Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Greenport Planning Board and the Haul Road

It was thought that the Greenport Planning Board's review of the proposed Colarusso haul road would begin last night, but it didn't.

The board acknowledged the receipt of the revised project narrative (a condensed and somewhat out-of-focus version of which is now on the City of Hudson website). Ray Jurkowski, the engineer who is consulting both with the Greenport Planning Board and the Hudson Planning Board on this project, had some requests for further revision, having to do with the presentation of the number of truck trips from the quarry to the dock and relocation of the roadway on the "causeway." 

The most significant part of the meeting began when Virginia Benedict, legal counsel to the Greenport Planning Board, delivered her opinion that the review of the project had to be postponed. She explained that on the previous day she had received copies of the Order to Remedy (OTR) issused by the City of Hudson for work done at the dock; the cover letter of the appeal of the OTR; and a letter from Craig Haigh, code enforcement officer, to Lisa Kenneally, chair of the Hudson Zoning Board of Appeals. Benedict told the folks from Colarusso present--J. R. Heffner, engineer P. J. Prendergast, and attorney John Privitera--that Greenport "doesn't want a segmentation argument." She conjectured that the Hudson ZBA could not make a judgment in the matter until the SEQR process was over, but she was seeking advice from the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the General Counsel staff and was advising the Greenport Planning Board not to proceed with its review of the project before hearing from the DEC.

Privitera objected to the notion that the dock had to be included in SEQR to avoid segmentation, insisting that "the project site is the haul road." Prendergast lamented, "We're going to lose another month." Chair of the Greenport Planning Board, Edward Stiffler reiterated that the board needed to get "an answer that counsel is comfortable with" before proceeding. 

The board did, however, tentatively schedule a public hearing, or what Stiffler carefully defined as "a public informational meeting to solicit input for the SEQRA review." The date and time are Tuesday, April 18, at 6:30 p.m. The meeting is expected to take place somewhere on the campus of Columbia-Greene Community College. Unfortunately, the night chosen for this meeting is the same night that the Hudson Common Council has its regular meeting for the month of April.


  1. The application won't be complete until the Environmental Assessment Form is incorrect - the EAF.

    But even by the applicant's low standards, the EAF isn't right. Last night, we heard a different account of the hours of operation than appears in the EAF. The engineer Prendergast said 12 hours a day, whereas the EAF says 15 hours. (And it's the document that's authoritative, not what's said at a meeting.)

    The EAF reflects none of the species information provided by the State DEC, all in a document which now appears in the Project Narrative. (The listed species did not appear in the December Narrative, despite the fact that the DEC supplied the information in late August.) Shouldn't the EAF answers from mid-August be changed now that the applicant has the correct information?

    Sometime since December, the applicant did change a single answer on the EAF, but then failed to note the revision. Because the August date was also preserved, the company will want to submit a new EAF anyway to avoid a felony charge for false filing.

    A new EAF must be accomplished before the application can be considered complete. The sooner Greenport realizes this, the better for everyone involved.

  2. 1.

    When Ms. Benedict, the attorney for Greenport, conjectured that the Hudson ZBA may have to delay its judgement until the SEQR review was completed, I felt we were close to solving the ancient chicken-and-egg debate.

    How can anything "environmental" be decided about a proposal to relocate a mining road into an area specifically zoned to protect the environment if the zoning itself is not to be considered? This is nuts.

    The affected district is even called the "Recreational Conservation Zoning District."

    The State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) already recognizes the dilemma. The "SEQR Handbook" suggests that the required SEQR review for the proposal and the required SEQR review for the zoning permission be combined.

    Combined?! OMG, how do they think of such things?!

    But to separate the procedures, which was the possibility conjectured by the Greenport attorney, risks segmenting the review process chronologically. (There are lots of ways to commit segmentation: read on.)

  3. 2.

    Segmentation is always to the advantage of a project sponsor, and this should make us wonder what the mining company and the Greenport Planning Board are telling the DEC right now, today.

    Last night we learned that the DEC has accomplished a second segmentation of the project in addition to the bulkhead work and revetment we already knew about.

    In the latter case, which led to the City's violation which led to the subsequent the appeal, the DEC didn't take the "hard look" which is required of a SEQR review.

    Were the proposed bulkhead and revetment part and parcel of a corporate expansion plan? The public argued there was enough evidence to suggest this is likely, but here was the DEC's only reply: "the Department is not aware of any plans for expansion at Colarusso’s Hudson River dock location."

