Monday, June 13, 2016

Haul Road Watch

The big topic at the Hudson Planning Board meeting last Thursday was garden dining at BackBar, but at the end of the meeting, Planning Board chair Tom DePietro brought up a project that will come before the board at its next meeting: a Colarusso haul road from the quarry to the river.

It will be remembered that this proposal for a road that passes through the City of Hudson and the Town of Greenport appeared on the Greenport Planning Board's agenda more than a week before it was submitted to the City of Hudson. 

DePietro told the board that J. R. Heffner, vice president of operations for Colarusso, had invited them to make a field trip to the haul road, which they agreed to do. Mitch Khosrova, legal counsel to the Planning Board, advised DePietro to ask to do a coordinated SEQR review of the project. DePietro said he had started discussions with Ed Stiffler, the chair of the Greenport Planning Board, and suggested that the Greenport Planning Board should be lead agency because "Greenport has a paid engineer on their board." Khosrova told DePietro that the Hudson Planning Board could hire an engineer as a consultant on the project, at the applicant's expense, and the Hudson Planning Board "shouldn't give lead agency status to Greenport on that basis." The proposal involves not only the newly paved haul road going east from Route 9G to Route 9 but also a plan to move and widen the causeway from Route 9G west to the river.

The first 930 feet or so of the haul road going east from Route 9G is in Hudson, in a part of the city zoned R-C, "Recreational Conservation." Timothy O'Connor pointed out at Thursday's meeting that the haul road through that area was a conditional use and a nonconforming use and as such required site plan review and approval from the Hudson Planning Board. Earlier this year, the road was widened and surfaced, and the project never came before the Planning Board. 

O'Connor wanted to know if a Planning Board review could be done on a road that's already been built. His question went unanswered.

Addendum:  O'Connor attests that he heard DePietro say, "I don't see why not," in response to his question.


  1. The tenses bear repeating:

    "The proposal [future] involves not only the newly paved [past] haul road going east ..."

    But when asked if Planning Board review could be conducted for a road already built, the question was not "unanswered." I heard the Planning Board Chair say that he didn't see why not.

    Certainly the list of conditional use considerations provided in the Core Riverfront Zoning District is lengthy, which the Planning Board understands very well (as can anyone who reads English).

    To recap, any alteration of the causeway is a conditional use, and as such requires Planning Board review.

    However, as a "nonconforming" use, the Planning Board has no role to permit what's prohibited in the City, and on this point the Planning Board was well informed.

    "[In the City of Hudson] any type of nonconforming use ... shall not be enlarged, extended or placed on a different portion of the lot or parcel of land occupied by such use ..."

    This has implications for the proposal [note: future] to move the causeway.

    But don't just take my word for it. Read the Code yourselves, at §325-29:,nonconformity#5082663

  2. Hey baby, it's all about CEMENT, aka mud.
    First, let's blame the Romans or Italians for the over 1,000 year use of the magic glue..
    Let's zoom into Hudson and the CEMENT issue.
    We in the USofA use cement/concrete to support a big butch of stuff from bldgs, b ridgs, highways, infrastructure, etc.
    So, now we've gone from cement plant to quarry stone.
    So basically you and I have choices.
    A. Stop using concrete.
    B. Stop open pit (limestone) mining.
    C. Mine limestone, xport to Hudson River
    via causeway road.
    ym&j I need a cocktail.

    1. This is not an anti-mining campaign. Far from it.

      This is an honor-the-law-campaign, which is noticeably missing from your list of options.

  3. If there is a jurisdictional issue between Greenport and Hudson, the boundary between the two jurisdictions should be accurately located.

    1. For a quick reference, GoogleEarth's 'City Boundaries' layer (under 'Primary Database' > 'More' > 'US Government') is very accurate. It puts the Hudson/Greenport line right up near the top of the road in the above photos. (Of course that's probably 1/10th of the entire road up to Route 9.)

