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Spider Barbour Comments on Partition Street Project pgs. 2,3

Spider Barbour Comments on Partition Street Project pgs. 2,3

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Published by David Radovanovic
Spider Barbour, representing the Esopus Creek Conservancy, details the reasons why the Saugerties Village Planning Board needs to make a POSITIVE DECLARATION regarding the SEQRA of Partition Street Project
Spider Barbour, representing the Esopus Creek Conservancy, details the reasons why the Saugerties Village Planning Board needs to make a POSITIVE DECLARATION regarding the SEQRA of Partition Street Project

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Published by: David Radovanovic on Feb 09, 2010
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02/09/2010

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The choice the board will make, in leading the New York State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR

) for the project, is whether to issue a positive or a negative declaration. A positive declaration indicates that a project may have environmental impacts on the community. A negative declaration indicates that a project will not have environmental impacts on the community. A negative declaration also means no further input from the public – which is defined as everyone except the government and the developer – in the SEQR process. SEQR is by definition a public process. The SEQR law was enacted to guarantee a full and open examination and discussion of the issues and impacts of significant development projects. Why then is there a provision for a negative declaration? The reason is simple and twofold. For small projects that clearly will have no significant impacts on the natural and community environments, the lead agency in its wisdom and balanced consideration as an appointed agent of the populace, may decide that sufficient data has been presented to demonstrate the absence of negative impacts. For large projects a negative declaration is acceptable only if studies relevant to significant impacts already exist, and that these potential impacts have been analyzed and eliminated in light of these studies. It is our conclusion that questions of potential impacts from the Partition Street Project have not been addressed as required under SEQR. Existing data and studies have not been collected, analyzed, and presented in full for public examination and discussion. The question of the need for additional studies has not been raised or answered. This lack of revealed, integrated and analyzed information requires the determination of a positive declaration under SEQR. The law declares that the public must be given ample opportunity to question, examine and respond to the developer. A positive declaration allows the review process to continue for sufficient time for public participation. The opportunity to question and examine the developer’ claims and conclusions s is provided by a publicly available Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). The public responds with comments to which the project developer must respond in turn, and which become part of the public record. The public comments and the developer’ s responses are included in a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS). The public process typically concludes when the lead agency accepts the FEIS as complete. This is the process that is required for any project of size and significance, and certainly the Partition Street Project is one of these. Not only are there obvious questions of impacts to the community – most of them positive we believe – but additionally and perhaps more importantly there is value for the project itself. People who live here know and love their town. Saugerties residents have a great deal to offer the purveyors of this project and the Village officials overseeing the review of this project. Our ideas are valuable and should be welcome. Public participation will ensure a more successful and enduring project for the community – and for the developer, the employees and the clientele of the businesses that come to occupy the site. Additionally, a negative declaration would deny the valuable input of regional non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that have been instrumental in shaping other projects. These include Hudson Rive Valley Greenway, Scenic Hudson, Hudson River Watershed Alliance, Hudson Valley Sustainable Communities Network, Lower Esopus Watershed Partnership, Transportation Alternatives and others. Participation of such organizations in the public review process has led invariably to better and more successful projects along the Hudson Riverfront, in cities such as Hudson, Kingston,

Beacon, Newburgh and Poughkeepsie. The Partition Street Project is located within the Hudson River Estuary Corridor, a zone of local, regional and national historic and environmental significance. The Cantine dam site is one of special scenic beauty and environmental sensitivity, a unique piece of the Hudson River landscape. The site has long stood neglected, and this positive change is welcome. However, past use should not lead us to assume that redevelopment will have no further impacts on the site environment. There was no environmental review when the site was last developed. Its present condition including the latent impacts of past use is not well investigated and documented. Questions of soil pollution and substrate stability, for example, need fresh answers. The Esopus Creek corridor environment has become an active concern of both state and federal agencies and regional NGOs, including ECC. The Partition Street Project is located at a critical point in the valley linking the higher non-tidal and the lower tidal estuary sections of the Esopus. This is a unique and environmentally sensitive location in terms of geology, ecology and stream dynamics. These are just some of the reasons why new development on this site deserves the greatest care and deliberation, and the full participation of citizens and of organizations that have proven their ability and vision to help shape projects into models of success and value for regional communities. Esopus Creek Conservancy wholeheartedly supports the concept of the Partition Street Project. The proposed hotel and related facilities seems to us in keeping with the site context and the needs of the community, and also with the Conservancy’ mission to s preserve historic and local landscapes, and to facilitate public appreciation of these local resources. We assert our right as an organization serving this community, and on behalf of our members and all residents of Saugerties, to participate in the public process for the Partition Street project. We implore the Village Planning Board to keep the doors open, to allow the conversation to continue. A negative declaration is clearly the wrong decision. Yes, people argue about particulars and suggest a variety of ideas about project details. Yes it’ more time and s more work to consider these ideas, but this consideration is part of what SEQR demands, and part of what makes the process work to ensure a better project in the end. Besides, it’ the law. From where we stand the people of Saugerties are s overwhelmingly positive about the possibilities they see in the Partition Street Project. Esopus Creek Conservancy calls for a positive declaration under State Environmental Quality Review as the only logical and responsible decision the lead agency can make. Members of the Planning Board, we ask you to be positive. Allow the public process to continue.

Sincerely yours, James G. Barbour, Secretary Susan Bolitzer, President

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