PROTECTING COLUMBIA HILL AT DELAWARE RIVER BASIN COMMISSION
On May 16, 2018, the Delaware River Basin Commission held a public hearing on Gan Eden Estate’s application to draw 4.6 million gallons a month from the aquifer for use as the development’s public water supply. CHNA sent a letter and corroborating evidence to the commission expressing our concerns about the project. The next business meeting of the DRBC is on June 13, 2018 which may be when the docket application results are announced.
Delaware River Basin Commission 5/10/18 Sir/Madam: In 2005 and 2007, the Town of Thompson made two separate zoning changes allowing for greater density (RR1 to SR) on Columbia Hill. These were virtually unnoticed by the public. Immediately following this, a site plan and supporting documents for Gan Eden Estates were submitted to the Town of Thompson. The Columbia Hill Neighborhood Alliance (CHNA) is a grassroots organization formed by a group of concerned neighbors in the summer of 2012 after first learning of plans for Gan Eden Estates. Gan Eden Estates was originally planned to be an extremely large multi-family development (885 units) on the site of a former resort hotel/golf course (210 acres, 197 in the Town of Thompson and 13 in the Town of Fallsburg). The proposed site of this development is the steep red shale hill above the hamlet of Hurleyville, NY. The Thompson Town Board reverted the Town Code concerning allowed density levels to its pre-2005 level in November 2012. Additionally, a local law imposing park and recreation fees on developments was enacted in August 2017. A revised site plan was submitted to the Town of Thompson in July 2016. It now calls for a total of 535 units (147 attached townhouse units and 388 garden apartment units). Gan Eden Estates brought a litigation complaint against the Town of Thompson in Sullivan County Supreme Court in December 2017 with an amended complaint filed in February 2018 contesting these two changes. The outcome is still pending. Gan Eden Estates filed an application with the DRBC for a groundwater withdrawal project to supply up to 9.142 mgm for a proposed public water supply system. Our group is requesting the DRBC to include the following information in their consideration of this application. Gan Eden Estates conducted a required 72-hour test of 4 of its wells in September-October of 2017, and the testing of about 15 wells on neighboring properties. Several local homeowners’ wells experienced significant negative impacts because of this testing including brown water, air in pipes and water levels falling below the water pump depth. Statements from affected individuals are attached. Miller Hydrogeologic Inc., an independent hydro-geologist consulting firm, was retained by the Town of Thompson to review the results presented by Gan Eden Estates. Miller Hydrogeologic found that proper procedural protocols were not followed. This calls into question the validity of the results concerning available water supply for this project. Narrative from the report is attached. The proposed “package” waste water treatment plant for this development requires a consistent year round flow to operate correctly. The majority of the residents of this proposed development will likely be seasonal and intermittent (summer and weekends). It is quite likely that this will lead to the WWTP’s premature failure. This has been the case with other local developments’ systems. The Town of Thompson is currently struggling financially to address more than $20 million of anticipated expenses related to failing sewer and water infrastructure including private developments within its jurisdiction. The plans for Gan Eden Estates call for the discharge of treated wastewater into the headwaters of the East Branch of the Mongaup River (a class B trout stream) and an extensive wetland bordering Hurleyville. One of the Town of Fallsburg’s primary municipal water supply wells is less than a mile downstream from this discharge point. Any discharge of untreated waste water will have disastrous environmental consequences. Gan Eden Estates has not presented a completed discharge plan for their wastewater. Another important concern is increased storm water runoff from this site if this development moves forward. People in Hurleyville already experience problems with flooded yards and basements after heavy rains. Local roads and an active cemetery have been flooded after severe weather events. The addition of buildings, paved roadways and parking areas on this hill can only exacerbate the situation. We are very concerned about increased turbidity in the aforementioned East Branch of the Mongaup River. The developers of Gan Eden Estates claim that runoff will be diminished by the use of retention ponds (already present there) and vegetated swales. This is not credible. Please seriously consider these mitigating factors during your deliberations on this application. Thank you for your attention to this matter of great impact to our community. Respectfully Roger Betters, Co-Director Donna Nestler, Co-Director CC: Mr. Lou Kiefer, Planning Board Chairman Ms. Paula Kay, Planning Board Attorney Ms. Freda Eisenberg, Commissioner Sullivan County Planning Department Regional Director Kelly Turturro NYS DEC, Region III
C.H.N.A. LAUDED IN GAN EDEN LAWSUIT
Boy were we surprised to see that the lawyers for Gan Eden believe that CHNA had a big impact on the community and The Town Board. We are not sure that they are correct, but thank you for the kind words.
At the end of December 2017, Larry Frankel, the developer of the proposed 535 unit Gan Eden Estates, located above Hurleyville on Columbia Hill, filed a legal complaint in the Sullivan County Supreme Court against the Town of Thompson. He is seeking the overturning or nullification of a local law enacted in Nov 2012 which rolled back the allowed zoning density for multi-family units in SR zones to 1.9/acres, the pre 2005 level. In Feb 2018 he filed an amended complaint that included a challenge of a local law enacted in Aug 2017 establishing parks and recreation fees on new developments, $1250/$2500 per unit depending on the amount of land left unused. This amounts to about $500,000 Gan Eden. In April 2018 the Town of Thompson attorneys, Michael Mednick and Paula Kay, filed a counter motion to dismiss. There was a back and forth with Gan Eden refuting the motion, which was followed by the Town of Thompson getting the final word with their last filing. The complaint is in the hands of Judge Steven Schick who has 90 days to make a ruling.
WHO WE ARE CHNA was organized in 2012 in response to two developments with over 1000 units proposed for Columbia Hill and down the road from Columbia Hill. This project would deplete our water supply, greatly endanger our streams and wetlands, dramatically alter our rural environment, and undermine the safety of the roads for all drivers in the area.
A new version of this plan, with over 500 units, is now on the table.
We seek a properly conceived and scaled project for Columbia Hill. It is only when we ensure a viable infrastructure that we will maintain the lifestyle we have chosen. To accomplish this we will engage necessary decision makers and help guide sustainable development.
All Building projects should be monitored in terms of the environmental impact of the construction and then of the project itself. One way that we can do this is to monitor the streams beneath Columbia Hill.
CHNA is monitoring the East branch of Mongaup River from the bridge on Main Street, where it begins, to the Town of Thompson Park. We will monitor 3 locations, along the stream and another tributary to establish a baseline.
In the event of building or exploratory work occurring, we can increase the frequency. Any dramatic change in the stream will be reported to Brodhead Water Shed Stream Watch who has more clout than we have in bringing about change.