On December 5, 2019, the Copake Planning Board abruptly voted to close the Public Hearing to comment from Save Craryville and our outspoken public. The applicant had not submitted any firm statements related to the recently discovered legacy petroleum contamination found in soil and water on the site and geologic testing related to the presence of an aquifer under the site. Members Julie Cohen, Steve Savarese, and Marcia Becker voted in support of the close. Edward Sawchuk and Jon Urban voted and protested against the close. Save Craryville attorneys strongly objected to the Board’s decision.
See Save Craryville’s last legal submission here: https://www.savecraryville.org/information/2019/12/15/dec-15-2019-public-hearing-closed-save-craryville-letter-to-the-copake-planning-board-attorneys-zarin-amp-steinmetz
Now the Board has planned a Special Meeting in order to call a vote for Site Plan ‘approval or denial’ this Saturday, January 11, 2019, 10:00a at Copake Town Hall.
In consideration of various unmitigated risks presented by Save Craryville community coalition, the Planning Board should deny site plan approval based on the Comprehensive Plan and the statutory criteria in the Town Code. Save Craryville community coalition has asked that the Board uphold its duty to protect our community.
Further, a vote to approve GRJH’s site plan will be a bold contradiction to the environmental and commercial interests of landowners in the Craryville hamlet and our community at-large.
In October 2009, Save Craryville presented an Appeal of GRJH’s Special Use Permit to the Copake Zoning Board of Appeals on behalf of nearby and abutting landowners to GRJH, Inc.’s gas station and convenience store in Craryville, NY.
A summary of Save Craryville’s October 25, 2019 presentation to the Board can be found here: https://www.savecraryville.org/information/2019/10/25/september-26-2019-summary-of-the-october-24-2019-save-craryville-appeal-to-copake-zoning-board-of-appeals-public-hearing
1. It challenged Code Enforcement Officer Lee Heim’s July 1, 2019 Determination with respect to the expiration of the Special Use Permit for its proposed gas station;
2. Renewed Save Craryville’s request that the ZBA rescind its Negative Declaration pursuant to SEQRA; and
3. Renewed Save Craryville’s request for a stay of the site plan review process pending the resolution of this Appeal.
The Copake Zoning Board of Appeals unanimously voted to oppose the Appeal and ignored the responsibilities of the Board as Lead Agency under SEQRA (State Environmental Quality Review Act).
In response, Save Craryville and nearby landowners have filed two (2) Article 78 Proceedings. The November 22, 2019 Article 78 is related to the Expiration of GRJH’s Special Use Permit. Save Craryville’s December 13, 2019 Article 78 is related to the abandonment of the Zoning Board’s SEQRA review.
Save Craryville’s Article 78 legal documentation is available to the public here: https://www.savecraryville.org/information?category=Article%2078%20Proceedings
July 27, 2019 | On Friday, June 21, Save Craryville hosted a Summer Solstice Party for community activists and supporters at Random Harvest’s Community Space. Thanks to attendees and our generous Board of matching donors, Save Craryville is well on way to finance the representation of attorney Michael Zarin of Zarin & Steinmetz. Over the past 11 months, Save Craryville volunteers and attorneys have worked to create a legal record with the Town of Copake, defining a strategic way forward.
We still need your help. We are just $10,000 short of our goal. Our dedicated Board will match every dollar donation toward our legal fund. Please consider donating to our effort today.
NEXT PLANNING BOARD PUBLIC HEARING
Thursday, August 1, 2019 - 7:00P at Copake Town Hall
May 30, 2019 | For the last eight months, Save Craryville community coalition has worked to create a legal record with the Copake Planning Board. Together with a team of experts and environmental attorneys dedicated to the protection of our natural and scenic environment, Save Craryville has identified significant measures the Copake Planning Board can lawfully take to mitigate the scale and impacts of GRJH’s proposed gas station development. Although the Planning Board has acted on some aspects of site plan conformity, members have not exercised authority granted under Town of Copake Zoning Code Article IX ‘Site Plan Review’ to the fullest extent necessary and therefore leave our community exposed to not only the current threat of an inappropriate gas station development, but also the threat of a precedent for future permitting in our scenic and environmentally sensitive wetland corridor.
As a result, Save Craryville introduced the project to litigator, Michael Zarin of Zarin & Steinmetz, who together with associate attorney Zachary Mintz, has joined David K. Gordon and Emily Svensson in Save Craryville's legal efforts. Zarin has extensive experience in the areas of environmental litigation, land use, site remediation, all aspects of environmental due diligence and is an expert in SEQRA. He is an adjunct professor at Hofstra Law School and lectures extensively on SEQRA and other land use topics.
