I am Judy Lacombe and I have comments on four areas: Wetland, Cluster Development, the Traffic Circulation Plan and The Pedestrian Plan for Hopewell Hamlet. I thank the Town Board for this opportunity to speak.
Wetland Code and Environmental Protection
East Fishkill's Master Plan should have a comprehensive local wetland code with strict septic regulations to safeguard our wetland and waterways. Such precautionary measures are long overdue in a town undergoing rapid development with two EPA SUPERFUND sites and many poisoned wells. Slope/wetland restrictions for zoning are inadequate for a town that has rarely denied variances. State and federal wetland laws are seldom enforced locally and lack monitoring. Storm water management in sensitive areas is currently inadequate to protect surface water in the Wiccoppee Creek, Fishkill Creek, and the Sprout Creek or the many wells near our congested roads. Without precautions, fuel runoff containing MBTE will poison wells here as it has in densely settled areas of Hyde Park. In addition to MBTE, there are some twenty chemical additives in diesel fuel. The current high sulfur content of diesel fuel deters pollution-reduction technology.
The town's Conservation Advisory Council has drafted a wetland code. Why don't we enact it? The Dutchess County Environmental Management Council has a model wetland ordinance. Why does it sit on the shelf? The Greenway Compact ("Stream Corridor Protection" section) sets forth minimal recommended guidelines. This plan falls short of them. All of these differ significantly from the proposed zoning law with slope/wetlands restrictions in the Plan. They are comprehensive laws that treat wetland issues with the precautionary principle they deserve.
I disagree strongly with the Town Board's finding"that its proposed Comprehensive plan and each law implementing it, is congruent and consistent with the (Greenway) guidelines." This flawed assessment may erode voter accountability because the Greenway Compact allows for streamlining of the development process. The town's overriding clauses may further reduce the Greenway Compact's meager environmental guidelines. The proposed Master Plan and East Fishkill Greenway Compact will offer an empty promise of environmentally sound regional planning if crucial local wetland law is not enacted.
I am also concerned that taxpayers will not have any voice or referendum on a sewer treatment plant. We may foot the bill and the usual cost overruns without obtaining ownership of the sewer plant. Wetland protection, conservation and controlled growth would avoid a sewer plant and its placement in somebody's backyard or the effluent discharged in our creeks. Taxpayers may get a quasi-public private system run by a shadow, quasi-government agencies, like the Dutchess Water and Wastewater Authority. Will their water projects privatize Hudson River water for corporation use and sell us the leftover water as our well water deteriorates from the same denser development encouraged by a Sewage Treatment District? How will the taxpayers avoid this sewer project, or give it the close scrutiny it deserves?
With two EPA SUPERFUND sites currently within the town and a liability risk for further spread of Shenandoah's toxic plume, I am concerned that the Town hasn't enacted local toxic waste reduction laws or guidelines for its planning board . Clearly stated guidelines to reduce toxic wastes (for dry cleaners, garages and printers as well as large corporations) are available at the user friendly site of the Toxic Use Reduction Institute ( www.turi.org and www.cleanersolutions.org). Massachusetts funded these sites after Woburn's wells were poisoned.
Development in East Fishkill is running amok. A moratorium on building should be imposed as a stop gap measure until a viable Master Plan is in place. Cluster housing or any dense housing should not be built on flood plains or sensitive areas at four units per acre. Cluster development should not proceed in East Fishkill without local wetland code and economic safeguards for current residents. How can it bring fair and affordable housing if families are cleared from the land to make way for it? Affordable housing should be allotted with clear priority given to displaced families, providers of town services and the elderly. The size of affordable housing units is more important than lot size and should be limited to a modest size like 1200 square feet per unit.
Cluster developers and large tract developers should pay impact fees to offset the costly funding of new schools, municipal water/sewage treatment plants, and road improvements for this added population density. These impact fees could be similar to the current recreation fees or the current fees could be reformulated to fund both recreation and more important infrastructure demands.
I am concerned that the proposed Plan would add 800-900 housing units more than the 1982 Master Plan. Twin Creeks, Lake Walton, the Cannon property, and Red Wing are all on sensitive lands. While this may broaden the tax base, current taxpayers and well owners will bear the brunt of deficient economic and environmental protection. A municipal sewage treatment plant will be a windfall for these developers, who may triple the value of land that is too wet to support separate septic fields or the extensive pavement required by housing densities near four units per acre.
Traffic Circulation Plan
The Master Plan has no provision for freight transport through East Fishkill. Where will the trucks go? Heavy freight traffic moves over roads that were never intended for heavy freight traffic. Long-haul trucks are traveling at near interstate speeds to maintain momentum over hills and overpasses. These trucks are not prepared for sudden stops required in densely settled areas with limited sight lines. Half a dozen truck accidents have occurred in East Fishkill recently. When will the people and their public safety come before trucks?
I strongly disagree with plans for an interchange or underpass at Carpenter Road and the Taconic Parkway. This truck route through sensitive wetlands and limited sight lines at four near 90 degree turns would be disastrous for our safety and our environment.
There are very few options for sprawling towns with rapid unplanned growth. One of the few promising tools is Florida's law of concurrence. It bans development beyond the safe capacity of the roads and mandates that large tract developers must demonstrate safe additional traffic capacity with engineering studies. This frequently leads to denial of building permits except for in-fill areas with adequate infrastructure, road capacity and priority needs of the community. The town planning board needs the clear-cut framework of precisely worded Concurrence Laws to bring responsible growth to East Fishkill while maintaining safe roads. A building moratorium should be in place until Concurrence Laws are enacted.
The Hopewell Hamlet Pedestrian Plan
Like many citizens, I value our Hopewell Hamlet merchants and their customer services that are not available in warehouse chain stores. These merchants need an anchoring supermarket to attract business. We all want to revitalize this area of town. Why not encourage affordable housing units over shops? Adding housing above shops would add revenue to strengthen the economic viability of the area, add affordable housing, and establish a more imposing scale to the buildings that diminishes the look of strip mall. This would require zero land use and represents the type of in-fill development that should be encouraged for entire town's welfare.
I have major reservations about the Hopewell Hamlet Pedestrian Plan and this is important because it will probably be funded and implemented piecemeal. The Plan's centralized rear parking is a good idea but should utilize the space gained from moving the parking lots behind shops to create an oval town green of the largest possible size surrounded by a modern one lane traffic circle. The proposed tree lined "boulevard" adds two more lanes of traffic through Hopewell Hamlet's business strip along Route 82. It is scaled for cars not people. The medians look too scant for a much-needed shelter and shade. Look at the plan on paper and ask yourself if you will want to cross there. If the answer is no, it may not stand the test of time while sacrificing the current line of trees. It may squander federal highway funds that could be used , in part, to transform the area from a strip mall to a "town center" with a village green or "pocket park" surrounded by more imposing mixed-use buildings and a large single lane traffic circle. A town green, such as the one proposed for Rte. 376, might foster revitalization here. Our merchants deserve better. People of this town should demand ideas more worthy of the town before this half-hearted, piecemeal Pedestrian(?) Plan goes forward.
Route 82 through Hopewell Hamlet has unwieldy, awkward elevations at the rail road overpass and Grand Union parking lots that should be addressed in any long range Pedestrian Plan. The height of this overpass encourages speeding. Affordable ways to build over, deck over, and lower and conceal unwieldy roads like Rte 82 will emerge in the next decade. The work going forward in areas like Providence is popularizing this approach and it is becoming more affordable.
I thank the board for consideration of the above.
July 10, 2002