By Nathan Mayberg
WOODBOURNE September 13, 2005 In the Town of Fallsburg, where there are more proposed developments than just about any other municipality in the county, more people are turning out to object to the highest density developments.
Many have called for a moratorium on construction.
On Thursday, about 160 people turned out for a planning board meeting at the Town of Fallsburg Hall in South Fallsburg, where most of them had to stand outside.
Planning board attorney Ron Hiatt advised the board to move the meeting to a location which could handle the large crowd, so everyone gathered their materials and headed to the Woodbourne Firehouse.
About a month earlier, the firehouse was the scene of widespread opposition in front of the Town of Fallsburg Board towards a plan to build 489 homes on 114 acres near Morningside Park.
This time, the local citizenry displayed their hostility to Park Slope, a 90-unit bungalow colony on 43 acres at Brophy Road in Hurleyville.
By the time the public hearing was over, the board could only hear the applicants for five more projects. There were still nine other developments which will be heard at the boards next meeting later this month.
Altogether, the amount of homes on the agenda totaled more than 1,000, in addition to an application by Woodbourne Lawn and Garden to operate a sand and gravel mine on Route 42 in Woodbourne.
The hearing on Park Slope was highly passionate, with moments of tension and heightened emotions.
Herschel Mossberg, the developer behind Park Slope, had his blood-pressure turned up after some hot exchanges with local residents.
Mossberg boasted of 21 years of beautiful home construction projects in the town and said all of his homes paid taxes, although as one resident would point out later, seasonal homes pay a smaller rate of taxes in the Town of Fallsburg which has the highest rate of tax-exempt properties in Sullivan County.
Mossberg said he was legally able to build 10 units per acre but was only proposing about two per acre. Mossberg said the extensive wetlands would not be disturbed, although the acreage was not disclosed. He said he had agreed with town building inspector Allen Frishman to leave much of the woods intact while planting an additional 60 evergreen trees. He plans on building two pools, a playground and a handball court for his modern bungalow colony.
I paid a lot of money for the property, he said, adding that he had rights to develop the property. I want to do what is right.
Many others would argue against his plans, while the board, including Chairman Arthur Rosenshein and board member Joseph Collura, said many of the residents issues were meant for the town board to decide.
The board is meeting tonight and is expected to be greeted by a number of the housing opponents.
The planning board, said Rosenshein, cannot arbitrarily deny bungalow colonies or other projects people dont like, as long as they meet town code and zoning requirements. It is up to the town board, he said, to change the code or place a moratorium on building.
The most charged minutes of the evening occurred thanks to a fired-up Perry Gibbs, a well-known local businessman whose home borders the proposed development.
Im on the death corner of this development, he said.
He claimed he lost three dogs at the corner of where the homes would be built, and he once pulled a 21-year-old man from the forest after an accident near there.
I didnt move here to live near a bungalow colony, he added. People are tired of this type of development.
Mossberg responded passionately to Gibbs questions as to whether the homes would be open to all citizens.
Several other residents, including representatives of the Hurleyville Fire Department, reiterated their concerns for public safety at the entrance to the proposed colony. They said that site has been the location of many accidents over the years.
The department also questioned Mossberg about his intentions to use the dam on his property for water. That dam has been breached in the past, they said.
Others called for the applicant to submit a draft environmental impact statement and consent to an additional public hearing after they had addressed more of the towns issues. Rosenshein said a draft environmental impact statement and another public hearing would only be required if there were further complexities.
Ralph Hilton of Hurleyville stated that the proposal was, in fact, a type-1 SEQRA action due to the amount of units (over 50) outside the towns water district.
Walter Hendricks, also of Hurleyville, complained that taxes rose in the town by 8 percent last year, while the town is the recipient of so much home construction. He contended that developments were being subsidized by local taxpayers through their impact on roads and the towns water and sewer capacity. They destroy open space, increase traffic, and only raise taxes, he said.
Mossberg defended the amount of taxes he pays to the town. He said he is required to pay $300 per home to the town for its parks and recreation department before he even begins to build.
I pay my way, he said.
One local resident complained about the sewage pump station, which Mossberg would use, near the entrance to the site. She said the station has had an ongoing problem with a distasteful smell. Another resident said the property is inhabited by many animals, including eagles.
Another public hearing was held for Garden View Estates, a 50-unit development on Zimmerman Road in Loch Sheldrake.
Several residents voiced serious concerns over the possibility of their wells being contaminated by the new development. They said there have already been many houses proposed near the site. But at least one local homeowner said he would accept the development if it was cut down in size.
One long-time vacationer in the town, who has a seasonal home near the project, was visibly upset. He said that Zimmerman Road often flooded, and there was a very tight and dangerous turn leading to the entrance.
Robert Scheinman, operator of Woodbourne Lawn and Garden, was told to return with plans that meet town code over his proposal for a sand and gravel mine in Woodbourne on Route 42. At its closest point, the mine would reach within 400 feet of Route 42.
There is currently an Article 78 proceeding against his plans by local homeowners.
The plans he gave to the planning board show a 100-foot buffer from local residents, while town code requires a buffer of 300 feet. Scheinman agreed to the 300-foot buffer. He also agreed not to have workers encroach within 1,500 feet of the homes on Saturdays.
The planning board will meet again on September 29, where one of the largest home construction projects facing the town will be heard Pulte Homes, 427 single-family units proposed across from Morningside Park in Hurleyville.