Stony Point Planning Board Defers Action for now on Gasification Referrals; Addresses Proposed Zoning Amendments For Letchworth Village, Waterfront, Sign Law

BY CHERYL SLAVIN

At its December 11, 2014 meeting the Stony Point Planning Board addressed numerous referrals from the town board for a variety of zoning amendments, all of which will have a profound impact on the future of the town. The board did not address in great detail, however, the one referral that has engendered the most controversy: requested zoning changes in conjunction with New Planet Energy’s application to build a waste-to-energy biofuel plant on Holt Drive.

Both the Planning Board and the state Department of Environmental Conservation have declared their intention to serve as lead agency on the project. Given that situation, the board decided to hold off on any further action on the application until that matter has been settled. Likewise it decided to defer any action on the requests for zoning changes until the SEQRA process has been completed. DEC spokeswoman Wendy Rosenbach informed the Rockland County Times that the time-frame for the completion of the process is unknown.

In a letter to the planning board dated December 5, the DEC asserted its fitness as lead agency was based on three criteria: the anticipated impacts of the project extend beyond Stony Point and rise to a regional level; the DEC is the agency “with the broadest governmental powers for the investigation of the impacts;” and the DEC “has the greatest capability for providing the most thorough environmental assessment.” The agency also noted that given the scope of the project and the anticipated number of permits that will be required, it would be much more efficient for the DEC to take charge.

The planning board did not state affirmatively that it was conceding to the state, but did authorize special counsel John Furst to “cooperate” with the DEC on the lead agency question. There will be an informational meeting about the project, at which the developer will be available to answer community questions, on January 8, 2015, 7 p.m., at Farley Elementary School. The Town Board has been invited to attend as well.

On the matter of the proposed zoning amendments for the Letchworth Village property, the board had few questions and overall approved the amendments as presented. Currently the property is zoned as S-R, which only allows recreational and residential use. Development of the property has become a priority for the town, however, as a way to increase rateables. The amendments would permit other uses that could further that goal, such as hotels, large outdoor retailers, restaurants, medical offices and even film studios. The amendments also provide for the preservation of Kirkbride Hall’s appearance, including the lawns and trees in the front facing Willow Grove Road.

Development of the Stony Point waterfront, as a way to attract visibility and tourism, and increase tax revenue, has also been a long term goal of the Town. To this end the proposed amendments to the waterfront zoning would allow for commercial and residential development as well as the construction of a public promenade, complete with retail kiosks, which would stretch from the Stony Point Battlefield to Vincent Clark Park.

The board members discussed some concerns about the southern portion of the designated area, including how the properties on that side would be included, and whether Belle Harbor would be joined to the promenade. With certain recommendations for possible lot size changes so that the zoning would be equitable to all the marinas and properties, as well as to involve the appropriate county agencies, the Board ultimately agreed to send the matter to the Town for a public hearing, the next step in the process.

The board was less pleased with the referral on the proposed sign law amendment, which is intended to permit gateway signs. The amendment was specifically devised to allow for the erection of at least one electronic billboard sign for informational and advertising purposes somewhere within the town, a project the town board has been debating for some time. The Town opened the public hearing on the matter at its October 28 meeting and has kept it open while awaiting planning board comments. The planning board, however, found that the amendments as written were too incomplete to properly assess or comment on, and sent the matter back to the town for further clarification and rewriting.