HRVR Draft Scoping Document Comments

The following statement is provided by Save The Lakes, Rosendale, NY in response to the Draft Scoping Document for DEC Project Number 3-5146-00063 released on 17 September, 2008, relating to a project proposed by Hudson River Valley Resorts for the former Williams Lake Hotel property.  This statement mirrors the format of the Draft Scoping Document.  All major section headings are shown; minor headings appear only as needed.  Suggested changes are accompanied by precise wording which is consistent with the tone and style of the original draft.

Boxed material is explanatory and is intended to describe why the related change is deemed relevant and significant.

Although we have attempted to provide thorough and meaningful input to the Scoping Document, Save The Lakes is concerned that the developer has not provided the public with a detailed site plan, making it difficult to comment intelligently on the Scoping Document.  We believe a comprehensive site plan should have been required of the developer before the scoping process was begun.  Although the developers did provide a "Concept Plan" to the town, they have repeatedly stated, in response to specific questions about it, that it merely represents a concept and that the details are either unknown or will be provided "later".  We are aware of instances where the developer has made specific statements about the project that are in conflict with the submitted Concept Plan.  Since the content of the Scoping Document depends on what the development will actually be, we feel that initiating the Scoping process without having a stable site plan is a clear case of putting the cart before the horse.  Should the Content of Section II of the EIS differ materially from the Concept Plan, we will expect to be given an opportunity to raise additional concerns.

I. Executive Summary

II. Description of the Proposed Action

A. Site Location and Description

B. Description of the Proposed Action

ADD new numbered item: Fully describe the residential resort community proposed in the draft of the Planned Resort Special Permit zoning amendment submitted to the Town of Rosendale.  Describe Common Interest Developments (CIDs), Planned Unit Developments (PUDs), Time Shares and all forms of individual ownership, shared ownership and private self-governance that would apply to the residential resort community.

1.

ADD: Include a fully detailed map of the project site, including the precise location, footprint and size of all structures proposed.

3.

If the developer's zoning code amendment is to be addressed under SEQRA at this time, discussion throughout the EIS shall include the implications of this code change for the town as a whole and not just this project. 

It is entirely possible that there could be at least two other spa resorts comparable to HRVR's project with the PRSP designation.

ADD: Discuss the proposed "Planned Resort Special Permit" in the context of spot zoning.  Include legal analysis of the potential long-term impact on future development in Rosendale should this permit be written into law.

C. Project Purpose and Need

ADD new numbered item: The New York State Open Space Plan (p.148) designates the Karst Aquifer Region, of which the Binnewater Lakes are a part, as a priority project for Region 3 for conservation/acquisition.  It notes that "this region is characterized by such features as caves, sinkholes, mines, springs, lakes and sinking streams.  The area is rich in biological, geological and historical resources, provides diverse outdoor recreational opportunities and critical water reserves".  Discuss how the proposed project is compatible with this designation.

2.

ADD: Discuss project scale and appropriateness under the Town of Rosendale Comprehensive Plan of 2007 and adherence to the principles set forth in the Ulster County Open Space Plan of 2007.

D. Approvals, Reviews and Permits

III. Environmental Settings, Impacts, Mitigation

A. Soils and Topography

2.

g.

ADD: Include among the known sources of soil contamination the use of multiple areas of the property as firearms ranges, resulting in lead contamination.  These areas include the former biathlon target range on the east side of the current baseball field, the more recent bermed target range just north of the baseball field, the dump site used by the Williams Lake Hotel, and other areas which can be identified by Williams family members.

B. Surface Water Resources

3.

ADD: Discuss the potential for use of rain gardens as a storm water source control and water quality treatment.

c.

DELETE, from the first sentence: conceptual.

The entire project is current defined only by a 'conceptual' plan.  The EIS needs to be based on actual and specific plans.

ADD: Describe the extent to which permeable surfaces will be used to reduce stormwater runoff.

e. (new)

ADD: Discuss methods of insect control to be employed, their possible impact on surface and ground water, and mitigation thereof.

