Also: illegal dumping, Manitou Station Road, herbicide spraying
By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong
Convening on Aug. 10 for its formal monthly meeting, the Philipstown Town Board looked toward a major building project across the Hudson River and into illegal dumping and roads in its own backyard.
Route 9W hotel
The board discussed a request that Philipstown agree to make the Town of Highlands the lead agency to review a proposed four-story hotel and restaurant complex on Route 9W in Fort Montgomery, on the west side of the Hudson. Philipstown was one of several government jurisdictions, on both sides of the river, contacted as part of the environmental quality review process.
After debate, the board approved the request 4 to 1, with Councilor Nancy Montgomery voting nay. Usually, such requests from sister communities quickly receive unanimous consent.
The Town Board questioned the hotel’s impact, including its water usage and the assertion on its environmental assessment form that it is not in a designated river corridor under the state Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers Program. The project, proposed by West Point Realty of New Hempstead, would cover 2.6 acres of the 7.25-acre site and include parking, utility infrastructure and a stormwater management system.
“It’s a big project which will have a lot of impact on our viewshed,” said Supervisor Richard Shea. “However, there’s not a whole lot we can do about their being lead agency.”
Michelle Smith, executive director of the Hudson Highlands Land Trust, said her organization and Scenic Hudson will analyze the project. She noted a second, five-story hotel is planned along Route 9W.
Montgomery described potential light pollution as a big concern to Philipstown. “I can’t see voting to authorize” a lead agency, given the lack of details in the environmental assessment form, she said, suggesting the board make “more of an impression” by refusing to go along.
Councilor John Van Tassel, who also found flaws in the environmental assessment form, said Highlands officials would “be more willing to cooperate” and address concerns if Philipstown signed off on the lead-agency request.
The board signaled a zero-tolerance policy toward illegal dumping.
Shea explained that “an industrial-sized operation” by a carting company and excavator targeted “sort of vulnerable individuals, saying, ‘Look, we can extend your yard with clean fill.’ ” Instead, he said, they dumped thousands of yards of material resembling debris from demolished buildings, “absolute trash,” that must now be removed from “pretty difficult spots to get it out of. I feel sorry for the people who were duped.”
The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has gotten involved and the dumpers will be prosecuted and should be forced to remove the mess, Shea said. “If you dump in this town, we’re going to come down on you hard and heavy,” he said.
Councilor Michael Leonard observed that “it creates a serious environmental hazard, groundwater potential problems,” and difficulties for neighbors, especially on steep slopes. He urged residents to immediately report suspicious dumping or fill activities.
Manitou Station Road
Board members voiced frustrations about the DEC’s pace in issuing a permit for repairs to flood-prone Manitou Station Road. The town cannot proceed without it. The board had hoped to begin work before the fall.
Separately, Putnam County has submitted a grant request to the state for $250,000 to restore the aquatic habitat on Manitou Station Road. Montgomery extended her thanks to the county for pursuing the grant. “It’d be great to partner with them,” she said.
Shea complained, though, that county officials have done little about Manitou Station Road except “talk, talk, talk.”
Leonard reported on a meeting he attended on Aug. 9 at which county legislators discussed spraying by the county of herbicides near Foundry Brook, the source of drinking water for Cold Spring and Nelsonville.
“I got a little bit upset,” he confessed. “I expected to go over there and hear they were going to stop it.”
Instead, he said, the county Highway Department described the spraying as a “best practice” in weed control.
“Spraying was occurring atop the actual waterway,” Leonard said. “They don’t need to spray. We have to stand up and say ‘we’re not allowing it.’”
In other business, the board voted 5-0 to form a committee to update the 11-year-old Philipstown comprehensive plan.