BY ROBERT KNIGHT
A proposed bicycle bypass of Route 303 in Blauvelt is for the safety of both cyclists and motorists along the busy four-lane state highway, Councilman Paul Valentine clarified, in response to questions from several residents at the last Town Board meeting.
Several residents asked whether the bypass was part of a plan to create new shared-use mountain bike/hiking trails in nearby Blauvelt State Park and eventually in other county-owned parks on Clausland Mountain as well. A handful of mostly Blauvelt area residents have been fighting the proposal since they first learned of it a few months ago.
They claim it would reduce nearby residential property values, bring in outside strangers through their residential communities and cause potential dangers to residents from unknown strangers passing through Orangetown. Members of the cycling club, which is based in Orangetown, have argued against this, pointing out that most users of the trails will likely be local residents, and that they have taken extensive precautions to avoid conflicts between hikers and bikers by routing the new trails away from existing hiking trails wherever possible.
The club recently completed a new loop trail through largely unused sections of Blauvelt State Park after getting approval for construction from the Palisades Park Commission, which manages the park. Though they did not succeed in persuading State Park officials to deny approval to the new shared use trail, some opponents hope to persuade Rockland County to deny approval to construct a trail in Clausland Mountain County Park, which adjoins Blauvelt State Park and Tackamack Town Park.
A few attendees at the last Town Board meeting expressed concern at an item which if approved would have authorized Highway Superintendent James Dean to sign a contract with tectonic Engineering & Surveying Consultants, PC, to “perform the survey work required for the legal descriptions and design of the Greenbush Road bicycle by-pass on the Blauvelt State Park property at a cost of $6,800.”
The issue was first raised by former Councilwoman Eileen Larkin of Palisades who wanted to know how the surveying could be approved. Larkin claimed the cost was never included in the town budget for this year and that Orangetown would be paying for a survey that would only benefit a private club, not the town or its residents. She was joined by Planning Board member Michael Mandel of Pearl River who claimed that the resolution had no prior notice, no public discussion and no budget authorization.
The project to connect a 1,000 foot bike bypass received a $100,000 grant from State Senator David Carlucci last year and was widely covered in local media, including this newspaper. The council supported the project by a vote of 4-0, with Supervisor Stewart absent due to vacation.
With the Town Board finally off its reduced summer meeting schedule, several upcoming meetings were announced at the August 16 meeting. The next workshop meeting of the five-member council will be on Tuesday, Sept. 6, at 8 p.m. at the Town Hall at 26 Orangeburg Road in Orangeburg.
That will be followed by a business meeting the following week, on Tuesday, Sept. 13.
The town is also planning on transferring the next Zoning Board of Appeals meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 21, from its usual location at the former Greenbush School on Greenbush Road to the Town Hall in Orangeburg, to accommodate the large anticipated crowd.
That is the evening that the ZBA is expected to hold a hearing on performance standards as they apply to the controversial Aluf Plastics factory on Route 303 in Orangeburg.
Area residents have complained for years of foul odors emanating from the plastics firm, and have demanded that town officials either force the firm to halt that particular manufacturing process or shut the company down for allegedly polluting the neighbor with noxious and toxic chemical odors.
The meeting room at Greenbush, where the ZBA normally meets, can only hold about 30 people while the town hall auditorium can hold about 100, and the nearby courtroom can hold about 150.
The ZBA chairman normally makes such decisions, but audience members last month pressured the Town Board to urge him to move the meeting to accommodate the anticipated crowd. Council members had said they would take the matter under advisement, and discuss it with the ZBA chairman and other town officials.