TOWN OF SARATOGA
SPECIAL PLANNING BOARD MEETING
MINUTES - DRAFT
April 21, 2005 - 7:00 PM
Chairman Ian Murray called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m.
Clerk Catherine Cicero called the roll. Chairman Ian Murray – present, Susan Cummings – present, Ralph Pascucci – absent [Chairman Ian Murray noted for the record Mr. Pascucci’s arrival at 7:06pm], Albert Baker – present, Paul Griffen – present, Robert Park – present, Laurie Griffen – absent.
Chairman Ian Murray stated that the purpose of the meeting was to focus on the Southard Road Project; in particular the SEQR and Conditioned Negative Declaration relating to that case. He then read from a prepared statement that no questions or comments would be permitted from the general public or the press.
Chairman Ian Murray began by reading from the State Environmental Quality Review Act, Part 617.7(d) Conditioned Negative Declarations. (A copy of that section is attached to these minutes.)
Chairman Murray then read the names and addresses of the Applicants and owner, and the name of the project for the record. Chairman Murray read verbatim from the Full Environmental Assessment Form submitted; therefore, the minutes reflect only the areas discussed as Chairman Murray read through the SEQR assessment.
Part I of the form was filled out by the Applicants for the owner.
8. Although the depth of the water table was listed as +/- 1 foot, Dave Carr clarified that that was the worst case scenario. The +/- 1 foot water table registered on only a few of the 20 or so test pits; in a couple of the 5’ test pits, the water didn’t register at all.
9. Town Engineer Kenneth Martin elaborated here that the only sole source aquifer in this area is in Schenectady. Therefore, that question does not apply to this project.
12. Paul Griffen wondered if the State defined “unusual landforms”, to which Chairman Murray explained that the Board defined them. Ralph Pascucci used the example of Stark’s Knob as an unusual landform. Chairman Murray noted that in Part 617 of SEQR, there is no definition for it.
16. Chairman Murray added that there is also a pond owned by the Craine family to the east of the project property.
17. It was clarified that the power source for the project is adequate; however, Niagara Mohawk would have to install a transformer and then bury lines into the project, pursuant to current NiMo practice.
1g. The maximum vehicular trips generated per hour were calculated by the
Applicant using a formula from the Urban Land Institute Development
Impact Assessment Handbook. Town Engineer Kenneth Martin used the
same handbook to calculate a slightly higher figure of 6.9. Robert Park
wanted to know what the current figure is. Mark Jakubiak stated that a
traffic study had been done which reflected a total of 164 trips in 2 days. He
was not sure exactly where the study had been done on
Southard Road. He believed that there was traffic from another road that
was being caught in the study as well.
2. It was noted that no blasting was planned for the site. Chairman Murray repeated that the type of rock is fractured shale, which is easily broken up for removal. He stated that he had spoken with another developer in the area who confirmed that the rock was rippable shale. However, Dave Carr stated that if they did run into bedrock, they would not go any deeper.
3. Dave Carr clarified that +/- .75 was a reasonable number for the amount of vegetation to be removed because it did not include grassland or sod. This amount refers to the 69.11 acres to be developed.
6. Dave Carr clarified that, in a project of this nature, the twelve month anticipated period of construction refers to the roads and infrastructure involved, rather than the total number of houses to be built, which relies on the market. He noted that these will all be custom homes.
12. Dave Carr noted here that these forms are used for any kind of development, including industrial, residential, etc., and therefore many of the questions don’t apply to a project of this type.
16. Dave Carr stated that the figure of .016 tons of solid waste generated per month had been revised, and that the new figure had been forwarded to Town Engineer Kenneth Martin. The new figure is 1.44 tons; again based on the Urban Land Institute Handbook. Chairman Ian Murray explained that he had spoken with a SEQR official who stated that the question dated from the 1980’s when there was great concern over landfill space and that now garbage is a commodity that everyone wants because they make money from it.
20. It was stated that the project would not produce operating noise exceeding the local ambient noise levels because the noise level was based on what would be generated once the project was completed, not on construction noise during development. Dave Carr explained that this question refers to the ultimate land use.
23. The total water usage per day was based on DEC figures calculating 75
gallons per day per bedroom (5) in a home. Dave Carr stated that usage
figures continue to decrease because of water-saving appliances.
Therefore, this figure is a conservative estimate.
Part II and Part III of the form were filled out by the Planning Board. Again, Chairman Ian Murray read verbatim from the form and noted that the form pertained to all construction projects, not just the type involved in this instance, therefore not all questions applied. Chairman Murray went over both Parts II and III at the same time since Part III is an explanation of answers found in Part II. The areas of discussion are noted below.
Impact on Land 1b. Dave Carr explained how DEC would monitor the construction site during construction. Chairman Murray noted that the DEC is extremely strict about compliance. Mr. Pascucci wondered how the storm water would be controlled after construction. Dave Carr stated that, after completion of the project, the Town would police the site. He stated that once the road and infrastructure are complete, the developer generally offers the road to the Town for dedication. At that point, the road has been functioning for awhile, and the Town would know whether or not the storm water management plan is working. Town Engineer Kenneth Martin added that the Town of Saratoga has retained a sufficient portion of bonds in the past to cover such contingencies. He noted that he had also deepened the catch basins indicated on the original plans.
