On Wednesday night, it was the Common Council Legal Committee's turn to hear about the six policy issues that had been presented to the Economic Development Committee the night before. Again it was Cheryl Roberts presenting the issues. Although the meeting went over essentially the same ground as the previous night's meeting, there were a few things that merit reporting.
In talking about the essential character of the waterfront, Cheryl Roberts introduced some new language, calling it first a "commercial shipping waterfront," then a "shipping/working waterfront," before settling back to the usual term "working waterfront." Roberts reminded the committee that "you [the Common Council] voted to move this document forward with a working waterfront," intimating that the Council had already made its decision and ignoring the fact that four members of the Common Council--Carrie Haddad, Ellen Thurston, Chris Wagoner, and I--had sent a letter to George Stafford at the Department of State denying that their votes to move the document forward signified approval: "Although the resolution to submit the draft LWRP for review was passed unanimously, our aye votes did not indicate our approval of the document in its current form. Rather, after two years of the document being out of the hands of the Common Council and out of the public eye while changes to the document continued to be made and changes we requested were ignored, we felt that moving it forward was the only way to bring it back into public scrutiny and the only opportunity to get necessary revisions made."
On the topic of the "working waterfront," Ellen Thurston, who chairs the Legal Committee, said, "If we were to agree to a working waterfront, there have to be some specifications about how this can coexist with the recreational uses." She went on to say that many of the comments about the draft LWRP suggest that Secretary of State Randy Daniels' decision, which brought an end to SLC's "Greenport Project," is being ignored in the LWRP. Roberts said she didn't think the Daniels decision is being ignored at all and pointed out that the person who wrote the Daniels decision will be reviewing the document.
The discussion of the road to the deep-water dock has taken an interesting turn. What's being called the "L&B road"--some unspecified variation of Alternative 3 from the DGEIS--is now emerging as the "preferred option." This doesn't mean that the idea of using the old abandoned railbed, regularly referred to as the "causeway," has gone away. The "causeway" would be the "short-term option"; the "L&B road" would be the "long-term goal." When Thurston questioned the wisdom of this proposal, saying that even as a short-term solution O&G will have to do work, Roberts expressed the opinion that "they can run trucks [on the "causeway"] given the permits they have been given [by DEC]." She also stated that she didn't think O&G would have to go to the Planning Commission to be able to use it as a road because "it's not a change of use." "They have," she said, "established a right to use that as a road."
There are some problems with Roberts' statements. First, the abandoned railroad bed now being called the "causeway" has only been used once as a roadway for trucks--other than small trucks used to access the old conveyor that followed the same path through the South Bay. The only time the "causeway" was used for truck traffic anything like what is now being proposed was in 2004, during the Niagara Mohawk cleanup of the site of the old gasification works, when the "causeway" was used to haul contaminated material from the waterfront. The notion that O&G doesn't need to come before the Planning Commission is also questionable. The stipulations of the agreement reached between Scenic Hudson and the DEC after Scenic Hudson filed an appeal with the Freshwater Wetlands Appeals Board make it clear that the permit issued to O&G is limited to select maintenance activities on the abandoned railroad bed and is not a substitute for any approvals required from the City of Hudson and Town of Greenport, and it does not exempt O&G from the requirements of the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA).
At the end of the public meeting, Sam Pratt made reference to a twenty-page document sent to Charles Butterworth and more than thirty other Hudson officials in October 2005 by Nancy Welsh of the Division of Coastal Resources. The document commented on the 2004 draft of the LWRP, which was rejected by the Department of State. Pratt asserted that the current draft of the LWRP needed to be revised in light of this document, the Daniels decision, and the Common Council's rejection, in 2005, of the host agreement proposed by SLC/Holicm.