The Proposed Biltmore Estates, An Environmental Insult
By William Fegan
There is an application before the Harrison Zoning Board for what is presented as a simple lot subdivision of a 45-acre forested wetland located between Westchester Country Club and Polly Park Road into 21 residential lots. These lots will be for sale upon the installation of the infrastructure, roads, sewers, gas, and electricity, etc.
The subdivision is anything but a simple site, however, as it would require the removal of 50% of all of the established trees, without any environmental replacement; creation of an impervious, two-lane boulevard 42 feet wide through — not over — acres of fresh water wetlands and their adjacent areas; and the blasting of rock to conquer the natural topography to give access to some of the lots.
The applicant states that the infrastructure alone will take one and a half years to complete followed by approximately an additional four years for the construction of the housing. Of course, this assumption is based on all of the lots being sold in a timely manner, and that the lots will be developed immediately thereafter. These assumptions are, at best, exceedingly optimistic in today’s market. However, by then the applicant will be gone with his projected profit, leaving the rest of us to deal with the permanent damage and scars that he will have dealt to this unspoiled land.
So how does such a development like this actually get approved, even though we have many measures in place to tame development proposals, to encourage more environmentally sensitive solutions?
This is how it is done: employ a lot of attorneys and other professionals to create and then dump volumes and pages of statements, charts, diagrams, and plans on to the volunteer-staffed Zoning Board so that they are dazzled by the smoke and mirrors to the degree that they do not believe they can reject this hugely documented and illustrated application. That’s it! No magic.
The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) Cover Page is 193 pages in length. The DEIS Appendix SEQR State Environmental Quality Review is 248 pages in length. Then the Engineering Plans, Landscape Architect Plans, and finally Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plans (SWPPP) — 848 pages in length. All in all, the cost to print out just one set of these documents is over $1,000.
This is an “The Emperor has no clothes” type of event. The question that I would be asking is simple: Why should the Board grant excessive relief to a contract vendee who is not addressing a hardship other than one of his own creation?
Personally, I am in favor of sensitive development, but please work with nature and not bulldoze it.
<The Biltmore Estates application, which is currently under review, can be viewed at https://www.harrison-ny.gov/planning-board/pages/biltmore-estates-at-polly-park-deis.>