C. Ground Water Resources

ADD sub-section: Describe the metrics to be used during construction to confirm that impacts are within the predicted ranges, in a sufficiently timely manner as to allow a prompt halt to construction, followed by appropriate mitigation, should those ranges be exceeded.

D. Water Supply

2.

c.(first occurrence)

ADD: assessment of the probable cause of unacceptable levels of Escherichia coli and other contaminates found in lake samples taken between 1993 and 2006, when the hotel was in operation.

Records from the Ulster County Health Department show an ongoing issue related to contaminates in the water, which was addressed (in 2001) by filtering and treatment of water delivered to the hotel, but did not alter the safety of the water used for bathing and to supply adjacent residences not connected to the hotel treatment system.

d.

ADD to end of existing sentence: ...and proof of their long-term effectiveness.

ADD: Mitigation shall address all uses of the lake, including bathing and water supply to adjacent residences not part of the proposed development.

E. Wastewater / Sewage Disposal

1.

REVISE first sentence to read: "...the existing sewage disposal system(s), including those of the 6 privately-owned residences located inside the project boundary."

The 6 properties referred to are:

These properties, all of which border Williams Lake (2 across an intervening roadway) currently use on-site wastewater disposal.  Since the proposed project anticipates use of Williams Lake as a potable water source, inclusion of these adjacent wastewater systems is necessary to an understanding of risk to that water supply.

7.

ADD: discussion of the potential to connect the 6 residences mentioned in para 1. to the project wastewater collection system, so as to reduce possible contamination of the proposed primary water source.

F. Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecology

1.

b.

ADD: Define a specimen tree and how that will be decided.

2.

c.

ADD: Specifically address the loss of the open field recreation area as a result of excavation to expand the surface area of Williams Lake

3.

d.

ADD: Detail measures toward full compliance with section 404 of the Clean Water Act.

G. Land Use and Zoning

1.

ADD new lowercase lettered section: Discuss the development of this property in terms of the greatest net benefit to society.

Open space and rare habitat supporting endangered species together represent a substantial value associated with the Williams Lake property not explicitly addressed by market determinations.  In this regard, benefit accrues not only to the landowner, but to the involved community as well, and development providing the highest value to the landowner can easily deviate from use that would provide the greatest benefit to the community and the region.

a.

ADD: Provide a comprehensive description of community use of the property prior to 2007.  Include mention of public and private functions, access to cross-country skiing, sled riding, permit fishing, mountain bike rallies and races, swim club, beach club, group picnics and the like.

b.

ADD: Contrast the need for private governance and security buffers including gates and security stations with a rural area of low crime and quiet, mixed-income neighborhoods.

ADD: Discuss any physical restraints on the customer / resident population.  Describe the extent to which amenities, common areas, and residences (including townhouses) will be accessible to those with disabilities.

c.

ADD: Include discussion of the typical expansion practices of destination / resort / real-estate developments, including ski resorts, and explain how this project might differ.

2.

ADD new lowercase-lettered section: Discuss project scale and appropriateness under the Town of Rosendale Comprehensive Plan of 2007 and adherence to the principles set forth in the Ulster County Open Space Plan of 2007.

c.

ADD: The EIS shall include the specific wording of any proposed modifications or waivers to current zoning law. 

ADD: If modifications to the town zoning code are proposed, include an evaluation of the impacts of such changes throughout the town and not just within the boundary of this project.  Describe mitigation of those impacts.  Discuss such modifications in the context of spot zoning.

H. Transportation

1.

ADD: Analysis shall include existing patterns of pedestrian and bicycle use on Binnewater Road and Breezy Hill Road in the vicinity of the site.

ADD: Analyze the impact of the construction phase on all roadways and intersections discussed under "existing" and "build" environments.  Include specific impacts of heavy trucks and construction worker traffic.  Impacts shall include potential damage to roadways (and mitigation), intersection levels-of-service and effects on pedestrian and bicycle use.

a.

