Citizen Committee Questions Planning Board on Development

The Tarrytown Planning Board is about to accept "Findings" regarding the potential Wilson Park development. This will be the "OK" to proceed with development of 14 homes, 4 of which will be on a hill that drains right into the Tarrytown Lakes.

imagesAbout a year ago there was a story in this paper that outlined a series of underground pipes that were draining this land directly into the Tarrytown Lakes, a fact that was only recently acknowledged by the developer in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (step 12 of the NY State SEQRA review process). It is our belief that this drainage system has been polluting the lakes for many years, since it drained an old orchard that was on the land which people remember was treated with pesticides.

After citizen group pressure and questioning from our Village Engineer we [Tarrytown Conservation Committee] finally received acknowledgment from the developer that such a system was in place. The map they gave us was incomplete, leaving a large portion of the system undocumented.

The Tarrytown Conservation Committee asked Carpenter Environmental Associates to review the plan. They wrote: "It is our understanding that the drawing only partially depicts the existing drainage system on the South Parcel of the project and that all information regarding the existing drainage system is not shown on the drawing. Review of existing and post construction conditions indicates that none of the existing drainage facilities on the South Parcel were incorporated in the pre- and post-construction stormwater calculations.

The existing drainage system must be accounted for now on a holistic basis in the pre- and post- development stormwater hydrology and in the stormwater management system design for the entire South Parcel. Because the drawing does not show the complete existing drainage system, its function on off-site and on-site stormwater cannot be determined. If portions of the existing system are destroyed by construction of the project, unknown off-site and on-site adverse impacts may occur. The potential for such impacts must be investigated. Should such impacts be shown to occur they must be avoided or mitigated."

Given current legislation such a drainage system could never be approved, and keeping it as part of the Wilson Park development plan threatens the Tarrytown Lakes.

The developer intends to use the existing series of drains that terminates right at the edge of the Lakes in their management of all the storm water from the property. They claim that with the addition of 3 large drainage ponds they will actually improve the quality of water that flows into the lakes.

The Tarrytown Conservation Committee has deep reservations about this assertion. First, this proposed Storm Water Management Plan will incorporate these old drainage pipes that pass through the old railway bed, now a public park. Tarrytown was once, in the past, taken to court over its stewardship of this land, and lost. The Village is supposed to be the guardian of this land, yet it seems that they are poised to allow the developers to proceed with what looks like a major modification to the terrain by the addition of 3 large drainage ponds right on the edge of the land.

Secondly, most old railway beds fall into the category of "Brown fields" due to pollutants they were inadvertently exposed to during the course of their lives. Tarrytown has done no studies of the land to see if such pollutants exist, nor studied what may be the result of disturbing the land. We are walking into this development blindly.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the impact of the drainage system on the Tarrytown Lakes has not been determined through the review of the application to develop Wilson Park, nor has it been accounted for in the 3 studies commissioned by the Village regarding the Lakes and a "zero discharge" approach to the Wilson Park Development. (Devirka and Bartilucci, PCI, and Gia Institute) Our Village has even failed to accomplish the most rudimentary and least expensive recommendations of these reports, the replacement of the silt curtains. This was a recommendation given to the Village more than a year ago. It was reported to have a significant effect on the water quality. The silt curtains are the rubber floats on which you see the turtles resting as you drive around the lakes; their current condition provides no help.

The Tarrytown Conservation Committee believes that the current, out-of-date and out-of-compliance drainage system ought to be shut down to prevent polluted groundwater and storm water from running directly into the Tarrytown Lakes, consistent with current legislative standards.

1) The impact of shutting off the drainage pipe would be to radically alter the currently proposed Wilson Park site plan and the Village’s storm water management plan;

2) Neither the developer nor the Village plans take into account the existing drainage on the property;

3) Indeed the developer is selling the land containing the uphill drainage pipes to the Village thereby transferring the drainage issue, which has not been addressed, to the ownership of the Tarrytown Village.

Once the developer has sold the land, it will be incumbent on the "Homeowners Association" of the new project to enforce and maintain a myriad of regulations concerning the use of pesticides and fertilizers on the property to prevent further contamination of the lakes. The association will also have to inspect and maintain the drainage system to prevent pollution. We feel that it is unlikely to occur in a responsible manner and that further pollution is the inevitable result.

Members of the Tarrytown Conservation Committee have been witness to the SEQRA process unfolding in Wilson Park over the last couple of years. The State Environmental Quality Review Act was designed to ensure that environmentally sensitive areas are protected by our local governments, and it requires developers to meet guidelines and maintain standards that would prevent polluting such areas. It has been our front line of defense in protecting the Tarrytown Lakes, but we think it is about to fail us miserably. Allowing development of this sensitive area is irresponsible, at least on the slopes that lead directly into the lakes.

We have all noticed that the quality of the water in the lakes seems to be getting worse. Who could not notice that the trees on the islands are dying? Every year we get closer to losing the lakes if we fail to take action. Allowing this development with this drainage plan will be a deadly mistake for the Lakes, and we call on members of the Board of Trustees and Planning Board to stop this development.

Tarrytown needs to join the 21st century when it comes to development. There are big problems with the new development in Gracemere; residents are getting flooded out constantly. Builders are putting up great big houses on steep slopes all over town and they stick out like sore thumbs. We will soon face developments that will change the nature of our Village in both Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow, adding hundreds of new homes to the area. Imagine the traffic, imagine the flooding, imagine the chaos if our representatives fail us by allowing the developers to build without proper oversight. Unfortunately, that is exactly what seems to be happening.

Michael Farley is a member of the Tarrytown Conservation Committee.

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