One of two engineering consultants hired by the town’s Inland Wetlands Commission to review a developer’s plan to build a cluster housing project off of Turkey Hill Road has signed off on the project.
The application for Turkey Hill Crossing, submitted by Miland LLC, NB LLC and Genvest, LLC, proposes a residential development of 10 multi-family buildings with up to 60 bedrooms and a single community building on more than 22.5 acres. The parcel adjoins the Wilbur Cross parkway which fronts on Turkey Hill Road and includes an undeveloped portion of Cranberry Lane.
At November’s public hearing, the town’s consultants, George Logan from REMA Ecological Services and Stephen Benben, engineer and Vice President at Triton Environmental Inc. agreed that although the application appeared to be a well thought out proposal, they wanted more details about elements of the plan. Among the items Benben and Logan cited for further review were whether the depth of a proposed retaining wall would affect wetlands; the possible lack of space for sidewalks near the proposed community center; if emergency vehicles would have appropriate access; how roadway run-off will be handled; whether septic system drainage would create unhealthy nitrogen levels in the wetlands and how extensive bedrock in the area will affect the project. Logan was unable to attend the December 3 public hearing and will present his findings on December 10.
Robert Wheway, civil and environmental engineer and Vice President of Codespoti and Associates, went through Benben and Logan’s listed items one by one and outlined revisions that met, and often, exceeded, the minimum standards required by the town’s consultants. Wheway proposed increasing the buffer around the existing wetlands, exchange stone at the main drive with wider grass strips and “significant plantings” to reduce grading and absorb and filter water run-off; and a building adjustment which would move construction further from the wetlands—all of which will decrease disturbance to the site. Snow and ice on the roadways would be treated with eco-friendly materials like Biomelt to further minimize chemicals affecting the wetlands.
In his report to the commission, Benben stressed that he was hired to review engineering portions of the project and evaluate any adverse impact it could have on the site. “It’s not for me to say whether this project is good or bad for the town,” he said. “The applicant has satisfied our engineering concerns and has provided more information and details to meet our guidelines and engineering standard of care.”
While neighbors have maintained that the projects the developer is proposing for the site are is too intense for the area, Jeff Gordon, President, Codespoti Associates and a representative for the project, says that is simply not true. “We are proposing 2.66 bedrooms per acre which is not dense,” he said. “You have to take the emotions out of these things. It shouldn’t be a decision based on politics or whether it’s popular, but based on science and what the land can sustain. We go by what the regulations and statutes are and this plan meets all the engineering standards.”
Last year the Town Plan and Zoning Commission unanimously denied Miland’s application for a zone change that would have allowed construction of about 30 one and two-bedroom age-restricted residential units. The plan called for a walkable community that would feature recreational amenities, private walking trails, community buildings and passive outdoor recreation.
Though there has been speculation by residents that Miland’s project could be rental units and/or an affordable housing application, the developer has not publicly announced any specific plans. “It hasn’t been determined how we would approach a zoning application,” Gordon said. “Based on what septic systems could handle, it could be possible to build ten units with up to 60 bedrooms. There is no plan on what the project will be or whether the dwellings would have one, two or three bedrooms.” If the project were to be rental units, Gordon expects prospective tenants would be empty nesters, seniors and young professionals who want easy access to the Merritt Parkway as tenants. “This was a good project the first go around and it’s a good project now,” he said. “We’ve answered and revised everything that was asked of us.”
Fewer people attended the fourth public hearing in early December than previous meetings, but several residents addressed the commission to voice their opposition to the project. