The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) on June 10 approved the town’s application for a permit to supply water to the Woodstock Commons housing project, but made issuance of the permit contingent on several conditions, including individual pump tests of the town’s seven wells in order to determine the “maximum day capacity” of the water system. Such tests were reportedly last conducted in 1985.
The permit stipulates that the pump tests cannot proceed until the DEC approves a proposal for the tests, which the town must submit by August 10, nor can the testing begin under any circumstances before July 30. A prolonged period of testing could be a concern for RUPCO, as certain elements of the project’s funding, such as federal tax credits administered by the state, carry a deadline for the start of construction.
In a June 14 interview, RUPCO’s executive director, Kevin O’Connor, applauded the DEC’s issuance of the water permit and said that he anticipated no funding problems. “As you could imagine, at the end of an eight-year review process we were very pleased to see (the permit issued),” he said. Although the tax credits are scheduled to expire at the end of the summer if construction has not begun, RUPCO could seek to extend the deadline if necessary, O’Connor added.
The cost of the required water testing could pose a problem for cash-strapped Woodstock, which in March learned that the 2011 town budget, adopted at the end of last year, contained a six-figure deficit. In a June 15 e-mail response to a series of questions, Woodstock supervisor Jeff Moran, who was out of town, said that the town would seek estimates of the cost of the testing, which is currently undetermined. The cost would be borne by the approximately 725 customers of the municipal water district.
The district’s portion of the current town budget includes an appropriation of $47,815 for “water improvement.” Part of that sum has already been spent on studies of the water system by an outside hydrogeologist who has examined, among other features of the system, the effects, if any, of groundwater on the functioning of the seven wells. The town engineer and the Town Board are reviewing the results of the studies, which are complete.
Coincidentally, on June 8, two days before the DEC issued the permit, RUPCO officials had hailed a state Supreme Court justice’s dismissal of a lawsuit in which seven Woodstock residents sought to compel the town to analyze the capability of its water system before supplying the housing project with water — that is, to conduct the very type of testing now required by the DEC.
Judge Christopher Cahill dismissed the Article 78 lawsuit on the grounds that it was filed too late to comply with a statute of limitations for such petitions. In a June 14 interview one of the plaintiffs in the suit, Iris York, disagreed with Cahill’s finding but welcomed the DEC action.
“We feel that we have made a lot of progress,” said York, who is president of Sensible Action for Growth and Environment (SAGE), a leading opponent of the Woodstock Commons project. “Basically, the DEC stood up and took notice. I’m pleased that someone finally recognized that there are some problems.”
Speaking during the public comment segment of the Town Board’s June 14 meeting, York urged council members to postpone the water tests until the town’s fiscal climate improved. “In this financial crunch I can’t believe for a second that we would even try to find funds for this,” she said.
RUPCO, which originally planned to begin construction on the project in the spring, had to await the disposition of the lawsuit before proceeding. The dismissal of the suit left only the DEC’s ruling on the town’s application for a water permit as a potential obstacle to groundbreaking on the project’s 28-acre site behind the Bradley Meadows shopping plaza, although the developer still must obtain other permits, including a building permit from the town.
The pump tests stipulated by the DEC — one of six Special Conditions cited in the permit — must be performed in accordance with the agency’s standard procedures and include “monitoring of the Saw Kill River,” which adjoins the part of the town’s aquifer in Bearsville that contains the wells.
A review of DEC pump-test procedures, as detailed on the agency’s website, suggests that the testing could disrupt the normal operation of the town’s water supply system. Two requirements in particular stand out. First, testing must continue for a minimum of 72 hours at a constant pumping rate. Second, no pumping can occur at or near the site for at least 24 hours prior to the test, implying that wells in the vicinity of a test well would be temporarily taken out of service and raising the question of how that circumstance would affect the delivery of water to the system’s users.
Other Special Conditions, some of which follow recommendations by the state Department of Health (DOH), include the following:
The town must evaluate the need for improvements to the water system’s existing facilities for connection to the city of Kingston’s system. The evaluation is to include a consideration of improved hydraulics and disinfection mechanisms and must be submitted to the DEC by January 1, 2012.
Also by next January 1, the town must submit to the DEC a “comprehensive and complete” water supply application for a permit approval of “all existing water district extensions, out-of-district users, and water system interconnections.” According to councilman Bill McKenna, the town water system serves approximately 30 properties that do not lie wholly within the district’s boundaries. The DEC will employ the application to develop a consolidated permit for the Woodstock water district.
Citing recent data on water use by the district, the DOH, in a June 3 letter to the DEC, reported that the daily demand averaged approximately 150,000 gallons, although levels of 320,000 and 360,000 gallons, respectively, appear to have been recorded in early March 2009 and late November 2009. The Woodstock Commons project would draw an estimated 12,500 gallons per day from the town system, according to the DOH letter.
Other items on the agenda of the June 14 Town Board meeting included the following (With Moran absent, councilwoman Terrie Rosenblum, the deputy supervisor, presided at the session.)