Impact on Agricultural Land Resources. 10. Mr. Pascucci asked whether the requirements contained in this answer were part of the Conditioned Negative Declaration, to which Chairman Murray responded in the affirmative. Mr. Pascucci wondered if the wells should be tested now before the lots go up for sale. Chairman Murray answered that he did not feel that was necessary. No development of the lot could take place if the testing standards are not met; therefore, the onus is on the developer. Town Engineer Kenneth Martin added that 2 tests are necessary before a building permit can be issues. One is for quantity and one is for quality. If the quality standard is not met, the builder can treat the water somehow. He stated that he did not mandate testing of the neighbors’ wells due to the Applicants’ concerns about liability. He has requested that an air tube be added to any new wells so that they can be tested without disturbing the well. Mr. Parks wondered if there were any restrictions on preparations for the site before well standards have been met. Town Engineer Martin didn’t feel this to be necessary because it wouldn’t be in the developer’s interests to disturb the land before receiving a building permit. Ms. Cummings noted that most of the property is open field without vegetation anyway. Engineer Martin didn’t believe that anyone would object to language being added that would restrict the developer from preparing a site before a building permit had been issued. Mr. Pascucci wanted to add language that neighboring wells could be tested if owners chose to participate. Engineer Martin agreed to write something up for review. He added that a design professional would be supervising all testing. Chairman Murray did not believe that the Town should be involved in any agreement among the neighbors and the developers over well testing and that they should work that out themselves.
6. Will Proposed Action alter drainage flow or patters, or surface water? At this point, Mr. Griffen wondered who is liable if someone complains that their well has been affected by a neighbor digging a new well. Why should the Town be involved? Wouldn’t that be an issue between neighbors? Town Engineer Martin tried to explain using a textbook and the Urban Land Institute Handbook. He stated that the owner of the land above percolating water has the right to that water. As long as it is not a stream. New York State uses the term “reasonable use”, but doesn’t define it. He then went into a lengthy definition of agricultural versus commercial use of water. A neighbor is not liable for affecting another’s well under the “reasonable use” standard. Mr. Pascucci compared this situation to mineral rights under property. There followed a brief discussion on mineral rights and the origin of water.
9. Will Proposed Action substantially affect non-threatened or non-endangered species? Mr. Griffen questioned the use of pesticides by the new homeowners. Chairman Murray stated that, although companies can be policed, individual homeowners cannot.
Impact on Agricultural Land Resources. 10. Mr. Griffen wondered if the open space between the lots was contiguous and would allow for some farming since no one would be expected to mow 10 acres. Chairman Murray responded that it is not contiguous. He added that the driveways could be situated such that they could be adjacent so that the fields could be larger.
Mr. Griffen then wondered if there were deed restrictions prohibiting further subdivisions once the project is complete. Chairman Murray responded in the affirmative. This would be policed by Bob Hathaway. Dave Carr said that he would make sure that this is included on the deeds.
There followed a discussion regarding loss of agricultural land within the Town and the need for a new way to preserve land.
Impact on Aesthetic Resources. 11. Mr. Park noted that this project will most definitely have an aesthetic impact, but there’s nothing that can be done about it.
Impact on Transportation 15. Mr. Park requested clarification of this question since it would result in increased traffic. There followed a discussion on the increased traffic in certain areas of the Town and the need to review some of those areas and to devise ways to fund necessary changes.
Impact on Growth and Character of Community or Neighborhood. 19. Mr. Pascucci and Paul Griffen stated that the project would change the character of the community. Mr. Park stated that the Comprehensive Plan might as well be tossed out. Chairman Murray then read through the examples of effects on the community as defined in the form. None of the examples apply to this project. Mr. Pascucci stated that it is an allowed use. There followed a discussion on the philosophical conflicts inherent in the development project.
Mr. Griffen stated that the development would create a demand for additional community services such as schools, police, fire, etc., but like all the other houses going up in the community, the effects would be on the fringes, and therefore not substantial.
20. Mr. Park noted that much of the controversy surrounding the project comes from the Board itself.
Chairman Murray asked the Board whether there were any comments about how the process was done. Mr. Griffen stated that when they did vote, they had to be sure that the questions concerning water and traffic were addressed. He was more concerned with existing traffic situations than with the projected increase. He was not sure how they could be resolved.
Chairman Murray then asked: Does everybody think we did a thorough review and a conscientious review of the SEQR? And, again, is there anything in the comments as part of the Conditioned Negative Declaration that anyone wants to discuss further other than what Ken had done or anything else?
Ms. Cummings stated that she had read through all the comments and was comfortable with what the Board had done tonight. Chairman Murray agreed. Mr. Griffen said that he would like someone to carry the Town-wide traffic issue to the Town Board and the Highway Superintendent. Chairman Murray stated that this issue could be raised at the next ZAAC meeting.
