Set June 21 public hearing on Hudson Highlands Reserve

By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong

Scrutiny of the proposed Hudson Highlands Reserve complex entered a new phase on June 5 when the Philipstown Planning Board declared the project could have significant adverse effects and demanded the developer conduct a thorough environmental review.

The seven-member board scheduled a hearing for 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 21, at the Old VFW Hall in Cold Spring to hear public input before work begins on the review, known as an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Termed a “scoping” session, it will – literally — focus on the EIS scope.

Last Tuesday (June 12), the Philipstown Conservation Board expressed its own concerns about the project and said it would provide details to the Planning Board before the June 21 hearing.

The Planning Board spent months going through a preliminary environmental assessment but numerous questions remained – hence, the full EIS.

Detail from a plan for the Hudson Highlands Reserve project

Horton Road LLC has proposed building 25 weekend homes, each about 2,500 square feet on a 1-acre lot. The 210-acre complex will also have a 40-horse center with stables, indoor and outdoor arenas, and paddocks.

The developers say the homes would sell for $1 million to $3 million. First presented to the Planning Board in 2014, the project is the first project to seek Planning Board approval as a conservation subdivision under the town’s 2011 zoning code.

Bordered by Route 9, Horton Road, East Mountain Road North and East Mountain Road South, the tract includes 6-acre Ulmar Pond, woods, a historic road and barn, wetlands and mountainous slopes. Clove Creek bisects it and neighbors include Fahnestock State Park and a City of Beacon property on East Mountain Road North.

Critics contend that the plans do not meet the criteria of a conservation subdivision in part because they do not cluster buildings on a small portion of the landscape but spread them out, including homes ringing the pond.

An early conceptual drawing by architect Anthony Sunga of the interior of a home at the development

In return for concentrating buildings and conserving natural areas, the owner of a conservation subdivision can receive zoning concessions, such as leeway to develop built-up areas more densely than usually allowed.

The Hudson Highlands Reserve site is zoned rural residential, and, to a lesser extent, industrial-manufacturing, with soil mining, aquifer and open-space conservation overlay (OSO) districts. Zoning law demands that at least 60 percent of land in a conservation subdivision be retained as open space, an amount that increases to 80 percent for OSO areas.

Tuesday night, Conservation Board Member Andy Galler found aspects of the project troubling. “I don’t see how it’s going to meet the conservation subdivision” standard, he said. He expressed hopes that in preparing the EIS, the developers come up with something fresh and not “just put back into it” prior designs.

The key is “they have to evaluate alternatives” to that, Eric Lind, another Conservation Board Member observed.

Besides passing the EIS resolution, on June 5 the Planning Board adopted a five-page report explaining the reasons for its opinion on the project’s potentially adverse environmental impact. Among other things, it stated that:

  • The project represents a serious change in land use on the forested property.
  • It would insert impervious surfaces from buildings, residential improvements and roads in the landscape, prompting fears of stormwater run-off into Ulmar Pond, Clove Creek and other water features.
  • The water features, including groundwater sources of drinking water, could be harmed by homeowners’ use of fertilizers and pesticides, horse manure and the communal septic system.
  • The project could fragment existing woods, disturbing the habitats of Eastern box turtles, Eastern hognose and worm snakes, red-shouldered hawks and other wildlife.

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Armstrong was the founding news editor of The Current (then known as in 2010 and later a senior correspondent and contributing editor for the paper. She worked earlier in Washington as a White House correspondent and national affairs reporter and assistant news editor for daily international news services. Location: Cold Spring. Languages: English. Areas of expertise: Politics and government