel Wasson field questions from Swan Lake residents about his second-home development plans. (Click for larger version)