ADD to list of intersections:

b.

ADD: Peak hour analysis shall include Friday peak PM volumes since Friday PM volumes are usually the heaviest weekday PM and a reasonable worst-case analysis should be used.  Similarly, there shall be discussion and analysis of conditions for fall-foliage weekends, Main Street annual festivals, and other special annual occasions which cause re-routing or significant extra congestion.

c.

ADD: analysis of the impact of new intersections on traffic patterns and adjacent properties, including sight distances, prevailing speed on the existing roads, noise, and headlight impact on nearby residences.

The 11 Nov 2007 Concept Plan shows two new intersections created by a road which services houses on the ridge West of Binnewater Road, one new intersection providing an entrance to houses on the North shore of Williams Lake, and one new intersection for a road alongside the relocated rail trail on the North side of Breezy Hill Road.

ADD:

d.

ADD: Analysis shall include and justify expected travel distribution routes to and from the development-including residents, visitors, and workers and showing anticipated directions and percentages on NY Route 32.

ADD: Analysis shall include a reasonable estimate of annual background traffic volume growth for all intersections studied.

ADD: Analysis shall include traffic resulting from commercial service or product deliveries to the site; vehicle sizes and weights, etc.

ADD: Describe how residents on the West side of Binnewater road are expected to travel from their homes to the spa / resort.  If travel is expected to be by car, include a safety assessment of the risk associated with right turns from the current property entrance, which provides a limited sight distance along Binnewater Road.  If travel is expected to be pedestrian, describe how Binnewater Road is to be safely traversed and crossed.

f.

ADD: Include discussion of the estimated cost of specific roadway improvements and which entities (including the developer) will be responsible for paying the cost.

ADD: Include discussion of plans to assure continuing pedestrian and bicycle use of Binnewater and Breezy Hill Roads.

g.(new)

ADD: discussion of mitigation via reduction in the number of new intersections created and possible alternate locations for them.

I. Aesthetic Resources

1.

a.

REVISE to read: "...from public roads and nearby properties, including private lands within the project boundary and main structures on the site."

The current wording could be taken to include only public properties.

e.

ADD: discuss the extent to which all exterior lighting will comply with the recommendations of the International Dark Sky Association, including selection of lighting fixtures.  Where such recommendations will not be followed, state the reasons and alternative mitigation measures to avoid light polution.

J. Historic and Archaeological Resources

4.

ADD, following 'Rosendale Cement industry': ...and the Wallkill Valley Railroad.  Provide information about public access to these historical features.

K. Community Facilities and Services

1.

ADD: The public recreation / open space needs are further delineated in the Ulster County Open Space Plan.  The Plan indicates (3.32) that while demand for swimming is high, public areas in the county for swimming are limited.  It further notes (4.32) that one of the recommended actions for the county is to, "monitor potential to purchase property on one of the Binnewater Lakes as proposed in the 1972 County Open Space and Parks Plan."  Discuss how the proposed project is compatible with these needs and recommendations outlined in the county's Open Space Plan.

2.

ADD: Include discussion of the requirements for fire protection for the hotel height (65', per the EAF) and at the teahouse (located on a high ridge).  Include fire supression systems among the potential mitigation efforts.

7.

REVISE the first sentence to read: Describe the existing facilities that are presently (in 2007), and were historically (prior to 1998), available to the public for recreational use at the Williams Lake Hotel resort and at other portions of the project site, including the type and intensity of use. 

ADD: Include mention of public and private functions, access to cross-country skiing, sled riding, permit fishing, mountain bike rallies and races, swim club, beach club, group picnics and the like.  Specifically include the use of Fourth Binnewater as a public, no-fee, fishing lake.

