Saturday, January 10, 2009

Bait and Switch

Residents question design of Partition Street Project -- by Heather Plonchak

David Radovanovic approached the Saugerties Village Board last Monday, and he was not happy.

Radovanovic, who lives on Dock Street, asserted that significant changes to the proposed 30-unit hotel and 400-seat convention center and restaurant have been made since it was first announced in 2007, noting that they came after the project received a $780,000 grant from the Empire State Development Corporation.

"The original proposal included retail space, a kayak launch, and public access to the creek," said Radovanovic. "It was actually a wonderful design. Then, all of a sudden, at the planning board meeting, there's a new plan, which is completely different. It's really kind of upsetting because the majority of the space is going to be used for parking."

Radovanovic also said that developers made it clear at the December meeting of the Village Planning Board that no public access to the lower Esopus Creek will be available on the site, though it was promised during the conceptual planning stages. He also cited the plan to level Nanny Goat Hill -- the historic and picturesque rocky outcropping on Dock Street opposite the site -- to create an overflow parking lot.

"I wanted this project to happen so that it would benefit the community," said Radovanovic. "I have an investment in this community and I don't want to be run over. It's a shame that folks like myself have to get all up in arms about this but, I'm afraid that there will be very little oversight if we don't look closely at this."

Radovanovic also raised environmental concerns, noting that the area surrounding the former Barclay's Dam falls within a Scenic Area of Statewide Significance, according to a report published by the New York Department of State in 1993. He said the project would violate many points within the waterfront advisory committee's policy book, including scenic quality policies.

Other environmental concerns include fish and wildlife disturbance in a recognized estuary. Reading from a publication by the DEP, Radovanovic said, "The Esopus Creek, entering the Hudson River, is a tributary for spawning habitat for herrings and over wintering areas for black bass species, just to name a few. It is determined that there are six wintering sites that are extremely important or critical to the maintenance of the Hudson River black bass stocks, including Esopus Creek."

He continued, asserting that, "The Partition Street Project will have an adverse affect on this recognized estuary and historically significant resource, if permitted as indicated in the current plans."

Radovanovic is also concerned with the amount of additional wastewater that will be generated from the facility, claiming that the plant is already processing more than it can handle. According to Radovanovic, reports from the DEC show the plant operating in a non-complaint stage during 11 of the 12 quarters in the past three years.

Rosemary Brackett reiterated Radovanovic's concerns over the loss of a scenic location, and stressed her own feelings about the proposed blasting of Nanny Goat Hill.

"Keep in mind that the people of the community do not want Nanny Goat Hill destroyed for the sake of a parking lot," said Brackett. "There is no going back; once it's destroyed, its gone forever."

Mayor Yerick was unavailable for comment, though he has previously stated that questions surrounding the project will be asked and that answers will be required during the public hearing phase. He has said the project may be modified to meet public concerns, although it is important for the local economy that the project comes to fruition. He has also stated that the water treatment plant has enough capacity to accommodate the development.

Sewer separation, wall restoration plans move forward

One plan to alleviate the workload of the wastewater plant may become a reality this spring. According to special assignments officer Alex Wade, the state has approved the anticipated storm water separation project and a call for bids will go out this week Work on this project will be done concurrently with the retaining wall stabilization in order to avoid multiple disruptions to the area of 9W and Valley Street.

Storm water separation involves the rerouting of storm water collection drains, to allow the rainwater to flow directly into the Esopus Creek. Currently, all storm water is transported to the Dock Street wastewater treatment plant, where it is combined and treated with sewer water before being released. This level of treatment isn't necessary, and leads to increased expenses for the plant due to wear and tear on the equipment. Though most of the village storm water system was separated 15 years ago, a portion under Route 9W stretching from just north of the Esopus Creek Bridge to the Dragon Inn has been repeated delayed due to the logistics of coordinating the project with the state DOT and other ongoing projects. (In the old days, when water wasn't treated, everything went down the same pipe and the village relied on heavy rains to clean out the pipes.)

Wade also reported that the village has received a set of semi-final working drawings for the proposed wall stabilization project along Church Street/9W. The DOT is awaiting comments from village officials before finalizing the plans. Anyone interested in viewing the drawings is welcome to contact Wade, who will act as an interpreter to translate the technical language on the drawings into layman's terms.

"The plans are quite complicated and a bit difficult to understand. I will do my best to explain the drawings to any concerned citizens," said Wade.

In other business

After a holiday reprieve from parking fees, the village installed new meters earlier this month. Hourly rates have increased from 10 to 50 cents, with new meters accepting only quarters. Fees for parking violations within the village of Saugerties have also increased, from the current five dollars per ticket to twenty dollars per ticket, and police are expected to step up enforcement policies. Parking meters must be used between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday thru Saturday, with Sundays and evenings remaining free.

The four trustees present at Monday's meeting unanimously voted to extend the contract for grant writer Victor Cornelius of Endeavors, Inc. The village will pay Cornelius a retainer fee of $6,000 and will compensate him at a rate of 3 percent of any grant monies received as a result of his efforts. According to village clerk Mary Frank, this compensation is standard; including in grants as an administrative fee.

Petitions are available for anyone wishing to run in the 2009 village election, to be held on March 18. Village candidates typically run in independent parties, such as the New Vision Party. Candidates wishing to continue this tradition must turn in their petitions to the village clerk no later than February 10. Should a candidate wish to run on a national party line, petitions must be filed by January 29. The difference in dates is attributed to policies governing national parties, which differ from the election guidelines set forth in village law. The position of mayor comes before voters this year, as do the seats currently held by trustees Michael Karashay, Suzanne LeBlanc and William Murphy.

The next meeting of the village board will be held on Monday, January 19 at village hall.

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