DEC equate policy questioned
by Susan Mikula Campbell
The State Environmental Quality Review for the proposed Cobblestone Creek development is expected to be on the agenda for the Wheatfield Town Board at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 25.
The project, north of Lemke Road, by Errick and Stieg roads, includes 39 patio or cluster homes and four single-family homes.
At the Aug. 11 Town Board meeting, several residents expressed concern that the development would increase flooding problems in the area of Lemke Drive, because the current empty fields act as a "sponge" to help control water. They also noted that, over the years, water problems have increased after big storms. They were told that the developer is expected to answer the board's questions about drainage at this upcoming meeting.
"It's important to know that this is not the final approval. This is simply accepting the SEQR, a necessary step before holding a public hearing on the subdivision," Supervisor Bob Cliffe said this week. "Therefore, by accepting the SEQR, (if it is accepted as is), this becomes the base point for further discussion and possible modifications prior to approval. The subdivision cannot be approved at this meeting."
Lemke Drive resident Merv Davies said his area already has water problems that have increased in the 20 years he's lived there as new developments were built further up the hill. Although there has been talk of dredging the nearby creek, he doesn't believe that will solve water backup.
"We're just going to get washed out; we don't stand a chance," he said.
Who pays for work made necessary by developers failing to provide adequate drainage? "Mainly, it's the Town of Wheatfield where our taxes are all going," he said.
In other matters:
In a press release Tuesday, Assemblyman John Ceretto, R-C-I-Lewiston, and Cliffe announced they are calling out the state Department of Environmental Conservation for attempting to change the types of soil that are permitted for the spreading of anaerobically digested human waste on local farmland without having public comment or otherwise following proper procedures.
Ceretto and Cliffe call the regulations invalid because they were not established in accordance with state law. In addition, the regulations are in conflict with Wheatfield's new ordinance that bans the spreading of anaerobically digested waste.
"The residents of Wheatfield and their elected officials have been very clear - they do not want equate in their backyards. Even with our united voice, the DEC has indicated they plan to move forward with permits to allow the spreading of equate on Wheatfield land in direct conflict with town law," said Ceretto. "They do so without lawful authority because the regulations they rely on did not get the proper public vetting and DEC's own regulations prohibit it from issuing a permit that is contrary to a home rule law.
Ceretto and Cliffe also criticized the DEC for refusing to divulge to which farms they have or are issuing equate spreading permits. While the DEC cites privacy concerns for their actions, both Ceretto and Cliffe argue that this policy puts privacy above the health and safety of neighboring residents.
"After carefully reviewing all of the data, including a comprehensive report from our own consultant, the Town Board and I enacted a local ordinance banning the application of biosolids on land in our town to protect the health and safety of town residents. It would be unfortunate if the DEC decided to issue these permits in spite of our town law. Anyone who attempts to spread biosolids in Wheatfield will be prosecuted under our local law, even if they have a permit from the DEC. We simply ask that the DEC follow the law, including their own regulations, and not issue a permit to allow the spreading of biosolids in our town," said Cliffe.
The regulation concerning allowable soil types was adopted by the DEC in 2003, and has been in effect since that time. The DEC now claims that a certain soil type, "silty clay loam," was inadvertently omitted from the list of allowable soils when the regulation was adopted and they are now attempting to change the regulation without public comment or following proper administrative procedures. According to Ceretto and Cliffe, this makes the regulation invalid.