Disagreement on Gabel Road

Posted 6/21/22

HORTONVILLE, NY — The Town of Delaware has a policy on the books to encourage farming. Chapter 125 of the town’s code includes articles ensuring residents’ right to farm, and sets …

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Disagreement on Gabel Road


HORTONVILLE, NY — The Town of Delaware has a policy on the books to encourage farming. Chapter 125 of the town’s code includes articles ensuring residents’ right to farm, and sets up a structure that resolves disputes between farms and their neighbors.

A proposal to subdivide an existing farm has some neighbors concerned about the impact it could have on the area’s rural, agricultural character.

The project proposes to subdivide a property on Gabel Road into eight lots for single-family houses. It was brought to the Delaware Planning Board in 2021 by owner and New York City developer Gavin Fries.

Concerned citizens in the Delaware community have questioned elements of the project as it progressed through the stages of planning board approval. Their advocacy developed alongside the project, culminating in the creation of the group Delaware Concerned Citizens (DCC).

What are the citizens concerned about?

The planning board met June 15 to decide on final approval for the project. A pair of letters from DCC sent to the planning board that day summarize the group’s concerns.

The first letter, written by the DCC’s lawyer, John Barone, notes that the project would impact community character. The submitted plans for the Gabel Road development fail to address its impact on character or aesthetics, and leave out valuable information, including architectural designs of the proposed houses, it said.

The group also worries about the project’s stormwater management, as addressed in the second letter, written by the DCC’s engineer, Kevin Draganchuk.

Stormwater currently flows from the Gabel Road property toward a 1.2-acre wetland and a stream that connects to Callicoon Creek. According to Draganchuk’s analysis, the increased runoff from the subdivision’s impervious areas could result in downstream flooding or in pollutants making their way into the stream.

The subdivision has a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) to address concerns about runoff from the property. The current draft of the plan contains “inadequacies, missing information and inconsistencies with the requirements of… best engineering practices,” writes Draganchuk.

Is the board concerned?

As part of that approval, the planning board had to decide whether the project had a significant environmental impact as part of New York State’s SEQR process.

DCC members in attendance wanted the board to declare the project environmentally significant, and to hold off approving the project until that impact could be examined in more detail. “We are very troubled that we have arrived at a point this evening in which a development project may be granted a final approval that is simply not justifiable at this time,” said Suzann Dvorken, speaking on behalf of DCC.

Tom Shepstone, the planning board’s consultant, led the board’s analysis of the project. Planning board chair Warren Blumenthal recused himself because a member of his real estate office has a client involved in the Gabel Road project.

For his part, Shepstone was troubled by DCC’s suggestion that the board had not conducted a proper review of the project. He had read the letters and taken their contents into consideration, but he considered it “unprofessional” and “a stalling tactic” that they had been submitted the day of the meeting.

“I assure you, we have not ignored anything. I have gone through every single piece of correspondence your lawyer sent and everybody else has sent, I’ve detailed and made lists of every issue you’ve identified and I’m going to address each and every one of them tonight,” said Shepstone.

Shepstone identified a list of potential impacts the project could have on the environment, sourced from his analysis and the public comments he received. These included impacts on soil erosion, water discharge and wetland or endangered species habitats.

Each potential impact had an answer. Referring to analysis of the property, local planning documents and rough estimates, Shepstone concluded that there would be no significant environmental impact from the project, and recommended approval under a few conditions. The developers had to update the project’s SWPPP and have it approved by the town’s engineer. They would also need to include a homeowner’s association or a similar plan to ensure communal maintenance.

The planning board gave the project conditional approval.

What comes next?

The next steps for the project involve the revision and approval of the SWPPP.

“In its present state it is not up to DEC standards or even the best standards and practices in stormwater engineering,” said Draganchuk. While it could be revised, he noted that the town engineer made observations on a previous draft of the SWPPP that mirrored his own on a later draft. “If I’m seeing the same thing that the town engineer saw, that means that those comments were not remedied by the applicant.”

While the project received conditional approval from the board, the community disagreement around the project did not show signs of subsiding.

A nearby resident who wished to remain anonymous said that the DCC had tried its best to get the letters in on time, and that she did not appreciate Shepstone’s aspersions on the group. “I don’t appreciate how I perceived that we were bullied by Mr. Shepstone with that tone.”

Delaware Concerned Citizens, Gabel Road, subdivision, conditional approval


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