Council to discuss extending building moratorium
The six-month moratorium on new development in Beacon that expires on March 3 could be extended for at least three months while the city continues to make repairs to its drinking water wells and tests a new well.
Hydrogeologist Tom Cusack laid out a “bad news, good news” scenario for the City Council on Monday (Jan. 13) when he explained that pumps installed on two Beacon wells are not sufficient for a crowded underground intersection near Interstate 84, outside the city limit. That’s where the wells, another owned by the Village of Fishkill, and the Cargill Reservoir all meet.
Beacon officials last year deactivated Well No. 2, which can provide up to 1.15 million gallons per day, after it began producing “cloudy” water following the installation of a new pump. That led the council in September to adopt a building freeze, its second in two years, while attempting a number of repairs to the well.
In addition to its two wells, which can provide up to 1.65 million gallons per day, Beacon draws water from three reservoirs, including Cargill, that combine for about 1.5 million gallons per day. The city also has an agreement to buy up to 1.2 million gallons per day from Fishkill.
The city’s previous moratorium expired in March 2018 after Cusack’s firm, WSP, projected that Beacon’s water supply would be sufficient through at least 2035, even with the recent rapid growth in housing units from new development.
Cusack said Monday that the city could know by early next month what it will cost to install a new pump at Well No. 2. Once approved, it could be up and running within a few weeks, he said.
The Beacon City Council has scheduled community forums on development for Thursday, Feb. 20, at 7 p.m., and Saturday, Feb. 29, at 10 a.m., at the Veterans’ Building at 413 Main St.
Both forums will include informational sessions on development and planning followed by questions-and-answers and public comments. The city hopes to have the forums moderated by retiring Orange County Planning Commissioner David Church, who was executive director of the New York Planning Federation from 1993 to 2002.
However, he added, Well No. 1 is also underperforming, producing 565 gallons per minute rather than its anticipated yield of 800 per minute. It, too, could be deactivated for two to six weeks for WSP to determine whether its pump should be repaired or replaced, but only after Well No. 2 is back online.
The good news is that WSP in 2017 discovered a third, previously untapped, drinking-water well that’s now producing 235 gallons per minute. Once deepened and approved by the state for the municipal system, Cusack said it could yield 400 gallons per minute, or 576,000 gallons per day.
If Well No. 2 doesn’t rebound as anticipated, the new well would likely make up that loss. If No. 2 is corrected, the new water would be surplus.
“Even with Well 2 out of service, there is a surplus of approximately 170,000 gallons a day for [every development project] that has been approved and is in front of the Planning Board,” Cusack said. “So I look at [the new well] as being surplus on top of 170, or even higher if I bring Well 2 back.”
City Administrator Anthony Ruggiero said he expects the council on Jan. 27 to discuss whether to extend the moratorium for at least three months to give the city time to complete all the water-related work.