To the editor:
East Fishkill's proposed Master Plan needs a greater commitment to environmental preservation, particularly for our wetlands, which suffer from drought and dwindle with development yearly in spite of attempts at regulation. [The Greenway Compact may offer a development yearly in spite of attempts at regulation. <- this sentence appears to be a typo] The Greenway Compact may offer a better, greener, quality of life, but only if East Fishkill's Master Plan correlates closely to Greenway guidelines and local laws do not override its spirit of regional cooperation for preserving green areas. We must pass local wetland laws and enact the Open Space Initiative at the county level. The Master Plans' [sic] flaws are largely errors of omission. The Greenway Compact may fund the planning that would put us on track within the framework of regional conservation and reduce contentious demands on our planning board.
Thanks to Neighbors for a Safe Community, our 2002 Master Plan is now on-line at www.dutchess29.org and the Greenway Compact can be found on-line at www.dutchessny.gov/greenway.htm. This fills the void of a town web site that currently posts no town hall meeting dates, no agendas and none of the Master Plan. Please compare these documents in light of the proposed 2000 homes, new overpasses, and Meadow Creek Office Park. East Fishkill's Master Plan has far ranging consequences for all of East Fishkill's taxpayers. Its shortcomings could force many of us to vote with our feet because our houses will become unlivable or unaffordable. Major roads will be rerouting through our flood plains shown on page 48 of the plan. The Land Use section lacks an adequate an [sic] wetland overlay and a clear statement of vesting rights.
Developers will continue to plague the town's beleaguered planning board with environmental nightmares like Meadow Creek as long as wetland laws are inadequate. Homeowners with private wells will suffer without adequate laws. These laws should be in place that before we allow cluster development, or before we overhaul our roads and before any more Meadow Creek type situations come before the planning board. We must require buffer zones of 100 feet around all wetlands and allow only micro-processed, sanitary sewage effluent in our streams. For due protection, we should monitor compliance with wetland laws and mandate context sensitive development in lowland.
We need a clearer picture of this Master Plan in a [Generic] Environmental Impact Statement. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Master Plan has addressed ONLY the zoning law changes. Taxpayers need a thorough examination of all the broader issues and their impact. Taxpayers need building caps or a moratorium until taxes are more fairly allotted. Taxpayers have the added burden of paying for new roads, schools, utilities and police protection if developers get away with no impact fees to defray these costs. Developers will probably pass the cost to home buyers and still triple their land value. Home buyers in the $300,000 range should be able to pay up-front for their infrastructure. But at least taxpayers should not subsidize developers like Meadow Creek for a project that has acres of a footprint on a flood plain. It's waste treatment plant would discharge effluent into a tiny, often dry creek bed like Shenandoah Creek. Trucks will haul away much of its effluent. The developer only has "fair use of his land" and development rights can often be shifted to higher ground or added stories on the office site or to housing above commercial spaces in strip malls. Ironically, Meadow Creek's site lends itself naturally to an unobtrusive, well buffered, development with entrances limited to Lime Kiln. How can we get context-sensitive development while still allowing the developer his fair use of his land and return for his investment? The Master Plan should provide a framework for the planning board to resolve this dilemma.
How does our proposed Master Plan address the problems of the proposed Meadow Creek Park? It lacks the framework for unforeseen problems. If a developer expects to build a taxpayer subsidized office park with three thousand paved parking places and water requirements beyond the capacity of the site and this water guzzling site sits near a Superfund site, then something basic is wrong with our Master Plan. Our highest priority should be to fix these sins of omission. Local wetland law does not exist. We need 100 foot buffer zones around all our remaining wetland to ease our unstable weather patterns. Scientists link these cycles of prolonged drought and flash floods to El Nino. We should stop substituting our wetland with man-made ponds. It's a legal loophole that wastes our natural resources. We must avoid expensive waste-treatment plants through conservation and the Open Space Initiative. In the initial [planning] stages we must mandate micro filters for all treatment plants that can't be avoided.
Meadow Creek Park is an instructive example of our unfair tax base. Who pays for Meadow Creek? Taxpayers will pay dearly in the current budget crunch. The developer might avoid town tax rolls for seven years and then abandon us for the next lucrative subsidy. The town may be held liable for any further expansion of the toxic plume of the Superfund Site. Do taxpayers have superfund purses? Taxpayers will also pay for the required new schools, new roads, utilities, and police services that large tract development demands. Our volunteer fire department strains overtime in order to meet the current overwhelming emergency service demands.
Evictions and homeowner displacement by upscale housing are already a fact of life in East Fishkill. The Plan does not provide legally mandated affordable housing. It can divide such multiple housing and distribute it to each large tract development. Apartments over retail would benefit our commercial center and outlying commercial strips, particularly when housing demands outweigh demands for offices and retail businesses. Building over retail requires no land and the town might benefit from building rights shifted there from flood plains.
Successful master plans can bring tax fairness, reinforce our quality of life and, and provide workable guidelines for land stewardship as well as prosperity. Our community heritage in the Hudson Valley is one of pioneering environmental conservation. The current Master Plan proposal endangers that heritage and must be put back on track.Judy Lacombe