    That was all the DEC had to say following its own SEQR review ... Some hard look on behalf of the people and the environment. (The fact that the project site is adjacent to a public park was also supposed to send up some flags, but no.)

    Last night we learned that a second segmentation happened when the DEC approved the building of an interior mine road without noticing that the road connected to the haul road proposal to Hudson. Thanks, DEC.

    It's patently clear that the applicant would like to divide each action into different, unrelated projects.

    An argument could be made that the appeals process is being exploited to achieve just that. In the current appeal, when the lawyer argues that the now-rebuilt bulkhead could never be used for commercial purposes, he provides incorrect measurements for Board members whom he assumes cannot work a tape measure. The proportions of the new bulkhead are misreported, as is the width of the slip, which is greatly underestimated.

    Now why would the lawyer do that? And why would he pretend that the slip, which is much wider than he claims, can never be dredged?

    And this brings us back to Greenport, and the willingness of its Planning Board's lawyer to segment the project in less obvious ways than the blatant severing of the port from the rest of the proposal.

    If Greenport believes that the City's zoning considerations must await the conclusion of the environmental review process, then Greenport is doing this applicant a great and subtle favor. We already know the applicant aims to divide every action of a single project into smaller and seemingly unrelated components, but how will anyone recognize that it also aims to segment the procedure itself?

    The company's lawyer knows what he's up to, but the lawyers of the respective municipalities probably don't know.

    The idea that the DEC's lawyers will decide this matter should make Hudson residents very uneasy.

  4. After the meeting, I overheard people discussing the causeway as if it's currently restricted to one-way use. I wondered, how did anyone get that idea?

    At no time since the road was built in 2004 was two-way traffic prohibited under any law or policy, nor have any owners restricted themselves to one-way travel.

    Another wrong assumption is that traffic cannot turn south onto Rte. 9-G after exiting the causeway, or enter the causeway from the south by turning against traffic.

    The proposal anticipates doing both these things, "one trip each [way] per hour" (Creighton Manning Engineering, Aug. 17, 2016).

    The DOT has already approved a wide-radius curb cut for this purpose.

    We hear very little on the subject of turning options, yet we're continuously reminded how broken up the company feels sending trucks through City neighborhoods.

    So why do they choose to do it?

    The revised Project Narrative explains that rerouting trucks to Route 23, and then running them passed the C-G Community College both ways, "is not economically feasible" (p. 17).

    Hey, I'm all for profits, and this is not an objectionable mine. We all use its products every day. But the Colarusso company must stop pretending that it has no other options than the ones it currently prefers for economic reasons.

    Is it possible that any alternative that doesn't maximize profits will be unacceptable? We intend to find that out, but in the meantime we're told they'll continue to use City streets, heart-broken, unless the City approves a profitable plan which is objectionable to many residents.

    If you're someone who's not concerned about the South Bay or about a potential increase of industrial operations at the waterfront - and that's your own business - then don't also be duped by extortion and bullying on top of your unconcern. Anyone who's unfamiliar with the topic, and particularly those who serve at any level of government, should expect to defend their views knowledgeably.

    If available alternatives won't maximize profits, then the company will say that there aren't any alternatives. But like it or not, every alternative must be considered during the environmental review, or else the review will become more of a sham than it already is (think: EAF).

  5. Dear unheimlich, thank you for your sincere interests and questioning every aspect of this game. Your genuinely a bright star in this morass that never ends. Such as Hudson is ...

    The "incorrect measurements" reminds me of the architectural proposals by Galvan for 1st and Union. It's a commonly played game these days apparently .

    1. Love ya, VM.

      Yes, we're spotting the same m.o. everywhere these days.

      This case is a little different, though, because we're asking the property owner to build on the compromise which Hudson residents established years ago with the previous company/landowner. I refer to the were the amendments to the Zoning Code in 2011.

      It was the responsibility of the current owner to research the zoning before it invested in the property.

      Whether or not the investors did their due diligence, we mustn't be fooled by an appeal which ostensibly argues against the City's "interpretation" of the Code. This appeal really seeks to impose new definitions which will destroy the meaning of "nonconforming uses" and "conditional uses" in our Zoning Code.

      If residents sticks together and defend the City's laws, we will not only prevail but also show the company a way out of its self-created dilemma.

      But at all costs we must defend the Zoning Code. Is that too much to ask? Actually, I'm confident we'll manage it, and in the end the company won't be sorry.