In the discussion of any 'rail trail' alternative to the current WVRR right-of-way, provide a chart showing elevation changes, at 10-foot intervals along the proposed trail, from the southern to the northern intersection with the right-of-way.  Over the same distance and intervals, provide a chart or table showing the curve radius of the proposed trail and the northward and southward sight-line distance along the trail at each interval point.  State the visual width of the trail used when calculating sight-line distances and describe how that width will be maintained (trimming of brush, etc.).

Discuss how these elevation changes and curve radii compare with those along the other segments of the WVRR rail trail and, if they do not compare, mitigation to be taken to compensate.

A rail trail is shared by pedestrians, bicycles and, in many areas, horses, all of which travel at different speeds.  The ability to see other approaching users is important to the safety of those on the trail.  The gradual elevation changes and minimum grade characteristic of a rail trail are critical to its use by each of these modes of transportation.

ADD to the last sentence of the current document: ... including swimming in Williams Lake, cross-country skiing and hiking.

L. Fiscal Impact Analysis

DIVIDE this topic into two sub-sections.  The first sub-section, 1. should be titled "Viability" and adds the following new material.  The second sub-section, 2. should be titled "During / After Constuction" and should contain the currently provided information, with paragraphs 1-3 relabeled as a-c.

Failure to complete the project once started, whether due to property control issues, undercapitalization, weak cash management, lack of experience, or litigation, could leave the site with serious environmental damage.  Responsibility for remediation would likely fall upon town, county, or state government.

2. (relabeled b. within new section 2. During / After Construction)

ADD, following the first sentence: The fiscal impact analysis shall cover a period extending 100 years from the completion date of the project.

Fiscal impact shall be measured over at least one complete life cycle of the project assets.  This would include long-term maintenance of the facilities and their replacement cost at end of life.  This is particularly important for support infrastructure, such as the water supply and wastewater treament facilities, which have potentially high replacement costs.

ADD: The source of each input to the analysis shall be specified and details of all calculations shall be included.  Each input shall be traceable to current real-world data obtained from a similar, operating, project.

Analysis based on 'projected' figures which are not derived from actual experience is of little value.  The applicant shall locate comparable spa, hotel, and residential projects, completed and in operation for at least 2 years, and utilize data from those projects as input to the fiscal analysis.

ADD: Clarify the management, governance and tax structure of the development, and quantify its fiscal relationsip to the Town and the County.

ADD: Specify how many homes, townhouses, condos and estates are to be privately owned and will have their property values assessed by the town.  Specify how many units will be time-share resort units or any other form of lease-ownership or agreement that would divide ownership of a unit from single to multiple owners, or from an individual to a management company.

ADD: Provide detailed projections of tax revenues to the Town of Rosendale from the residential resort "community", and specify the parties responsible for the payment of those taxes.  Include sales taxes, property taxes, any tax abatements being considered and the like.  Detail how property values and tax revenue would be assessed in the case of time-shares or divided ownership units that produce revenue beyond the structure's value as a single-owner residence.  Provide specifics of any loan, subsidy, or tax benefit which is derived from public funds or taxing authority.

ADD: Discuss how the town and school districts could assure protection against potential overbearing pressure for lower tax assessments, pressure of a weight not comparable to other property owners because of the large size and value of the development.

ADD: Discuss how the fiscal interests of Rosendale can be protected should a spa and resort community be built, only to be sold to - or managed by - another entity who's interests might not be compatible with those of the Town.

ADD: Compare and contrast this resort / real estate development with other similar developments in terms of its assumed fiscal contribution to the town.

ADD: To the extent that wages for some jobs are below what is considered a "living" wage, assess the potential government subsidy costs to sustain those employees in Ulster County.

ADD: To the extent that the project will incorporate retail sales activity, assess the potential impact of that activity on the retail sector elsewhere in Rosendale, especially on Main Street, and thus the potential for urban blight and ensuing municipal costs of urban redevelopment.

M. Noise and Air Resources

ADD to Section title and content: Seismic effects rsulting from construction, including possible impact on nearby residences and mitigation thereof.  Mitigation shall specify pre-blast inspection of nearby properties, preventive measures, and guaranteed compensation for damages.

