Public balks at new development proposed for Chester

Residents object to loss of rural character in four hearings held on cell tower, brewery, and two subdivisions


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Photos



  • Sherry Buchanan reads statement from the town web site about Chester's commitment to preserving its rural character and quiet ambience. When The Chronicle went to look at the passage, it seemed to have been removed. (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




  • Lauren Van Pamelen, Jeremy Valentine, and Dale Van Pamelen of Tin Barn Brewing (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




  • The Verizon team: Mike Crosby, engineer; Dave Herbowy, tectonic engineer; and Allyson Phillips, attorney (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




  • Tim Diltz, former town supervisor (1990-92), Michael P. Farruggia and Frank Maueski prior to the hearings (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




  • Fatimah Jones asked why the cell tower was going up 1,500 feet from her patio (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




By Frances Ruth Harris

— Chester’s planning board meeting on April 4 had more concerned citizens than chairs for them to sit in. Twenty-five more lined the walls of the meeting hall.

Four public hearings were held that evening: on a proposed cell tower, a brewery, and two housing subdivisions.

Cell towerEsther Oliveras gave the planning board a petition objecting to the proposed construction of a Verizon cell phone tower in her residential neighborhood. The petition cites studies that show living near a cell tower poses health risks, including cancer, and says property values will be compromised.

Twelve antennas would be placed atop a water tower off Kings Highway owned by the Warwick Water Corporation. It's in an overlay district that protects the mountain ridge. Goosepond Mountain State Park is nearby.

Lights will illuminate the platform around the clock. A noise-emitting generator will also be on 24/7.

Verizon was represented by Mike Crosby, engineer; Dave Herbowy, tectonic engineer; and Allyson Phillips, attorney.

Many comments centered around radio frequencies that would emit from the cell tower and their affect on health. Ed Mullins, who works for the town, said he doesn’t trust Verizon and believes cell towers don’t belong in residential districts.

Suzanne Bellanich asked how Verizon tracks emissions. Crosby said exposure was less than one percent, and that everything would be done according to Federal Communications Commission guidelines. But he never answered the question Bellanich continue to press him with, about the exact measurements of emissions and their effect on human health.

"Why the water tower?" asked Robert Smith. The Verizon reps told him it was the right height and located between two towns, which will decrease the energy used by an individual phone.

Fatimah Jones of Warwick said the cell tower was going up about 1,500 feet from her patio.

"Aside from all the other great concerns brought up tonight, I questioned the noise volume," she wrote after the hearing in an email to The Chronicle. "The engineer stated that it was of normal volume, and normal for a generator is loud and thus interrupting. The main reason I moved here to Warwick 23 years ago was my own need for peace, quiet and quality of life. I am very concerned how this will also affect the lives of our wildlife."

Julio Martinez and Rudy Markins questioned the wisdom of putting a cell tower in a residential area.

Town supervisor Alex Jamieson came in halfway through the Verizon hearing and left half way through the Baroda public hearing. He did not speak.

Crosby argued that people want good phone cell service, which is only possible when there are towers. But he was alone in that sentiment.

Baroda subdivisionBaroda Realty plans to build 29 residences on Black Meadow Road, a prospect that caused Chester resident Sherry Buchanan to say, "Our life as we know it will be done. It will be a complete upheaval. Game over."

Mark Sievers presented the cluster subdivision site plan, which covers 168 acres. Individual lot sizes will be three-quarters of an acre, with individual wells and sewer systems. The land is zoned AR3, agricultural residential, on a ridge preservation overlay district served by the Warwick Valley School District and town of Chester fire and police departments. Three wetlands are on site.

The application says the project will create a demand for water, but that a new water district will not be needed. Wells will be drilled with individual septic systems installed.

Tim Diltz, a former Town of Chester supervisor, objected.

"Frankly, it is planned sprawl, at worst a conventional 1960s style subdivision plopped down into a rural large-lot setting — the exact situation that all towns must avoid," he said.

He said the planning term "open space" means land that is "visually accessible" to the general public.

"This plan does not save open space," said Diltz. "It destroys the only open space that is visible."

He said the property flooded well past the 100-year flood line in 1972 and again during Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

"Had those seven homes been built, with basements, by the way, they would have been flooded out," he said. "Yet no revised yield plan was ever requested by the board. In fact, that acreage should have been subtracted from the total acreage and recalculated."

The builder says clustering will preserve a large portion of the parcel.

