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Proposed Huth Road development generates debate over wetlands

Sat, Mar 12th 2022 07:00 am

By Alice Gerard

The Grand Island Town Board voted at its March 7 meeting to grant preliminary plat approval and to issue a negative declaration for a SEQR review to the 17-lot Sandywood Circle subdivision, located on Huth Road, east of Autumnwood Drive. This approval followed a lively give and take over wetlands and other topics in the vicinity of the proposed subdivision between members of the public, the engineer for the developer, and the board at the public hearing on the proposed project. It was one of two public hearings for proposed subdivisions.

Jeri Kackmann stated there were wetlands behind her house on Autumnwood Drive, close to where the proposed development would be built.

Matt Zarbo, the design engineer for the Sandywood Circle subdivision, explained the process that determined there are no jurisdictional wetlands in the parcel of land for which the subdivision is planned. “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is out on the site with our wetlands delineator and, in the entire parcel, it was determined that there are no jurisdictional wetlands. We have no obligation to avoid any wetlands on the parcel.”

Monique Corrao said, “We did have a fight years ago when they wanted to put a cell tower on that area. We were told that it was wetlands, and that’s what saved us from having a cell tower put back there.”

“The developer has had a wetlands delineation done and reviewed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,” Supervisor John Whitney said. “They found that there are no jurisdictional wetlands. There are two agencies that have jurisdiction over wetlands. One is the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. There are no DEC wetlands on the site. The other is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Everyone who proposes to develop a project must have a delineation performed independently by a certified wildlife biologist. That got done, and that was reviewed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and accepted that there are no wetlands on the site that the corps has jurisdiction over. In other words, if there is a low spot that happens to be a vernal pool or something of that nature, it can be filled in without any penalty from the corps.”

Another issue that was raised during the public hearing was drainage and the capacity of the sewer system. One speaker, Gary Groat, commented, “My … concern is that, with heavy rains, the system on Huth Road cannot support the amount of waste that is going into it. If you were to poll most of the people on my street, their basements have shutoff valves for the sewage. Many people have had raw sewage come back up into their homes, due to the fact that we cannot sustain the amount of flow that is in the system already. Adding more homes onto Huth Road? Is our sewer system going to be able to support the extra flow that’s coming in? I need to have those answers because that’s a very big concern. I have two small children. I don’t want raw sewage in my home.”

Connectivity was another issue that was brought up during the public hearing. Speaker Robbyn Drake asked if the proposed development would provide access to the library from the Sandy Beach neighborhood. “I have a young daughter, and we are interested in connectivity with this parcel. So, I was just wondering, and I noticed that the southern boundary of this parcel is town land, and it’s adjacent to Veterans Park and the library complex. I was wondering if some thought is starting to be given, whatever happens here, to making sure that there’s some access or our potential last access point from Sandy Beach through to the library.”

Councilman Tom Digati responded, “As far as trails and connectivity, for the two years and change that I’ve been on the board, that’s something that we’ve tried to work into every project that’s come before us; and I know that Councilman Pete Marston has already taken a look at this one and has seen exactly what you said and has talked about the possibility of getting it connected into the library.”

The second public hearing was on a proposed minor subdivision on Whitehaven Road, west of Alvin Road. This proposed subdivision of three lots was described by Kristin Savard, owner and president of Advanced Design Group, who said, “Our firm is representing the Panepinto family with the subdivision. It’s a very simple three-lot subdivision (on Whitehaven Road, west of Alvin Road). Two of the lots are over three acres. Lot No. 1, which is closer to the intersection with Alvin, is a little under three acres, but we did receive a zoning variance for that. The house that’s there – the older home that’s on the corner – it is Mr. Panepinto’s intention to restore that house. He’s been restoring that house for about two months now for an end use that is either residential or not-for-profit.”

Savard said Advanced Design Group had also requested final plat approval, commenting that, unless “there is something that we need to address further or there are some public comments that are concerning that we need to look into,” she was requesting the board issue both preliminary plat “and move right into final plat.”

Other than Savard, there were no speakers at this public hearing. During the course of the meeting, the Town Board granted the project preliminary plat approval, final plat approval, and a negative declaration for a SEQR review.

Additionally, at the meeting, the Town Board discussed the introduction of Local Law No. 6 of 2021, which would allow for the rezoning of a group of parcels from R-3 (multiple-family residential district), R-1D (medium-density single-family residential district) and CBD (central business district) to a planned development district (PDD). Board members voted to direct the town attorney to write a letter to the developer asking for more clarification and to set up a workshop meeting.

“I like where this project is going. The question that is before us now is whether the amenities are sufficient in the incentive zoning process that goes along with this. It’s not a ton of incentives but, in reviewing amenities, I’m not sure how many of them are more than design choices,” Digati said, noting the proposal fits in well with the town’s master plan. “But every project should be doing that. That’s why we have a master plan.”

He said he likes the proposed trails but questions their connectivity. “Given the location of this particular project, it seems to me as though those trails, although they might be accessible to the public, will be used primarily by the people who are there, because the rest of us would have to drive to the complex, park, and walk around.”

Councilman Mike Madigan said, “I do think that we need some additional details as far as what the benefits are for those particular items, in terms of access to the pond and some other public access amenities that are being offered here basically. Looking at it, I don’t think that it meets the threshold that we’re looking for as far as incentive zoning. I think that we need to discuss this further with the developer applicant.”

Councilman Pete Marson said, “To talk about pedestrian connectivity is very important because we just approved the sidewalks on the other side of it. We have pretty much new sidewalks on the Grand Island Boulevard side. They showed me some conceptuals. I like it. From what I can see, I like it. We’re all going the right direction here. But I think that we still have to do some more work.”

Kim Nason, attorney for the Rivertown project, with Phillips Lytle, responded to the board’s vote. “We appreciate your comments tonight. We look forward to moving forward with your letter, with the meeting. We heard significant positive comments from the neighbors at the public hearing in January. Everyone commented on the significant work that this developer has done with the community in terms of incorporating feedback, trying to address any questions.”

She requested the letter and the meeting be scheduled “as quickly as possible because we’ve been at this for quite some time, and this is the initial concept plan.” She also asked that, “if the board has any comments or feedback on the documentation that’s been submitted to date, especially with regard to the SEQR process, that you let us know so we can expedite as much as possible and provide what the board needs.”

In other business, the Town Board voted to approve the appointments of  Sarah Voak as full-time senior account clerk typist and Cathy Moore as part-time recreation attendant-kitchen aide for the Golden Age Center; and to accept with regret and a certificate of appreciation the resignation of Christine Ryan from her employment with the Golden Age Center. The board also voted to approve the promotion of Tim Burns to senior wastewater operator in the wastewater department.

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