Mining and construction projects in Ulster County have repeatedly resulted in disruption of nearby homes, up to and including structural damage.  Mitigation after the fact has proven to be contentious, time-consuming, and often incomplete.

3.

ADD, after last sentence: For each alternative to blasting, potential impacts and mitigation methods shall be discussed.

ADD section: Socio-economics

As an explanatory note to this socio-economic section and its scope, SEQR's definition of environment protects the socio-economic elements reflected in existing population patterns and neighborhood and community character.  Pure economic or competitive interests, however, fall outside the scope of SEQR and the purview of SEQR review.  Economic information or studies are accordingly included or described herein for the purpose of evaluating socio-economic elements as distinct from competitive impacts. This new section would most appropriately immediately follow the current section on Fiscal Impact Analysis.

1.

The EIS shall provide a demographic and economic profile of the communities comprising the socioeconomic study area, which will be defined generally by extents of the towns of Rosendale and Hurley, and the Southern 'tail' of the town of Ulster.  A map shall be provided, at an appropriate scale, indicating the town and village boundaries of the study area. The study area for the workforce and labor analysis will additionally comprise the area from which an estimated 80 percent of the potential Resort employees originate and / or reside.  A map shall be provided, at an appropriate scale, indicating the geographical limits of the work force and labor geographical area, superimposed on the aforementioned towns and villages. Data on population and employment patterns will be summarized and described utilizing data available from local, county, state, and federal sources.  Where current data are not available, the study will present current data as generated by ESRI or other generally accepted non-governmental sources of demographic and economic data.

2.

Describe population and employment patterns, including total population, population by age cohort (including school age children and seniors), number of households, average household size, and household / per capita income.  Summarize and describe economic baseline information and employment data by key industries, including potential new commercial development projects identified through discussions with local and county government representatives.  Discuss projections of population growth and economic activity.  Describe the existing housing patterns, including availability and affordability.

3.

New employment expected to be generated by the project shall be estimated and described, including a description of types of jobs and mean wages for each type of job.  Each job shall be characterized as full-time, part-time, or a contract postition (such as an on-call trainer).  For the latter two classes, specify the full-time equivalence.

4.

Based on information available from local, county, state, and federal sources existing employment and workforce conditions in the affected study area will be described and summarized according to key industry sectors (i.e., mining, agriculture, tourism).

5.

Unrelated commercial development projects within the study area for which applications are pending before public agencies that could affect local employment patterns in the affected region shall be identified through discussions with local and county government representatives.

6.

The EIS shall evaluate whether the existing workforce in the study area can meet the expected demand for employees directly generated by the project upon completion, or, if not, approximately what, if any, additional workforce from outside the study area would be required, to satisfy the project demands.

7.

The new employment directly generated by the proposed project shall then be compared against the existing workforce for the region from which employees would likely be drawn, considering reasonable and established commute time in addition to distance, to determine any potential effects the proposed project may have on the workforce.

8.

Where project-generated demand for employees exceeds the local and regional supply from within the reasonable and established commute distances, the EIS shall estimate the potential in-migration of workers to supplement the available workforce, and the potential for new residential development resulting from or demand from the in-migration of resort employees and the effect on the cost and supply of housing.

ADD section: Onsite health hazards

Describe the various types of health hazards (chemicals, radiation, etc.) associated with the operation of a spa.  Discuss how employees and patrons will be made aware of the associated risks and how those risks will be mitigated.  Describe the extent to which concerned employees will have discretion to decline work with specific chemicals.  Describe how excess chemicals will be disposed of.

Employees and some patrons will be members of the local community.  Health hazards within the spa could reduce the quality of life for these populations and could increase local health-care costs.

Discuss the risks associated with locating residential units in an area of rugged, rocky terrain with open natural crevases and mine pits, considering the possibility that some will be inhabited by children.  Discuss how mitigation will be accomplished without destroying the natural beauty of this area.

