Friday, January 13, 2017
Over vehement objection from residents, the Bloomingburg village board reaffirmed the environmental review of controversial housing development Chestnut Ridge, allowing the project to move back to the planning board for amendments to its site plan.
The 396-unit project, still under construction, came back before the village board in November seeking reaffirmation of the State Environmental Quality Review after a state fire code ruling determined that roads within the development need to be widened. Residents who oppose Chestnut Ridge hoped the board would reopen the SEQR, rather than reaffirm it. The original SEQR used calculations based on an average family size of 2.8 people per household, but the development was designed for, and exclusively attracts, Hasidic families that are likely to far exceed that average.
In a barrage of questions and complaints, residents told Mayor Russ Wood and Trustee Rivkah Mosesson that there is no way Chestnut Ridge's three wells will support the full project, and neighbors fear for the viability of their own wells as a result.
"When my well runs dry, I'm coming to you," former village trustee Kathy Roemer said to Chestnut Ridge consultant Tom Shepstone. "And you will be part of my lawsuit."
The public's comments were all the more heated because in the weeks since the last village meeting, Chestnut Ridge developers Shalom Lamm and Kenneth Nakdimen were indicted on voter fraud charges, accused by the FBI of bringing in non-local residents to vote in the 2014 village election to swing the results in favor of candidates who supported Chestnut Ridge.
With 22 units occupied, Chestnut Ridge currently uses an average of 207 gallons per unit daily, under the 262-gallon allowance. Village engineer Tom Depuy said the water and sewer use is monitored weekly, and it will be reevaluated when the project is 70 percent complete.
Water usage was not part of the question as to whether to reaffirm the SEQR, Wood said after the meeting. The board was only considering whether the widened roads would take the project out of its original SEQR parameters, and Wood said they would not. All the correct safeguards are in place to ensure that everyone has enough water, Wood said. The project can now go back before the planning board for any site plan amendments the developers wish to apply for.
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