By Dan Hust
FORESTBURGH Though final site plan approval won’t come until next year, Double Diamond’s Lost Lake Resort a proposal to subdivide 2,300 acres in Forestburgh into 2,700 buildable lots garnered much interest at the town hall on November 21.
Close to two dozen residents attended the public hearing, part of the resort’s preliminary site plan approval process with the Town of Forestburgh.
When fully built out, the resort could become the largest housing development in Sullivan County, with pre-screened purchasers (i.e., minimum $80,000 annual household income) being offered half-acre or larger lots, on which they can choose to build homes or leave vacant, simply enjoying the resort’s amenities for an annual fee.
This hearing was only for Phase I, however, which involves the creation of 400 half-acre lots for single-family homes, a sales building, utilities (electric and community sewer and water), 20-foot-wide roads (privately owned and maintained by a homeowners association), and nine of the planned 18 holes on the golf course.
According to Double Diamond Vice President Randy Gracy, virtually all of that development will take place over a year’s time, north of St. Joseph’s Road and west of Cold Spring Road (County Route 101) near the border with the Town of Thompson.
A hotel, conference center, spa, clubhouse, restaurant and the rest of the lots will be added in the six subsequent phases, he added, likely over the course of a decade, if sales pan out as hoped.
None of the phases including this one has yet garnered final approval, though even with a wide range of questions and comments last Monday, Forestburgh appears eager to welcome the massive project.
“I wish you all the luck in the world,” future resort neighbor Richard Feller told Gracy, “because it only benefits us to see you be successful.”
He wasn’t just talking about the expanded tax base. Feller and several others in the audience said that section of Forestburgh has long suffered from poor electric service, and Lost Lake’s needs promise to force Orange and Rockland Utilities to vastly upgrade its infrastructure in the area.
Along with that may come cable and Internet services, plus a cell tower.
The only major concern of residents centered on water specifically, how the drawdown of upwards of 185,000 gallons a day would affect surrounding homeowners’ wells and the Bushkill Creek, a treasured trout stream whose headwaters are at Lost Lake.
“Where is the protection for us when you bring in the multitudes?” Feller questioned, worried that his and others’ wells might go dry due to Lost Lake’s needs.
“We are working to get that resolved,” replied Town Supervisor Jim Galligan.
Town officials indicated the four wells Double Diamond has already drilled on its property have proven sufficient to supply even a fully built-out development.
But the town is also exploring having the resort extend its water system to neighboring properties, if necessary.
Galligan promised that would be worked out before Phase I gets final site plan approval which won’t come until Double Diamond obtains the necessary water permits from the state Dept. of Environmental Conservation (DEC), Dept. of Health and the Delaware River Basin Commission.
Several other speakers, however, expressed concerns over the impact to Bushkill Creek, which for a portion of its length between Lost Lake and the Neversink River is owned by a corporation of fly-fishers.
“It’s going to warm that stream up a lot,” warned Dan Scott of Oakland Valley. “It will become a warm-water fishery ... as they pump the headwaters down lower.”
Trout cannot survive in waters that are too warm, but town officials again said the DEC has jurisdiction and will ensure that the stream and its aquatic life are not harmed.
A concern that likely will go unaddressed was aired by Alan Kulchinsky, one of the resort’s closest potential neighbors on Cold Spring Road.
“It practically borders the back of my property line,” he told the town board, complaining that just the drilling of the wells was deafening.
Gracy replied that the resort’s perimeter has a minimum 50-foot buffer, along with trees and setback requirements for every house that is built.
Noting that Double Diamond’s other resorts throughout the country typically don’t have more than 20 percent of the lots built upon, Gracy added that any noises should be temporary and reasonably screened.
Kulchinsky hoped that the buffer could be increased to 100-150 feet, but the town’s technical consultant indicated it’s too late to ask Double Diamond to significantly alter its designs.
But at least minor changes are in the works, indicated Supervisor Galligan, who said the comments made at Monday night’s hearing will be taken into account before preliminary site plan approval is granted.
When that will happen is uncertain, but the public comment period remains open until the next town board meeting on Thursday, December 1.
Written comments can be sent to Town Clerk Joanne Nagoda at P.O. Box 114, King Road, Forestburgh, NY 12777 or email@example.com.
More info on the project, with maps and specific details, can be gained online at www.forestburgh.net.com/publicreview/lostlake/#feis.
Gracy hopes to break ground in the spring, but Galligan told the Democrat he expects the state-level permitting to take a bit longer, with a groundbreaking perhaps a year away.