Chairman Murray then asked to move on to new information. He stated that no motion was necessary to move on to a new discussion.
Town Engineer Martin asked whether the comments to the Conditioned Negative Declaration should be gone through one by one. Chairman Murray and Ms. Cummings stated that they had read cover to cover the document prepared by Engineer Martin and did not feel the need to discuss each one individually.
Engineer Martin asked that the Board discuss the issue of proposed septic systems for the project. He noted that DOH does permit raised septic systems; however, they must be designed by a professional engineer and reviewed and approved by DOH. There followed a brief discussion on alternative types of septic systems, including evaporation systems. Mr. Griffen noted that some of the resulting mounds are ugly.
Engineer Martin also noted that, although DOH does allow for water storage in wells, he wrote changes to the DOH recommendations stating that water had to be stored in a tank outside of the wells. The well pump must be sized for the drawdown flow of the well. He then added that such a requirement cannot be policed.
Chairman Murray then moved on to new information which included the new traffic report. He noted that the Board had done a walk through of the property in August of 2004, during which site distances were noted. Dave Carr stated that the Applicant no longer had the original map that was available during the walk-through. However, the Applicant had hired Creighton-Manning to conduct a sight analysis and speed study. In response to specific comments to the Conditioned Negative Declaration, Creighton-Manning was asked to look at driveways and relocate them if necessary. The analysis was based on NYS DOT reviews of site distances. As the result of the analysis, one driveway entrance was relocated approximately 60’ and site distances were improved. Dave Carr said that builders must access Southard Road via the driveway locations approved by Creighton-Manning.
Dave Carr then gave a breakdown of the rates of speed in the traffic analysis. He did not have a record of the fastest speed, but noted that the average speed was 42.7mph, and that most people were driving at 37mph.
Mr. Pascucci stated that the Board could ask for adjacent, not shared, driveways. There would be fewer mailboxes that way as well. Mr. Baker noted that fewer boxes would be safer. A discussion on the placement of mailboxes ensued, suggesting that they be placed within the loop; however, the Post Office would be final arbiter on placement.
Chairman Ian Murray advised the Board of the recently filed lawsuit against the Town of Saratoga regarding the Southard Road Project.
Chairman Ian Murray read verbatim the Draft Conditioned Negative Declaration. The points of discussion are noted below:
Mr. Pascucci requested that surrounding property owners should be notified when well testing takes place. Engineer Martin volunteered to write some language. It was determined that the two closest wells adjoining the property and owners of record within 1000’ of the tested well, should be notified 10 days prior to the testing. Ken Martin said that at least 2 wells are needed, and that they could be within the subdivision as it becomes developed. Mr. Pascucci stated that, as a courtesy, the neighbors should be offered to have their wells monitored, and have the choice of whether or not to participate in the well testing.
Mr. Park wondered if these could be reasonable parameters to be used in any major subdivision proposed in the Town. Town Engineer Kenneth Martin responded that they could be used in any subdivision of this type. He compared the density of realty lots in instances where DOH has jurisdiction or regulates, versus the type of density resulting from lots of 5 acres or more. In a map he had devised, Town Engineer Martin demonstrated that the DOH allowed density would be 16 lots versus 6 allowed by the Planning Board for a 32 acre area. He then calculated the water demand at 1200 gallons per day or 13.3 gallons per minute for the higher density plan, which the Planning Board had considered to be high. The lower density housing yielded a water demand calculation of 5 gallons per minute for the entire 32 acre parcel.
Town Engineer Martin stated that he had proposed this concept to the Town as a standard in the building permit process in non-DOH jurisdictional instances.
Mr. Griffen wondered if new arrivals in the community should be made to adhere to these standards, as well as any resales. Town Engineer Martin responded that that was his objective.
Chairman Ian Murray read 617.7(d) and 617.7(d)9(2) from the SEQR Regulations. (A copy of those sections is attached to these minutes.) Chairman Murray then asked the Board whether they felt they should rescind the Conditioned Negative Declaration as it reads, whether they felt they had addressed all the concerns, and whether they were comfortable with the process and with the mitigative measures the Board has put on the project. Again, Chairman Murray explained that no motion would be made at this meeting.
Mr. Griffen stated that he thought that everyone had done a great job and that he would respond favorably. Mr. Pascucci felt the Board had done a great job based on what it was able to do. Chairman Murray felt that everyone had done a good job and had made a thorough review of the process. He was happy with what the Board had come up with in the document. Ms. Cummings concurred with what the rest of the Board members had said.
Chairman Ian Murray concluded the SEQR review. He asked if anyone had any additional questions or comments. There were none.
A motion to adjourn was made at 9:24 p.m.by Ralph Pascucci and seconded by Susan Cummings. Chairman Ian Murray – aye, Susan Cummings – aye, Ralph Pascucci – aye, Albert Baker – aye, Robert Park – aye, Paul Griffen – aye. Carried 6-0.
Catherine E. Cicero