Hearing on hotels and houses brings out an impassioned crowd

Comments on Maplewood Village and Goshen Hospitality continue nearly to midnight

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  • Residents line up for their turn to speak before the planning board (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)

  • Andrew W. Glichrist, the attorney representing Maplewood Village (front left) is seated next to Maximilian A Stack, environmental planning consultant for Maplewood Village (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)

  • The Town of Goshen Planning Board (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)

  • Engineering Properties' map of Goshen Hospitality (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)

  • The Maplewood Village site plan (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)

By Frances Ruth Harris

— Thursday night's planning board meeting in Goshen was packed nearly to midnight with impassioned speakers, as they grappled with a new surge of development poised to transform their town.

A few weeks ago, the town approved a major new theme park, Legoland New York, that has for the past 18 months roiled the community in controversy. Now, the town is considering two additional developments: one for two 100-room hotels plus restaurant on Cheechunk and 6½ Station Road, and the other for a 103-unit housing development in the town portion of the old Salesian property.

The public's fears of a degraded environment, tapped-out water supplies, and increased traffic are familiar from the fight over Legoland. They asked: Does Goshen really need two more hotels?

"We're still waiting for a grocery store," one resident said. The audience exploded in laughter.

Audience members clapped after each speaker had their say, whether to ask about noise pollution or the protection of the town's historic landscape. They rebelled when at 11 p.m. planning board chair Lee Bergus offered to break off and resume the discussion at a future meeting. They shouted that they'd waited for hours to speak and wanted their turn, no matter how late the hour.

"Poor planning!" one man shouted, six times.

"We're here!" others called out. :Let's do it now!"

Others yelled, "No!"

Attorney Andrew W. Gilchrist, representing the proposed Maplewood Village housing development, said he and Maximilian A Stack, environmental planning consultant for Maplewood, would be happy to stay until everyone was heard. Village Bergus had tried to move the Maplewood hearing to another day, but the crowd objected.

"You're the only person who wants to leave," one person said.

After the rest of the board suggested they stay and listen, Bergus limited speakers to three minutes "so we don't go to some crazy hour."

"Changing the rules!" someone yelled.

Bergus asked those who wanted to speak to line up, and they did, stretching along one wall and across the back of the room. One woman cried with worry about the threat to her farm that she saw looming on the horizon.

Goshen HospitalityRoss Winglovitz presented Goshen Hospitality's plan to put two hotels and a restaurant on 63 acres in the Commercial/Office Mixed-Use (CO) district. The board asked for some clarification and outlined concerns to be addressed in the final presentation.

Speakers included Sandra Rothenberger, Leslie Schumacher, Chris Mealy, Gloria Bonilla, Debbie Corr, Bradley Barnhorst, Sean Stein, Jess Gocke, Joe Maxwell, and Mike Munzer. Their biggest concerns were increased traffic congestion and the loss of wetlands. Many found the project's size — 100,000 square feet — overwhelming.

The public asked what the Orange County Audubon Society thinks of the project, which will be sited in a sensitive environmental area: one-half mile from the Audubon's 6½ Station Sanctuary and within the town's Scenic Road Corridor (SR), Stream Corridor and Reservoir Watershed (SC), and Floodplain and Ponding Area Overlay Districts.

The planning board's October scoping document, which lists all potential problems to be addressed before the project can be approved, said the proposed project "may substantially interfere with nesting/breeding, foraging, or overwintering habitat for the predominant species that occupy or use the project site." The project also calls for the "conversion of more than 10 acres of forest, grassland or any other regionally or locally important habitat (and) involves the use of herbicides or pesticides," according to the document.

The public questioned the project's impact on birds and other wildlife, on agricultural lands, and on the nearby Burke Catholic High School.

Maplewood VillageThe board asked for the locations of houses in each section of the proposed Maplewood development, which is expected to bring 59 more school-age children to town.

The project had been reduced from the original 229 residential units. According to the Maplewood lawsuit settlement stipulations, the project will include a maximum of 38 single-family houses and 55 senior citizen units, and must include two affordable housing units. Either the village of Goshen or a town-created sewer district will provide sewer service, with infrastructure to be the developer's responsibility.

Citizens making public comments included Freddie Provincial, Joe Maxwell, Don Matto, Jason Tovui, Reynell Andrews, Diane Gonzalas, Kevin Lockern, Scott Vaccaro, Carol Lassco, Jess Gocke, Kathy Cleaver, Susan Murphy, Joe Bianchi, Sandra Rothenberger, Nick Gallo, and Debbie Corr.

They wanted to know how the town would protect wetlands, which make up 80 percent of the 96-acre Maplewood site. They wanted to know how the new development would affect school taxes, traffic near the ballfield on Craigville Road, and, especially, local farms. Farms are being pitted against traffic, they said. One farmer said his son was almost killed on a road near their house because of poor visibility.

One woman who runs a nonprofit rescue for horses questioned reducing farmland in the area.

They insisted that the development be set back 300 feet from its borders to safeguard nearby farms.

How will water from the new project supplement the long-established Hambletonian development, they asked, and what will happen if the supply were to fail?

The Orange County Veterans' Memorial Cemetery on Craigville Road is at risk of running out of land, said one man. There used to be about 50 new graves every year, he said, but now the number is much higher and rising. He said the town should buy the Maplewood land for use as a cemetery.

Residents said they were tired of big, poorly thought-out agendas. Parkland and wetlands cannot be replaced, they said. Is is worth it? they asked.

Bergus said the public is welcome to submit their comments in writing, if their three minutes weren't enough to say all they wanted to say.

Send comments to the planning board at PO Box 217, Goshen, NY 10924; or by email to the department clerk at KKrutki@Townofgoshen.org.

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