Jack Warren said he lost his scenic view in one direction already and now developers are looking to destroy another view.

Linda Prescellan said she came to the neighborhood for her horses and fears this new development will detract from that benefit.

Tracy Schuh said the board holds public hearings without gathering the appropriate information first.

Tin Barn BrewingTin Barn Brewing wants to construct a brewery on 13.3 acres on 19 Lake Station Road. A new building will house a brewery, tasting room, and food service area, with access via a new driveway on Lake Station Road.

David Church, commissioner of the Orange County Department of Planning, addressed traffic management in a letter.

"The applicant has taken care to align the proposed driveway to Park Drive, located across Lake Station Road," Church states. "We encourage this alignment as often as possible to decrease the number of intersection points and potentially the number of vehicular accidents on roadways; we thank the applicant and the Town for being proactive about the alignment issue."

Ed Mullins, a sergeant in the Warwick Police Department, said the dangerous intersection will become even more hazardous. Cars coming off Lake Station Road move ahead without seeing oncoming traffic, he said. Add alcohol to the mix, and there will be a deadly accident, he said.

Dehaan subdivisionDorian DeHaan and John Condatore plan a three-lot subdivision at 1389 Kings Highway in Sugar Loaf on slightly less than an acre zoned for both commercial and residential development.

The Orange County Department of Public Works said in a letter: "We cannot approve the proposed subdivision until a full set of engineered plans with all the associated plans, details, cross sections, profiles, and notes for all proposed work in accordance with the Orange County Department of Public Works Policy and Standards has been submitted to this office for review, and an approval has been provided by this office."

Several citizens, including Susan Lynch, Chris Maurer, Collen Mercedes, and Jennifer Lewis, questioned traffic safety. They said having such a large structure at the end of the lot wasn't safe, and that the school bus stops there multiple times a day.

They said the landscape itself obstructs vision, making driving dangerous. It's already confusing, they said, with people inching out onto Pine Hill Road, trying to see on-coming traffic. The whole idea was poor planning, they said.

Ed Lynch said people go through the intersection at 50 to 60 miles an hour.

"The idea is nuts," he said. "Why would we introduce more danger?"

Frank Gerrera wants to see the integrity of the hamlet preserved.

Brain Boon said the character of Sugar Loaf has changed so much, he wants to hold on to its rural character.

DeHaan and Condatore countered the citizen responses in an email. "We would like to thank our Creamery Pond neighbors who came out, waited patiently, and spoke passionately about their concerns regarding our proposed minor subdivision last Wednesday evening," they wrote. "We would also like to clarify what seems to be some confusion as to the nature of our project."

They then listed the points they wanted to make:

1. The number one issue/concern expressed was that which regards the dangerous nature of the school bus stop location at the Pine Hill and Creamery Pond Roads intersection. This is a school bus stop safety issue that exists regardless of our subdivision project. We have spoken to the Town Supervisor regarding a change in location of this bus stop which really should be somewhere in the middle of the Creamery Pond development, and not directly adjacent to a main road. If it is moved, there should be no issue with a new driveway access out onto Creamery Pond Road near the aforementioned intersection. In addition, a new stop sign location placed just before Creamery Pond Road, as cars descend the Pine Hill Road hill, is also being explored in order to slow traffic from that direction.

2. Our subdivision is designed according to all local zoning codes for the LBSL (Local Business Sugar Loaf) district. The concept includes live/work structures which enhances the live/work model that is unique to Sugar Loaf and which the hamlet plan has always been based upon. There is a permeable walkway proposed that will allow safe access from the Creamery Pond development through to the main business district while controlling any water drainage; at the median of this walkway is a water fountain with benches that acts as a central meeting/gathering place for residents and visitors. The idea is to attract more live/work type artisans while creating a gathering place in a well landscaped environment. The conceptual nature of this subdivision follows the Sugar Loaf Master Plan that was subsidized by the County of Orange and supported by the Town of Chester.

3. Our property is part of the LBSL business district. It has existed long before the Creamery Pond development was conceived of and built. The developers/builders knew that they were building adjacent to a business district. Furthermore, anyone living in or buying property in this development know that they are neighboring a business district.

4. This project is a good thing for the Sugar Loaf business district and will increase amenity offerings to its residential neighbors in the adjoining district….this should be seen as a plus to property values.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to include Tracy Schuh's statement with the hearing during which she gave it, and also to correct the town Ed Mullins works for, which is Warwick and not Chester. The Chronicle regrets the errors.



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