Stony Point Board Opens Public Hearing on Proposed Waterfront Zoning Amendments, Shelves Consideration of Sign Law Amendment

BY CHERYL SLAVIN

At last Tuesday’s meeting, the Stony Point Town Board opened the public hearing on the proposed amendments to the planned waterfront zoning, a process aimed at optimizing the economic potential of the town’s extensive river frontage. As explained by town planner Max Stach, the overall goal of the amendments would be to allow expanded uses for the areas of the waterfront currently zoned only for marinas and other water-related uses. The proposed changes would allow residential and office structures, as well as commercial uses such as restaurants and small retail shops. The plan also includes a provision for unobstructed public access to the waterfront, most likely a promenade that would stretch from one end of the zone to the other.

As part of the environmental review, Stach outlined a list of potential impacts the changes might bring. Visual impacts would result to the view from the Stony Point Battlefield, as well as to some water views currently available to riverside neighborhoods. The impact on the 100 and 500 year floodplains would have to be addressed by the planning board. The change would have the greatest impact on the look and character of the community as well as on traffic capacity, although he also stated that the infrastructure would be able to support increased vehicular usage even at full “build-out.”

Stach also stated that any zoning change would have to be consistent with the town’s local waterfront revitalization program (LWRP), developed in 1994. Stach asserted that the current proposed changes would be “consistent with the LWRP, even if not contemplated,” but ultimately deferred to the planning board for its determination.

At the end of his presentation, the board voted to adopt part 3 of the EAS and issue a negative declaration before opening the hearing for public comment.

George Potanovic, Jr. president of Stony Point Action Committee for the Environment and one of the original committee members who worked on the LWRP, questioned whether the proposed zoning changes were indeed consistent with its vision, since at that time the overall focus was to preserve the waterfront and limit development. However, he supported the idea of increasing public access to the area, as well as allowing well-monitored development for certain uses.

Frank Collyer and Susan Filgueras both questioned the potential harm that might occur should the Champlain Hudson Power Express be routed over land at Stony Point as is currently planned. The designated route would take it right through the waterfront areas that the town is attempting to develop. Filgueras also raised concerns about the proximity of the area to the CSX rail line over which hundreds of gallons of flammable fuel are transported every day. A derailment and explosion would be devastating to the area. The board did not respond to her latter concern, but Stach did reply that it was in the town’s best interests to proceed with development and essentially deal with CHPE when that situation arises.

The hearing was kept open at least until the next meeting, on March 10.

In his Supervisor’s report, Geoff Finn announced that, in response to concerns voiced by the public, the board had decided to “put aside for the time being” any further consideration of the proposed changes to the town’s sign law after which the board voted to officially close the public hearing. Councilman Jim Monaghan noted that “this is how the process should be, we did a lot of research, we had a lot of discussion about it, and we heard what people had to say. No one spoke in favor of the amendment, so it’s the will of the people.”

Finn also updated the public that New Planet Energy, the developer for the proposed gasification plant, has in response to public concern changed a portion of its site plan to exclude development on the wetlands located at 30 Holt Drive. This will obviate the need for a zoning change petition.

In response to Potanovic’s questions about Haverstraw’s proposed Legoland project, Finn stated that the board is waiting for more information, especially about what tax benefits might extend to the school district. He noted that representatives from Stony Point were not allowed to participate in recent PILOT discussions between the school board and Haverstraw, even though Stony Point residents would be affected. He also continued to voice his concerns about the financial burden on the town through the use of its police, fire department, and ambulance corps. Councilman Tom Basile echoed these points, and added that the board will endeavor to ensure a transparent process that will include and respond to community questions.