Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Greenport and the Haul Road

Tonight, the Greenport Planning Board held a public hearing on the proposed Colarusso haul road. Before opening the floor for comments, Ed Stiffler, chair of the Greenport Planning Board, laid the ground rules: comments could have nothing to do with SEQR (State Environmental Quality Review) because that was over; comments could not pertain to any part of the haul road that falls within the City of Hudson.

After P. J. Prendergast made a mercifully short presentation of the project, Stiffler called for comments from the public, for or against. When the initial call for comments yielded none, Stiffler repeated the request. It was then that a man, who identified himself as John Heermance, declared, "I think it's a great idea." (Ironically, it was Stephen T. B. Heermance who sold his land to Fred W. Jones in 1873, thus enabling the railroad, whose path the proposed haul road would follow, to be built in the first place.) Then a second man, who seemed to conflate the haul road proposal with the failed St. Lawrence Cement Greenport Project, which he obviously had supported, rose to express the opinion that "it was time it should be settled." A woman who said she had worked at the cement plant stated that A. Colarusso & Son was "a longtime business . . . integral to the growth of Columbia County." She asserted that it was "unconscionable to barricade what they want to do" and concluded by saying she "wholeheartedly endorses" the project. Her statement met with applause. Finally, a man, who said he lived at the corner of Route 23B and Route 66, declared he was "wholeheartedly" in favor of the proposed project because it would eliminate trucks passing his house.

When the public hearing had been closed, Stiffler asked Prendergast about signage and streetlights at the Route 9 crossing and provisions for keeping trucks off the haul road going east from Route 9 when they are blasting in the mine (they will be rerouted along the truck route through Hudson), and Ray Jurkowski, the consulting engineer for the Greenport Planning Board, asked about gates and chains to keep unauthorized vehicles off the haul road. Once those questions were answered, Stiffler spoke of the Columbia County Planning Board's recommendation for approval, saying it contained "many, many valid reasons for approval."

Then, Greenport Planning Board member Michael Bucholsky helpfully quoted Hudson's DRI application, in particular this sentence from page 18: "City officials and neighboring business owners support the expansion of Colarusso." Stiffler offered his own evidence from the DRI application, where on page 47 the following is listed as a "key improvement": "reduction of truck traffic through residential areas of the BRIDGE District by re-routing Colarusso trucks onto a widened two-way haul road at the City's south border."

The board decided to forgo a formal written resolution approving the Greenport section of the haul road in favor of doing a simple motion to approve. In making that motion, Bucholsky spoke of traffic being moved and the environmental benefits and called it a "win-win situation to Greenport, to Hudson, to Columbia County." The motion being made, the board unanimously approved the Greenport section of the haul road in a roll call vote.

After the vote, Stiffler said he wanted to "clarify misconceptions." He explained that he had always looked at the proposal as "an alternative transportation route and not an expansion" and called it a "good project." He acknowledged that the board has been criticized "for doing a less than acceptable job in the SEQR review" and denied that was the case. He said he was pleased to have unanimous approval. That statement was met with applause from the audience. Stiffler then thanked Prendergast and JR Heffner, vice president of operations for Colarusso, "for hanging in."


  1. None of this matters. Time to raise money and bring a lawsuit against Greenport.
    They hate Hudson; and they are uneducated and unenlightened clowns counter to our interests. They want to take advantage of Hudson in order to enrich one local family. That's really rank. Motivate people!!! Do something.

  2. One of the most important functions of a SEQR review after a proposal's significant impacts are analyzed is to consider reasonable alternatives.

    Here was a Lead Agency that was incapable of grasping that the applicant's proposal is not only NOT the only way to 1) use the causeway in order to 2) get aggregate trucks off city streets, but that this has been the city's plan for years. That plan is supported by conservationists like myself.

    So not only did Greenport not look very hard at the proposal's potential adverse impacts (by ignoring the City Planning Board's questions to it, for one thing), but the Lead Agency never acknowledged the City's years-long SEQR review conducted in order to implement the zoning changes of 2011. How could it not even be mentioned?

    The momentous conclusion of the City's SEQR review, which derived from the city's 2002 Comprehensive Plan, was: [wait for it ...] to use the causeway as a means to remove trucks from city streets! My goodness, who ever thought of that?!

    What was unique about the plan, however, and what is so distasteful to the new property owners (as of 2014), was that the existing causeway was to be used for two-way truck traffic providing that the landowner finished its haul road from Rte 9G to Route 9 (2015: done!), and that the NYSDOT approve of crossing plans to finish the road (twice approved, in 2010 and 2017!).

    But the new owner had a better idea, which is its current proposal. Selling this idea would only require a dull SEQR Lead Agency (perhaps why Greenport wanted Lead Agency so badly), and the usual array of professionals and other cheerleaders who wouldn't know a zoning law if it bit them in the a**.

    In the Greenport Planning Board, the project sponsor found its ideal dupes. Its members never looked at the City's SEQR review to understand that it took us years to work out a causeway alternative already (and one that's nearly complete!), and an alternative which was intricately designed to fit our amended zoning laws.

    The Lead Agency fell for the story line that the causeway cannot be used for two-way traffic in its present condition, even though that was the intention of the City's 2011 SEQR review. Greenport must have decided never to mention the City's SEQR review in its own SEQR review, in hopes that nobody would notice.

    Greenport also went for the tired narrative that the company is forced to rely on city streets to conduct its business when the truth is that the applicant won't finish the City's 2011 alternative because, well, then there'd be an obvious alternative!

    After much contemplation, I have to agree with the first commenter above. Alternately, if the company achieves its goals in the end, then the city is the moron.