The Town of Gardiner Planning Board said at its July 27 meeting that they are unable to grant a negative declaration until it is certain that none of the reptiles live in the area.
“I was surprised this came through,” said Patricia Brooks, the applicant’s representative. “I have reached out to [the state Department of Environmental Conservation], obviously, to ask for their opinion and consultancy on how to move forward, so I'm certainly not looking to ignore the situation.”
According to Sterling Environmental Engineering’s July 22 memo, an Environmental Assessment Form indicates the potential habitat for the Timber Rattlesnake. The engineering agency suggested reaching out to the NYSDEC’s Fish and Wildlife department for specific practices to implement before and during construction, and any other measures, to not disrupt the reptiles.
The applicants are seeking to extend Vista Drive off Guilford Road by about 325 feet. They had entered into an agreement with the Town of Gardiner that 150 feet of the roadway extending into their property would be Town-owned and maintained, which is the minimum requirement for a small scale development. The new roadway would hook up to the property for which the owners are constructing a home, plans for which were also included in the application.
Board member Carol Richman, who was recently voted one of the two democratic candidates for the Gardiner Town Board, suggested asking an expert to investigate the property before the board take any further action.
The EAF found a potential habitat, but no snakes at the time of inspection, some board members pointed out.
“Well that's the point. We don't know if there are dens,” Richman said. “We have rattlesnake habitat. We just don’t know if there are rattlesnakes there … You have to identify that so you know what you can build and where.”
Colleague Marc Moran noted that the Timber Rattlesnake can be found in many parts of the Hudson Valley and Catskill Region — “Anything in this area could identify as potential rattlesnake habitat,” he said.
The board is unable to schedule a public hearing on the application until it finalizes the State Environmental Quality Review Act, which relies on response by the NYSDEC.
Brooks requested that the board take a straw poll in the meantime on whether they would grant a waiver for the requirement to continue the road extension to the adjacent property line because the adjacent property that the road would be extended to is currently undeveloped. The Planning Board has the authority to grant waivers, and the dead-end as shown on the Sketch Map meets the dimensional standards for a temporary dead-end street when the adjacent property is undeveloped, Sterling found.
“If the waiver is not granted, then the applicant needs to make a decision of whether they want to pave the road or withdraw the application, so I think the granting of the waiver has to come before this [application is] even accepted,” Brooks explained.
Through an informal vote, the Planning Board ultimately showed favor of granting the waiver if the NYSDEC findings come back with proof that construction and development would have no negative environmental impact on rattlesnakes or others.