Comeau property trails. In a revised version of its spring 2011 report, the Comeau Trails Task Force (CTTF), chaired by David Corbett, requested $15,600 in funding for the purchase of a puncheon-bog boardwalk that would enable CTTF volunteers to complete, by the end of this year, repairs on the trail that runs north-south on the western edge of the property. The boardwalk would be built from 100 feet of ipe wood (Brazilian mahogany; pronounced ee-PAY)), the material used for a previously constructed stretch of boardwalk on the property. If the proposed work can be achieved, said Corbett, “the complete western loop (upper trail) will have been rehabilitated with no gaps. CTTF member Jim Hanson noted that a proposed new section of trail would skirt a “very active” vernal pool by 100 feet. The pool, he said, is a breeding ground for frogs, salamanders, and other species. Currently, however, dogs and their walkers, along with other users of the current trail, are treading within 15 feel of the pool, which Hanson described as a “very valuable asset.” Hanson recommended that a 200-foot buffer be maintained around the pool. Meanwhile, the town should post signs directing trail users away from the environmentally sensitive spot, he said. The money requested by the CTTF would be withdrawn not from the town’s general fund, but from a recreation-and-open-space fund consisting of fees paid by developers in lieu of providing a recreational area on their property. The fund contains about $90,000, according to Rosenblum. Paul Shultis Jr., who is chairman of the Planning Board, which is charged with collecting the fee, objected to the expenditure of so much money from the fund — the town disbursed approximately $40,000 for the first section of boardwalk — for a single purpose at a single location. Shultis, who is also involved in the town’s youth soccer program, observed that funds had yet to be allocated for a proposed expansion of the soccer fields. Corbett agreed that funding for the trail work should be ”capped.” The task force would henceforth explore grant funding and seek no further support from the town, he said. The board will consider the request, along with a related measure that would provide funding for an expansion of the soccer fields, at an upcoming meeting.
Community Center dedication. The board voted unanimously to rename the town-owned building on Rock City Road the Mescal Hornbeck Community Center, in honor of the late local resident who variously served on the Town Board; helped found the Senior Recreation Committee (SRC), which is based at the center; and was, in the words of the board’s resolution, “a forceful proponent of senior health, recreation, and welfare in our community.” The SRC will raise funds for the purchase of a commemorative plaque that will be affixed to the building. Councilman Jay Wenk, who championed the effort to acknowledge Hornbeck, initially resisted councilman Bill McKenna’s request that SRC members allow the Town Board to review a sentence about Hornbeck that will appear on the plaque. After all, McKenna pointed out, the town owns the building. Wenk, who is in his eighties, demurred, responding that the seniors were “old, but not maniacs.” He consented to the request, however, when the other council members expressed their agreement with McKenna.
Comeau stewardship plan. Rosenblum, representing the board’s subcommittee on land use, presented an update on the progress of the plan. Following three meetings in recent weeks with members of a volunteer group that has been instrumental in the development of a draft plan, a new draft — a revision of a version composed largely by the town’s special counsel, Steven Barshov — is ready for review by the Woodstock Land Conservancy (WLC). Rosenblum, observing that “the chief fiscal officer” — a reference to the absent Moran — disagreed, nevertheless recommended that the current draft be “vetted” by Barshov before it was sent to the WLC. When Wenk and other board members countered that the proper time for Barshov, whose hourly fee is $200, to review the document was after the WLC had scrutinized and modified it, not before, Rosenblum altered her stance and agreed. The WLC’s executive director, John Winter, who was present, sought assurance that whatever draft his organization received would arrive with the board’s endorsement. The board responded affirmatively and voted unanimously to forward the current draft (which is posted on the town website, woodstockny.org) to the WLC.
Zoning law amendments. The board unanimously adopted two resolutions relating to proposed amendments of the zoning law. The resolutions effectively confirmed the board’s jurisdiction as lead agency in matters involving the revision of local laws and announced the board’s intention to forward the proposed amendments to the Planning Board for a legally required review period of up to 45 days. One amendment would revise the language of the section of the zoning law governing development and other activities in and around wetlands and watercourses. (As McKenna pointed out, the measure is frequently referred to as a freestanding local law, but in fact is a provision of the zoning law.) Councilwoman Cathy Magarelli described the proposed changes as procedural and linguistic rather than substantive. She thanked the wetlands inspector, Peter Cross, for his input on the proposed amendment. At the outset of the meeting Cross described the wetlands-and-watercourse provision as a valuable measure that served various environmental purposes. The other section of the zoning law that the board seeks to amend involves multiple uses of buildings.
Watershed organization. Via another unanimous vote, Woodstock joined six neighboring municipalities as a member of the Lower Esopus Watershed Partnership, whose mission is to advance, study, and address issues involving the eponymous watershed. The partnership is initiating a preliminary management plan for the entire watershed.
Honor for musicians. In recognition of contributions to the community by longtime local residents and widely acclaimed musicians Happy Traum and his late brother, Artie Traum, the board unanimously designated August 6 as Traum Day in Woodstock.
Announcements. Town clerk Jackie Earley announced upcoming events and dates of interest to the community. The town’s summer camp begins on Wednesday, June 29; prospective campers should register as soon as possible at the town clerk’s office, whose phone number is 679-2113, extension 4. Residents who plan to use the community garden or the tennis courts at Andy Lee Field should obtain an ID badge at the clerk’s office. The badge is required while the summer camp is in session. The town’s annual rabies clinic will take place from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 22, at the Company No. 1 firehouse on Route 212 in Bearsville. The fee is $10. Dogs must be leashed and cats crated. For dogs that have been previously vaccinated and need only a license, which can be obtained at the clinic, owners should present proof of vaccination. The license fee is $14.50 for dogs that have not been spayed or neutered and $6.50 for dogs that have.
Employee resignation. The board accepted the resignation of Michael Wilber as emergency dispatcher, effective May 29, and thanked him for his dedicated service to the town.++