By Eli Ruiz
HURLEYVILLE Close to 80 people packed the Hurleyville Firehouse on May 30 for a strategy session of sorts stemming from two proposed large scale developments that would likely have serious ramifications for the Town of Thompson and the Fallsburg hamlet of Hurleyville.
The meeting organized by the Columbia Hill Neighborhood Alliance gave concerned residents of the two regions an opportunity to learn more about the two proposed projects and a chance to begin forming a strategy to have the projects scaled back or halted.
The alliance is headed by former New York State Department of Labor employee Roger Betters and vehemently opposes Woodbridge, NJ based Atlantic Realty’s “Gan-Eden” proposal for 885 units to be built on 212.6 acres 29.2 of which are wetlands where once stood the old Columbia Hotel, just outside of Hurleyville.
The project would include 582 garden apartments, 225 townhouses, and 48 senior units and would lie both in the Towns of Thompson and Fallsburg, on 199 and 13.6 acres respectively. The second project, named “Kelli-Woods,” would entail an additional 90 duplexes which would translate to about 180 similar units on 90 acres 37.8 of which are also wetlands on Anawana Lake Road in Thompson.
The development would actually tap into a water/sewage treatment plant being proposed for the much larger Gan-Eden development for services as the projects are expected to produce between 350,000-370,000 gallons per day of wastewater, an amount the Town of Fallsburg cannot support, according to Columbia Hill Neighborhood Alliance member, Morris Silberman.
The vast majority of attendees were appalled at the scale of the projects and the fact that until recently, most were ignorant about the proposals, which have been in the works for the last four years.
Betters recounted the day he found out about the proposed projects from his Old Liberty Road neighbor, Art Maresca, who himself only found out when he recently received a call from a representative of the community group, Rock Hill Neighborhood Coalition.
“God bless them, the Rock Hill Neighborhood Coalition… if not for their reaching out to us, none of us would still know anything about this,” said Betters.
“In-fact,” added Betters, “I’ve yet to meet a soul who knew anything about these projects.”
Also in attendance was Town of Fallsburg Supervisor Steve Vegliante, who explained, “just to clarify, the Town of Fallsburg Board is not in favor of these developments… When this was proposed in the Town of Fallsburg I was not Supervisor.”
Town of Thompson Deputy Supervisor Richard Sush represented his board. In 2007 Thompson allowed for changes in zoning and increased the density limits imposed on multi-family housing which in turn opened the door to such large-scale development. Sush suggested a move back to the “old” density regulations as a means to lessen the scope of the projects saying, “it’s really not a difficult change, it’s a very simple change… If we simply keep the zoning changes the same and just go back to the old density formula, it dramatically reduces the amount of units that can be built on a property.
“We don’t want to stop developers because there’s a balance… it’s tax money, and whether or not this becomes tax exempt is a whole other issue, but there are projects that do come up that do bring in tax money to the town … we need that tax money,” continued Sush.
Betters put the sheer scope of the projects, and the need for more people to get involved in opposing them into perspective, saying, “It got to the point where we[the Columbia Hill Neighborhood Alliance] decided that there’s too few of us… we just can’t do it all.
He added, “We need to have a presence that shows that we are adamantly opposed to these developments. We’re at the point where we need to do something to at least whittle these projects down to where they are manageable. We’re talking over 5,000 additional people using our resources.”
The Town of Thompson Board had a meeting scheduled for Tuesday June 5 at 7:30 pm. at Town of Thompson Hall. The changes to the density limits for multi-family housing proposed by Sush will surely be on the agenda.