By Edie Johnson
It was a loud and clear “No” from area officials and residents on Monday night at the Public Hearing held at t SBG Firehouse regarding the Keen Equities proposed 600-unit cluster development (with possible request for 600 additional apartments) known as “Clovewood” (formerly “Lake Anne”).
About 50 masked and socially distanced attendees included: the Village Mayor, Village Board, Planning Board, Clerk, Attorneys, Engineer, Planner, the Applicant and his Attorney, along with Town Supervisor Rob Jeroloman and Assemblyman Colin Schmitt, 25 residents, about a dozen of which spoke against the project. Because of the Pandemic public attendance was limited to 25. No one spoke in favor of the project. The applicant and his attorney were asked if they wanted to speak and they declined.
Blooming Grove Town Supervisor and former Village Mayor, Rob Jeroloman spoke of the dangers to the aquifer, saying that the Department of Environmental Conservation recently ruled that the proposed use of 550,000 gallons per day exceeds the aquifer’s recharge ability, which is only 507,000 gpd, and would put the aquifer into a deficit status. He cautioned that Orchard Lake community was not included in well impacts, is adjacent, and is on the same aquifer, as is the Village. Worse yet, those numbers are based on the premise of 600 units, and do not include the proposed possibility of an additional 600 add-on apartments. Jeroloman also referenced the proposed sewage effluent of at least 400,000 gpd which they plan to discharge into tributaries of the Satterly Creek, a creek which generally runs dry 8-9 months a year, meaning that when it’s not mixed with water it would be all unmixed effluent that is discharged. According to the Orange County Department of Planning this withdrawal of water and sewage production would result in significant environmental impacts to roads, streams, groundwater, aquifers and potable water supplies for both the Village of South Blooming Grove and the Town of Blooming Grove. Additionally, several of the town’s wells rely on those tributaries. He pointed out that surrounding wells had pressure loss and turbidity during the water tests, and the artesian well on Route 208 upon which many village residents rely because of already existing water shortages had gone dry for over a week during the testing. “Water has no set boundaries”, he said, and thus depletion of the Village’s water would affect all surrounding municipalities. An alternate option, to build a sewage treatment site near the Village Center, he said, would not likely be practical either. An effort in the ’70’s to put a treatment plan there, he said, resulted in effluent leakage into groundwater sources.
Assemblyman Schmitt spoke of the Town and Village’s Comprehensive Plans, which emphasize the importance of retention of its Rural Character and scenic beauty at the base of the Schunnemunk Ridge. “This project is not sustainable,” Schmitt said, adding “I think during a COVID Emergency is not a realistic time to even consider this.” Schmitt said “As a member of the State’s Water Task Force, the Village is already dealing with immense water quality and capacity issues. Having worked hard to get resources to solve their water problems any movement on this project would deplete all of those efforts. The infrastructure is simply not adequate. It would also hinder the abilities of first responders to act in a timely manner. “
Senator James Skoufis also sent in an opinion letter to the Village Planning Board, opposing the project. (see last week’s Orange County Post, page 3)
As for impact on those scenic views, the applicant’s DEIS says there would not be any significant visual impact EXCEPT for the view from Schunnemunk State Park.
Friends of Gonzaga Park, the nearest entrance to Schunnemunk State Park have come out against the plan. Other attendees pointed out that they had moved here for the scenic and rural beauty, and that there are already many homes for sale in the area if anyone is currently looking to move into the Village.
Traffic considerations were voiced as another major objection. Route 208 is one of the busiest commuter routes in the area, and already the site of numerous accidents, and has been documented to need at least one more light,especially at its intersection with Seven Springs Road. They wanted to know what the addition of many thousands of vehicles per day would do to the ability of both current and new residents to travel.
Comments by the public included:
“We came from Chestnut Ridge to escape density, and are worried about water for our farm. We need sustainable water!”
“How can they say that doubling the Village’s population will have no impact?”
“If we run out of potable water, as some residents already have this season, what is the value of a home?”
“This does not even include other water uses, a planned Park, Supermarket, possible weddings and other gatherings.”
“Water restrictions have been on and off for decades. The planned development was based on connectivity to village water, which is not a viable option.”
“We already have brown water. No water would be devastating.”
“This is not a matter of bias. Everyone needs to respect each other and negotiate.”
“There is no mitigation plan for impact on the Schunnemunk State Park views, one of the Village and Town’s 3 jewels.”
Village of South Blooming Grove’s Mayor, Jim LoFranco emphasized that while the Public Hearing was adjourned, it is still open for letters, and there will be follow-up hearings that will give everyone who wants to speak the chance to do so. He added that “People should understand that this proposed project is still in very early stages.”