April 12, 2006
Green Hollow Affordable Housing: Same Complaint, Different Project
They reduced the density of the project by more than half. They will implement clearing and coverage restrictions more stringent than the zoning district requires. They will make the roads smaller than usual and the reserved area larger than zoning mandates. The same extent of development would occur if the land were sold on the open market.
But still some neighbors of the proposed Green Hollow Woods affordable housing project object.
During a public hearing on the project last Wednesday night, attorney Janet Insardi spoke out against the plan, stating repeatedly that because of the environmentally sensitive nature of the parcel — it's located off Buckskill Road in an area between Blue Jay Way and Towhee Trail in a Special Groundwater Protection Area — the development should not occur.
Insardi said she represents about a half dozen neighbors, some of whom were involved in a legal action against the town relating to an earlier incarnation of the plan.
Back in 2001 under the Schneiderman administration, the plan called for 50 houses on 30 acres. Neighbors sued, arguing that the town failed to take a hard look at potential adverse environmental impacts the project could pose. The town lost the legal battle and was ordered by the court to compile an Environmental Impact Statement for the project. The bane of any developer, an EIS is a telephone book-sized tome that reviews every potential impact and proposes methods to mitigate them.
When the Democrats gained control of the town board in 2004, the sentiment towards Green Hollow changed with the political landscape. Those seizing power sought a scaled-down version of the plan, and moved forward with a thorough environmental review of a map that comprises 26 houses on 20 acres in a half-acre zoning district.
"My clients support the creation of affordable housing," Insardi said last Wednesday night. "The issue is where affordable housing is appropriate. Our position is this is not the appropriate place." Insardi spoke at length of the environmental features of the land, as well as the project's potential effect on traffic. However, it became clear that she had not reviewed the most recent submissions detailing mitigation efforts. Her comments pertained to aspects of the earlier proposal.
Councilman Pete Hammerle, the town board's point person on the project, hinted something else was clear. He suggested that neighbors really object to the idea of affordable houses near
their homes. He wondered whether Insardi would have been retained if a regular subdivision of the same size had been proposed. "My clients are concerned about the water," she reiterated upon taking the podium for a second time.
Hammerle attempted to assuage the concerns of opponents, most of whom are second homeowners. Once the homes are complete, he estimated they'd be worth between $600,000 and $800,000 on the open market. Additionally, he said of the potential residents, "I expect these people to be good, law abiding members of this neighborhood. Maybe some of them will become your friends if you spend enough time out here to get to know them."
On Friday Hammerle said he was "quite shocked and disappointed" when Insardi rattled off the names of her
clients. He'd met with them several times over a three-year period to solicit
feedback and attempt to allay their concerns. "We did everything they asked," he said. In fact, he said he returned to the neighbors with revisions they'd requested and made still more throughout the process of developing the subdivision map.
Of the notion of a new lawsuit from the group, Hammerle offered that if Insardi had reviewed the latest submissions relating to the scaled-down project, she'd see that every effort to mitigate potential environmental impacts has already been explored. "This time we did our homework. We're all feeling very strong here," the councilman concluded.