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Southern Dutchess News, Wednesday, February 20, 2002

Master plan should address growth

To the editor:

The 2002 revised East Fishkill Master Plan should address growth and its impact on the town more thoroughly in light of the 800 new homes, new overpasses, and Meadow Creek office park planned for Hopewell Junction. The plan is a very feeble, dated attempt to control development. This master plan has a very wide impact on the citizens of East Fishkill and should be accessible on-line rather than merely available at town hall or the library to one person at a time before the March 8 hearing date?

We must ask again why the town planners never limit development with strict environmental standards in "large tract review"? No permits should be issued for "large tract" projects unless it is demonstrated that the road capacity for increased traffic already exists or we find a developer who pays for the required expansion of the infrastructure. Who pays? Who benefits? What is the minimum assessed value of a house that will provide adequate taxes for this new infrastructure? Do these new houses or office parks "pay their way?" Beyond the much discussed zoning changes, this master plan still lacks a critical response from those most impacted by the sheer scale of growth. We need a public mandate on the big picture, such as might be obtained in a Generic Environmental Impact Statement on the plan.

Citizens of East Fishkill need to understand the scale of planned growth and what it will cost us as taxpayers before many of us will be forced to vote with our feet because our homes will be unlivable or unaffordable. This sudden rash of industrial development plans and secretly planned overpasses (none of the conceptual plans can be obtained through Freedom of Information laws) all point to a "top down" restructuring of the town with major changes only vaguely hinted at in this plan.

Are the town planners so out of touch with voters that they actually believe these multimillion dollar overpasses and sewer systems would have voter approval if offered as a bond issue for public funding? The last transportation bond act was turned down cold by New York voters as was Pataki's federal request for funding these same stalled upstate road projects in the 54 billion earmarked for NYC. Who will pick up the tab in the wake of deep federal budget cuts in aftermath of the Trade Center attack? It is outrageous that taxpayers are being asked to subsidize these vague plans with blind faith.

Cluster development is a fine concept and the proposed Twin Creeks development for the elderly will not strain our infrastructure. But how do you justify the other large tract developments with high percentages (3-4 housing units to an acre but no affordable multi-family housing) in the low lying wet areas surrounding Hopewell Hamlet where septic systems are most likely to fail. Must we lean so heavily toward development in flood plains when we still have suitable high ground and a viable watershed? Should we not encourage tradeoffs such as transferring development rights to much higher ground rather than merely the driest area of these lowlands? Is the town board deliberately "sewering" our town watershed? Are the town planners allowing over-development in sensitive areas to justify and override later opposition to a multimillion dollar tertiary waste treatment plant that will discharge effluent into unnamed creeks? For many communities "sewering" the watershed marks the end of older, rural, mixed-income neighborhoods that are blessed with scenic stretches of creek and regenerative wetlands. It marks the beginning of serious environmental degradation to the watershed with acres of pavement and creeks resembling drainage ditches.

"Large tract review" coupled with strict interpretation of Environmental Impact Statement is a way town planners can delay these massive developments until the needed infrastructure is in place. Again, who will pay for the infrastructure that will probably double or triple the value of the developer's land? "Impact fees" have been assessed as high as $3000 to $5000 per housing unit in other areas of the country. We need clear answers to Who pays? and Who benefits? We need protective guidelines more in-line with the Greenway Compact so that humanly scaled, environmentally sensitive and public mandated development can proceed without an opaque, unpredictable approval system or the inevitable moratorium or building caps. We must guarantee that taxpayers will not be subsidizirvg massive projects that do not respect their neighbors.

This master plan is vague about tranportation changes. Should we despoil our best preserved remaining wetlands along the Taconic with more interchanges while we have wetland deterioration at the current interchanges? Rte. 82/Taconic has a strip mall with a brownfield and the Rte. 52/Taconic area has an unexplained, expanding area of dying vegetation in the important turtle habitat north of the DOT work area.

Should we open our roads to interstate truckers when we clearly lack the resources to enforce trucking regulations? Already, truckers do not pay their way. Firefighters and emergency crews, willing volunteers for this community, also frequently must go to the I-84 truck rest-stop for the emergency needs of transient truckers who are not aware of their imposition on our resources or the added risk they bring to our community roads. Why should we build overpasses that will allow these same long haul truckers to rumble day and night down residential roads to shortcut or bypass the steep truck-climbing lanes on I-84 and Rte 55 that were designed and built to safely accommodate interstate trucking? Is it fair to our struggling volunteer firefighters or any of us living on residential roads these long haul truckers misuse?

Judy Lacombe
East Fishkill

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