      But jurisdiction is less a matter of quantity than priority.

      It was Hudson that already conducted a review of this road under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), in which some alternatives were analyzed, albeit insufficiently.

      Any further SEQR business - like studying traffic patterns - gives Hudson first place in a "coordinated review" between the municipalities and the involved State agencies.

      It's a good idea, though, to keep an eye on where the landowner reports the municipal boundaries to lie.

  4. Google Earth uses the city limits from the Census Bureau. The Census Bureau does not care whether it is accurate or correct. It actually prefers that "city limits" be shown as aligning with streets, so long as no people are moved between jurisdictions.

    The Census Bureau thinks that there are railroad tracks out there.

    In this case, the census map does appear to be more accurate than quasi-official maps used by the city and county, which have moved the bend in the southern boundary to being at 9G (see the map from the LWRP).

    This error appears to be of recent origin. The Draft GEIS for the LWRP shows the bend further east. But the same error appears to have affected the tax office, which may cause an incorrect allocation of property values and taxes.

    Practically, this error has little effect on where the haul road crosses the city limit.

    But should a city that can not identify its city limits correctly and accurately be given the lead role in a "coordinated review"?

  5. To add to your list, this year the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation produced three natural resource surveys for Hudson with every single map being incorrect. A few of us lobbied for correct maps, but all the State could do was to add disclaimers.

    You offer good parallel examples, but your key phrase is "quasi-official."

    The LWRP maps, for instance, are terrible, but everyone knows they're terrible and also unofficial.

    When the wrong number of slips in every waterfront map was pointed out to BFJ Planner's principal, the reply was "I don't care."

    Residents got a similar response when we discovered that the State Coastal Boundary was incorrect, so we contacted the US Department of Commerce directly and got very fast results.

    The above maps are all quasi-official unlike, say, the City's Zoning Map, which is official in the sense that you mean.

    Now if the property is taxed incorrectly, I believe that's a mapping issue at the County level first. The County's map office is on Warren Street (Real Property, behind the DMV), and you might want to pose your excellent question there.

    Just the same, these are mere analogies which suddenly make a leap in your conclusion.

    Much has changed in City government since the previous LWRP effort, a process which was hijacked by an element that's noticeably dwindling in Hudson, or even gone from office.

    Because the South Bay wetlands are in Hudson, and are a part of our waterfront, the City has a lot more at stake than Greenport.

    As mentioned already, the Common Council served as Lead Agency (2009-2011) for a different phase of what's essentially the same project. That set a precedent according to SEQRA. (There are no rules, however, which prevent the City Planning Board from assuming the same role this time around.)

    And finally, what makes you think that Greenport is a more responsible municipality than the City of Hudson? I don't mean to be rude, but from an environmental perspective that idea is preposterous. Greenport has no regard for SEQRA, which is likely why the corporation went to Greenport first. (If it hadn't done so, we wouldn't even be talking about this!)

    But I still say this is a zoning matter first and foremost, which is why I prefer the City's Planning Board to take the lead over any other board or agency.

  6. Generally speaking, Greenport should be responsible for its territory and Hudson should be responsible for its territory. This is fundamental to American principle of republicanism and local self government.

    A fundamental first step in being responsible for your territory to know what your territory is.

    The tax office shows the bend as being on 9G just like the city zoning maps, and apparently the map showing water mains. The new location of the bend appears to have spread from computer to computer like a virus.

    1. You'll get no argument from me that all maps should report the City's boundaries consistently.

      The City's older maps, such as the ward maps, show the bend where GoogleEarth shows it, to the southeast and well into the woods.

      Right in the vicinity of where the boundary would cut across the haul road, Holcim Inc. established a survey line which crosses the road at the identical angle you see on the old maps.

      Generally speaking, it's nice if municipalities can take care of their own turf, but real-world proposals often cut across boundaries. What do you do then?

      For the sake of a more holistic review, SEQRA gives priority to the municipality which was already working on the project.