Last night, Zarin sent dual letters to the Copake Zoning Board of Appeals and Planning Boards informing members that pursuant to Town Code, the Special Use Permit of the GRJH Gas Station proposal has expired, thus the Planning Board has no jurisdiction to proceed further with said application. The letter also indicated that SEQRA (State Environmental Quality Review Assessment) must be re-opened and the Negative Declaration of Significance rescinded. GRJH, Inc. failed to disclose and the ZBA failed to properly analyze the location of the project site directly on an aquifer and that its proposed use may have significant potential adverse environmental impacts on the aquifer.
Zarin & Steinmetz will be speaking before the Planning Board at next Thursday’s June 6th Public Hearing and the ZBA’s June 27th meeting. Zarin has explicitly requested that the Public Hearing be moved to the beginning of the Board’s June Agenda, and that members of the public appearing to speak on this matter be given more than two minutes time. Many members of the public and supporters of Save Craryville’s efforts attend the Planning Board meeting to speak regarding GRJH’s proposed gas station, while few members of the public attend to speak on any other Agenda item (including Salvatore Cascino’s infamous ‘farm’ plans). The Planning Board has required the public to sit through sometimes hours of other Agenda matters for a Public Hearing no longer than 10-15 minutes. This is a discriminatory and punitive action that has been used against members of our public for their interests in this project.
GRJH, Inc., [Cobble Pond Farm] is seeking approval from the Town of Copake to develop one of the largest gas station/convenience stores in Columbia County at an historic and environmentally sensitive intersection–the gateway to the Taconic-Berkshire Region. GRJH, Inc.’s application to build the gas station at the intersection of NY Route 23 and County Route 7 has already been approved by the Copake Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA), receiving a “Negative Declaration of Significance” determination in the New York State-required SEQRA (State Environmental Quality Review Act) assessment. The Save Craryville community coalition was formed in response to the discovery of this decision by the ZBA. Save Craryville believes that there are in fact potential, serious environmental consequences associated with this project, and that the ZBA should have questioned many aspects of the Environmental Impact Statement submitted by the applicant. Now, the project has advanced to the Copake Planning Board, which is conducting a site plan review to ensure that the project conforms with the Town of Copake Zoning Code. This final review process is our community’s last chance to make sure that true due diligence is conducted to ensure the environmental, aesthetic and scenic value of our hamlet is not impacted. Save Craryville has engaged the services of of the environmental attorney David K. Gordon and litigator Michael Zarin of Zarin & Steinmetz.
GRJH, Inc. owns many gas stations in the Northeast and has been sued multiple times for violating environmental protection laws. In most instances these cases have been settled prior to going to trial. However, the company's history is troubling, particularly given that the proposed site is on top of the aquifer on which the community relies for well water and crop irrigation.
SAVE CRARYVILLE HAS CALLED ON THE COPAKE PLANNING BOARD TO REQUIRE THE FOLLOWING:
1. Revised site plan that conforms to Copake Zoning Code
May 15, 2019 | The members of the Planning Board have not fully exercised their authority to ensure GRJH’s site plan conforms to code. After 8 months of legal letters and public hearings, the Planning Board has acted on only a few of the violations outlined by Save Craryville. The building height was lowered, the developed area was reduced to an area [mostly] outside setbacks and the number of fueling positions or ‘nozzles’ was finally and conclusively reduced from 12 to 6. As our legal record holds, many aspects of the site plan still do not conform to code.
2. Phase I Environmental Site Assessment focused on potential subsurface contamination
May 15, 2019 | At the May 2 Public Hearing, Planning Board Chairman Bob Haight said that he believed the missing Phase I EAS had been satisfied. The study that intended to determine the potential for existing subsurface contamination was conducted by the applicant's technician and inconclusively offered suggestions for further research.
3. Independent Engineer
May 15, 2019 | Chairman Bob Haight announced at the May 2 Public Hearing that the escrow had finally been created and an independent engineer would be contracted by the Board. Details of said engineer’s scope of work was discussed by Members of the Board after the Public Hearing ended so the public was not present to comment.
4. Revised Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan
May 15, 2019 | None of the concerns raised by Save Craryville environmental engineer Bart Clark have been addressed by the Planning Board and the applicant. A revised Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan was submitted but did not address concerns regarding septic placement in a wetland and the presence of both a stream and wetland on the site.
5. Groundwater Impact Analysis
May 15, 2019 | Although the applicant's hydrogeologist submitted a non-technical and broad denial of statements by Save Craryville hydrogeologist Paul Rubin, the Planning Board has still not contracted an independent engineer to conduct a Groundwater Impact Analysis.
6. Visual Impact Report
May 15, 2019 | There has been little to no consideration for the Visual Impacts of the site–potential improvements to lighting, architecture, landscaping and building techniques have been ignored. The Planning Board has the authority to contract an independent architect or planner at the applicant's expense to recommend and require certain aesthetic measures be taken on the site. The Planning Board members have not exercised said authority.
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