Earlier this year, SPACE joined with a number of residents of the Hoke Drive area, just behind the proposed ShopRite shopping mall, in an Article 78 lawsuit to compel the town to follow the law in its granting of an (illegal) Special Permit and environmental review of the plan for a ShopRite shopping mall off Kay-Fries Drive. The judge who dismissed the suite on procedural grounds stated that the parties (SPACE et al) bringing the suit had failed to name the landowner, Patrick Magee, in the suit, and that Magee would be "harmed" by this. The judge ignored the fact that Magee could still be included and the case moved forward. He stated that the time window to file the suit would be exceeded, even though he had delayed in submitting his decision until the end of the appeal period. While the town cried "victory", actually nothing concerning the merits of the case had been decided, and the issues SPACE raised still exist. Now all this happened after both SPACE and town board members directly asked the applicant, Crossroads, who owned the land, to which Crossroads directly answered that they did. They stated this on more than one occasion. Sometimes you wonder... So, what actually are the issues that the town has sought to avoid?
We can start with the "Special Use Permit" that the town enacted, primarily for developer Pat Magee. At a town board meeting in early 2006, the early days of the Marino administration, Magee shows up with Tom Zugibe, now county D.A., then an attorney, and former law partner of Councilman Steve Cole-Hatchard to request a broadening of the uses permitted in the L.I. (Light Industrial) zone. This zone encompasses not only the Kay-Fries Drive area where Magee owns considerable land, bur also the U. S. Gypsum and the former Lovett power plant site. The board decided to consider this and voted to send a letter to the Planning Board for their recommendations as to what they thought might be good additional uses. SPACE had no problem with this, as we all realize that the town needs a large tax base.
Planning board members had several ideas, and the town planner's office submitted more (more in line with what Magee likely had in mind!). The planning Board considered these, and stated, on the record (FOILable!) that they did not want to see any uses that would substantially increase the traffic on Kay-Fries Drive and plug up its intersection with Route 9W. Specifically, they recommended against "Local convenience commercial use" (retail stores and shopping malls) and "Restaurants appurtenant to hotels and motels" as these certainly would increase traffic in the area and compete with local businesses.
These recommendations went to the town board in the form of a letter from the town planner. The town board then held the state-mandated SEQRA review, and adopted these recommendations for a Special Use Permit. A month later, a new resolution was in front of the town board that appeared to do the same thing, stating that the first bill had "timed out" in Albany and needed to be "re-adopted". This resolution passed by the town board, contained the two uses specifically recommended against by the Planning Board, and not discussed in the SEQRA review. These two uses, "local convenience commercial use" and "hotels & motels..." indicate far higher traffic impacts, and the Special Use Permit applies to the entire LI Zone, including Lovett and U. S. Gypsum, which now could have Walmarts or Home Depots built in those areas. Neither of these areas has a road network that could handle this amount of traffic. Furthermore SEQRA law states that any proposed change affecting 25 or more acres,as this did, indicated the need for a full Environmental Impact Statement, which was completely ignored. Magee and his guardian angels in town hall assumed that no one would notice and the resolution would pass - which is exactly what happened! To the anger of some, SPACE read its report on this illegal law at a town board meeting and sent a complaint to the NYS Attorney General's office. In fact, when the issue of what is "local convenience commercial use" came up, the building inspector Bill Sheehan explained that the town code definition allowed for a shopping mall if he decided that is what the law meant. And even though it is an absurdity to define a supermarket and shopping mall as a "convenience store" that is exactly what he did.
Got a problem with that? Your only remedy is to sue the town!
Not only did SPACE and the residents adjoining the ShopRite shopping mall have serious concerns about the plan, Rockland County did as well - and disapproved the project, indicating an overuse of the land as well as traffic problems. The NYS Department of Transportation agreed that it would need a traffic light at the intersection of Kay-Fries Drive and Rt. 9W (not a football field away from the light at Filors Lane), and stated that one of their conditions for installing a light would be that the ShopRite property must have another access through the old Stop'n'Shop property (currently there is only one access for a shopping mall that will generate hundreds of car trips per hour, a very dangerous situation). The town has publicly stated that the landowner has refused to sell the land or to allow any sort of access across it. Knowing this, the town approved the project anyway, aware of the safety issue.
Additionally, there is the unpleasant fact that the Kay-Fries property still has the black cloud of superfund site hanging over it, with decades of undocumented chemical disposal. While the DEC has stated that there is no problem, no one really knows for sure. Some years ago, while doing battles with the DEC, the Town of Haverstraw had an engineering company investigate the chemical contamination there. This company found that the procedures used by the DEC itself to evaluate the site were inadequate. This document sets forth a list of concerns that Stony Point has simply ignored. The applicant is so sensitive about this potential toxic public relations problem that they have requested that the town re-name Kay-Fries Drive to Holt Drive to avoid this negative association.
SPACE submitted scores of documents attesting to our concerns, and the town ignored them. To further ignore reality, Supervisor Marino enacted a gag rule whereby each person testifying at the SEQRA public hearing only had 3 minutes to speak.
What better way to ignore a problem than to shut people up? Marino and Cole-Hatchard have decided not to seek reelection this November. While we rejoice at being rid of a tyrant, we wonder why they are leaving, and for where...