Environmental concerns drive call for moratorium

Philipstown is moving to impose a six-month moratorium on projects storing more than 10,000 gallons of oil products as it considers zoning restrictions to protect the environment and drinking water supplies.

The Clove Creek aquifer
The Clove Creek aquifer

Members of the Town Board voted Nov. 22 to schedule a public hearing for Dec. 13 on a draft law declaring that applications for land uses that include storage of oil products will not be “accepted, processed or approved” for six months. The Town Board would be able to extend the moratorium for two additional six-month periods.

Philipstown’s zoning code restricts storage tanks and facilities of 400,000 gallons or greater in environmentally sensitive areas. Those areas include the Clove Creek Aquifer Subdistrict, which was created in 2011 and prohibits certain facilities, such as gas stations and landfills, and requires special permits for other uses.

But, according to the town, allowing properties to store up to 400,000 gallons of oil represents a significant danger of environmental damage from leaks, spills and the damage to tanks from natural disasters or extreme weather.

“We have identified a flaw in the zoning and are addressing it in an effort to protect the environment, specifically the Clove Creek aquifer,” said Supervisor John Van Tassel.

The aquifer, which lies beneath the creek, parallels Route 9 from East Mountain Road South to the town’s border with Fishkill. Groundwater from the aquifer feeds the wells that supply residents and businesses in the highly developed northern part of Route 9, and the towns of Fishkill and Wappinger, the Village of Fishkill and Beacon.

Along with Foundry Brook, which supplies water for Cold Spring and Nelsonville, the aquifer was identified as a key water source in the most recent Philipstown Comprehensive Plan, which recommends the creation of a watershed coalition to monitor its quality.

The current law applies to “a tank, holding facility, or other container for oil or petroleum of any kind and in any form including but not limited to oil, petroleum fuel oil, oil sludge, oil refuse, oil mixed with other waste, crude oil, gasoline and kerosene.” The oil does not have to be for a property’s main use; it can also be for “part of the main use, or an accessory use.”

If the Town Board passes the version drafted, the moratorium would not apply to applications for single- and two-family housing or applications for multiple housing units “provided that the oil storage facility involved in the development is the minimum necessary to meet the needs of the proposed development and does not exceed 10,000 gallons.”

Commercial developments would be exempt if the oil-storage facility is to be used solely for consumption on-site; the capacity is the minimum necessary for the development’s needs; and the capacity does not exceed 10,000 gallons.

Property owners applying for “expansion, alteration or modification” of storage facilities that do not call for an increase in size or capacity also would be exempt.

Behind The Story

Type: News

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

The Peekskill resident is a former reporter for the Times Herald-Record in Middletown, where he covered Sullivan County and later Newburgh. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Morgan State University and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland. Location: Cold Spring. Languages: English. Area of Expertise: General.

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