ADD section: Solid waste disposal

Identify the location of the disposal site of the waste and debris material mentioned in III.A.2.g. and all other demolition materials generated by site-clearing.  Describe any impact on the Rosendale Transfer Station, and costs that may be expected to be incurred by the Town of Rosendale as a result.  Describe how this disposal will affect existing ground water at the disposal site.

Describe disposal of solid waste once the project is in operation, including materials which may contain spa chemicals.  State how such waste will be kept out of groundwater supplies, either on the site or elsewhere.

ADD section: Governance

Describe how individual homeowners and resort management will interact with town, school district, and county governments.  Define the boundaries of responsibility for each (homeowner, resort management, local government).  State how disputes between these entities are to be resolved, including how costs of such resolution will be apportioned.  Include detail on any deed restrictions or other limitations on homeowner actions.

The proposed project is repeatedly referred to by the developer as a 'community'.  It is important to understand how that community will interact politically with the Town of Rosendale and whether it will be a partner or a competitor in such areas as support of local schools, festivals, economic development efforts, environmental preservation, town revenue (via property taxes), etc.

Describe how governance of the project will be sustained over time.  For example, if the owning corporation is sold, describe the provisions that will be made to ensure that committed responsibilities, especially those to local governments, are carried forward to the new owner.

IV. Unavoidable Adverse Impacts

ADD: For each unavoidable impact, including the loss of potential recreational space, assign a replacement cost value, i.e. the cost of replacing the impacted resource elsewhere within the town or county.

ADD: Quantify the overall carbon-use as a result of the development in terms of the fuel consumption by workers and guests driving to the site, homeowners, hotel guests and workers.  Compare this impact with alternative uses of the site.

ADD: Discuss the possibility of the long-term degradation of the Binnewater aquifer as a result of the proposed action.

V. Alternatives

ADD to introduction: The evaluation and comparison of alternatives to the proposed action will each include the extent of public access to the land regarding: hiking, cross-country skiing, and swimming and fishing in Williams Lake and Fourth Lake.

ADD new alternative: A Public-Private Partnership that includes private ownership of a small hotel and public ownership of the bulk of the land with public access to parkland, potentially for hiking, cross-country skiing, and swimming and fishing in Williams and Fourth Lakes.

C.

REPLACE: '...in accordance with existing zoning requirements' with '...in accordance with all applicable regulations.'

VI. Irreversible and Irretrievable Commitment of Resources

VII. Growth Inducing Aspects and Cumulative Impacts

ADD: Provide case-history studies of the long-term social, political, and and economic impacts of existing destination resort / real-estate developments.

Include discussion of the varied impacts over time of wealthy private enclaves (gated communities) that have been developed in small rural towns.  Discuss historic and quantifiable changes in property values and taxes, pressure on rental prices and long-term housing availability for local residents and workers.

Analyze the long term economic impact of loss of open space and recreational opportunity in Rosendale; Specifically address the proposed action's impact on the region's ability to provide these quality-of-life amenities to attract new businesses not associated with this particular action.

VIII. Effects on the Use and Conservation of Energy Resources

ADD, in addition to stating that there will be 'consideration of LEED certification criteria' a statement regarding whether or not actual LEED certification will be sought.

Consideration of the LEED criteria has no meaning, absent outside evaluation of the extent to which those criteria have actually been met.

IX. Appendices

General comments

  1. In the introductory material, the list of Section-Block-Lot numbers is incorrect.  62.4-1-13.100 appears twice.  A correct list would appear to be:
  2. Throughout the document, change most instances of the word 'should' to 'shall', to indicate that the related action is required and not merely desireable.

Typographical errors

III D. 2.

There are two occurrences of subsection 'c'.  They should be re-lettered.

III E. 5. b.

Second sentence, delete the word 'is'.

III I. 1. e.

Last sentence, 'sight' should be 'site'.

IV

For consistency with other sections, the subsections here should be 'A' and 'B', not '1' and '2'.