This wooded site area and its central wetland complex has recently been approved for a large-scale housing development. Unfortunately, the Town of Ulster Planning Board failed to require the project applicant to fully comply with New York State's Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA). Project approval was granted by the Planning Board without requiring the applicant to install even one well to determine groundwater flow direction or assessing the hydrologic fluxes that make the State wetland viable. Much of the groundwater in the site area sinks into an underlying karst (i.e., cave-bearing) aquifer which was not investigated. Stormwater contaminants from the development area will be discharged into a healthy wetland complex that provided a food source for Native Americans for thousands of years. The fauna and flora of the wetlands were not adequately asssessed. Because the project is large and the wetland outflow is zero for portions of the years, contaminants will destroy the wetland complex.
The Planning Board has steadfastly refused to provide consultant reports, paid for by town taxpayers, for public review in defiance of State Freedom of Information (FOI) laws. Critical documents were not provided to and reviewed by the Town Planning Board as part of the SEQRA review process. An Article 78 lawsuit, currently in the NYS Supreme Court, seeks to overturn the Town's DEIS and FEIS approvals. While this is in the court, the Town is now in the process of advancing the subdivision approval. A second subdivision Public Hearing will be held on February 16, 2010. This would be premature without the Town turning over FOIed documents for public review first and without the State Supreme Court's decision on the pending Article 78 law suit. Nonetheless, the final subdivision approval process is being rapidly advanced.
This is a most unfortunate environmental situation because two Town residents have been single-handedly footing all bills for environmental consultants and a lawyer to protect a healthy wetland complex from their Planning Board that has not fulfilled the intent of the environmental review process, did not review critical documents before approving the project, and still has not provided "secret" consultant reports for public review.