ELDRED, NY — The lead agency on a project typically fills out Parts II and III of the SEQR form. However, at its March 22 monthly meeting, the Highland Planning Board read through Part II of a …
ELDRED, NY — The lead agency on a project typically fills out Parts II and III of the SEQR form. However, at its March 22 monthly meeting, the Highland Planning Board read through Part II of a SEQR form that had been filled out by Camp FIMFO engineers. The read-through of the 10-page document resulted in a “no or small impact” assessment on all of the environmental criteria. The only change that the planning board made so far was to indicate that the effect on traffic would be moderate, not small.
The Part II SEQR review is part of the proposed “expansion and modernization” by Northgate Resorts of the former Kittatinny Campgrounds located on Route 97 just north of Barryville. The $44 million project requires approval of the proposed site plan through the planning board, as well as approvals from the New York State departments of health, environmental conservation, historic preservation and transportation, as well as the National Park Service and the Delaware River Basin Commission.
The year-long process of review has stepped through these various approvals in a fashion that planning board chairman Norm Sutherland has repeatedly described as lackluster in terms of vigorous agency oversight. Throughout the process, members of the community have testified to and put on record their concerns about the environment, emergency response and possible changes to the character of the community.
Of the 18 questions that explore environmental impacts, Northgate’s engineering firm, Labella, wrote that there would be no impact under the categories of geological features, air quality, agricultural resources, open space and recreation, critical environmental areas, or community character. In all other areas where potential impacts are noted, the responses ranged from small impact to no impact, with added commentary that the use of best engineering practices, the implementation of a storm water prevention plan, and improvements to infrastructure would “ensure no significant adverse impacts.” Answers also included the framing of proposed environmental disturbance in terms of “improved/widened roadways for emergency access and improved utilities.”
In introducing the SEQR, Sutherland said that the board, for the last five years, had the applicant fill out Part II, because the process of review was “repetitive and redundant” after a while, under the previous chairman. Sutherland said the board was creating its own document of questions and answers which would need to be addressed beyond the Part II SEQR form. He also said that the board would make no declaration on SEQR until it receives the review from the National Park Service indicating whether the project was in compliance with the River Management Plan.
According to Jim Eldred, an environmental analysis with the DEC Division of Environmental Permits, as long as the planning board accepts the filling out of the form, it becomes their own, regardless of who fills it out. The form triggers further review if any impact is registered as moderate. Traffic impacts is now on that list.
A copy of the SEQR Part II form, on which the board took no action, and all other submitted documentation, including citizen letters, are available at www.townofhighlandny.com under the planning board tab.
In another developing project, representatives for the new owners of the Catskill Mountains Resort were on the agenda with a pre-application presentation for a special-use permit. Port Jervis engineer John Fuller told the board that the new owners are looking to change the use from a hotel, restaurant and resort to a religious retreat center. Plans include adding four dormitory structures, each 5,800 square feet in size, with 32 rooms, for a total of 128 beds. Additionally, the plan calls for an additional 10,000 square-foot multi-purpose building, and an 800 square-foot mikvah across Mail Road on a 6.8-acre parcel.
Fuller said that preliminary engineering studies of water and septic have been made. “We feel it fits within the zoning as it currently is constructed,” he said.
Attorney Steve Barshov, of Sive, Paget & Riesel, assured the board that all prior violations on the property have been taken care of. He said that the proposed religious retreat center is for summertime use, and that an operating permit from the Highland code office was in effect. He also indicated that, potentially, the retreat center could operate beyond the summer months.
Upon receiving the application, Sutherland had forwarded the proposal to the town’s zoning consultants, Laberge Group. Preliminary review of the application indicated that dormitories and religious retreat centers are not listed in Highland’s zoning code as a special use and were, therefore, prohibited. Upon that declaration, the overflow audience at the town hall applauded. The board denied the special-use application as it was incomplete and invited the applicant to resubmit the application with a $5,000 escrow payment to pay for consulting and engineering reviews.
Barshov told the board and the audience that he had successfully litigated projects such as this and would explain at the next meeting how the town’s zoning consultant “was in error” that the use of a religious retreat is not permitted.
Shane Pearson and Courtney Crangi came before the board to ask about the process of applying for a special-use permit for a micro-cannabis operation at 3465 State Rte. 97 in Barryville. They and their consultant, Ruben Lindo of Gridiron Enterprise Management, wanted to “hear what we have to do” to receive a permit to build a hydroponic greenhouse to grow cannabis and sell it on location. The board said that a completed application, an engineered site plan and a $3,000 escrow payment were necessary for the review process to begin.
The board also held four public hearings for short-term rental applications, and scheduled three others, to be held at the Highland Town Hall on Wednesday, April 26 at 6 p.m. before the planning board meeting, which begins at 7 p.m.
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