Complete review is urged for The Villages

By Mark Reynolds
Posted 7/27/22

Last week, attorney John Furst, who represents developer Marc Sanderson and his Villages in the Hudson Valley, spoke to the Town Board about his client’s project. He described it as a Life Plan …

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Complete review is urged for The Villages

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Last week, attorney John Furst, who represents developer Marc Sanderson and his Villages in the Hudson Valley, spoke to the Town Board about his client’s project. He described it as a Life Plan Community consisting of 197 independent housing units for seniors 62 and older. These will be primarily single family homes with a few duplex units. Each is estimated at 1,000 to 1,400 sq/ft, will have their own driveways and attached car ports. The units will be built approximately 10 feet apart. Furst said the housing units will be for sale and each homeowner will pay a rental fee for the slab they sit upon.

In addition, Sanderson’s overall project calls for the construction of a 119 bed Assisted Living Facility [ALF] with Adult Day Care that will be 340 feet in length and is more than 60 ft in height at the peak of its roof. This portion of the project has already received conditional approval from the Planning Board. To date, no firm financial figures on patient or housing costs have been disclosed to the public.

The Town Board, ultimately, will have to decide whether to grant Sanderson a Planned Residential Retirement Development [PRRD] zoning designation in order for the full scope of the project to move forward. The board also has the authority to have the developer make modification to his project, if they so choose.

The Town’s Land Use Attorney Paul Van Cott, drew up a memorandum on this project that has been distributed to members of the Town and Planning Boards, the Building Department and the town’s engineer. He noted that the Town Board accepted the developer’s PRRD application, which was forwarded to the Planning Board for their comments. The Planning Board will be lead agency for this project and they have until September 21 to send their comments back to the Town Board.

Van Cott reminded the Town Board that on April 22, 2021, the Planning Board approved a Negative Declaration [NegDec] for the proposed Assisted Living Facility. The vote was 5-2 despite the Planning Board identifying a number of items they believe will have significant environmental impacts. The NegDec designation provides for a less comprehensive environmental review of the project.

Van Cott stated that, “the Planning Board’s prior SEQRA [State Environmental Quality Review Act] review may help with identifying any new or updated information the Board needs for it to undertake the required “hard look” at the PRRD application.

Van Cott went on to list specific SEQRA issues the Planning Board previously identified for additional review of the PRRD application from the Villages. During the Planning Board’s review of the ALF and granting it a NegDec, Van Cott repeatedly stated then that it was unknown what, if anything, the developer wanted to do on the rest of his parcel. This belies the fact that the developer and his attorney have stated many times that the end goal is to build the ALF as well as the independent living cottages across his 57 acre parcel.

Van Cott highlighted impacts to the land; urging the town to ensure that the project avoids building on steep slopes, “to the maximum extent possible.” He pointed out that retaining walls or storm water control measures have a potential to fail and the avoidance of steep slopes may limit the effects of erosion and other impacts, “even if it requires locating development off of steep slopes or changes to the types and/or number of [housing] units in the PRRD proposal.” That number the developer recently proposed to increase from 178 to 197 units.

Van Cott indicated that the town currently has enough water and sewer capacity for this project but still urged a review to make sure that this project has minimal impact upon these community services. He also stated that the town should see if additional mitigation should be taken to protect the wildlife and plants at the project site.

Van Cott said the town should consider ways to mitigate visual impacts from development in the upper portion of the site by, “limiting development on the highest and most visible elevations of the project site, avoiding steep slopes and providing landscaping capable of screening any visible development.”

Van Cott said Open Space will be preserved on the site as per the PRRD regulations, especially on the western side of the property near the Twaalfskill Creek. He wrote that the town should also consider the potential cumulative impacts of traffic. He stated that the developer needs to submit detailed lighting and landscaping plans and construction schedules intended to mitigate lighting, odor and noise impacts from the project.

Van Cott wrote that a review of the PRRD, “should ensure the development of a specific and comprehensive soil management plan for contaminated soils on the project site that includes mitigation measures intended to prevent human exposure to contamination both during and after construction.” The site had been an apple orchard for more than 50 years.

Van Cott wrote that the town should make sure the project, “sufficiently supports the Comprehensive Plan’s goals of housing for residents 62 years and older. In addition, a review of any PRRD, should include careful design and siting proposed of the independent housing and other amenities, maintenance of existing trees and robust new vegetative screening and calculated to be consistent with the character of the nearby residential areas.”

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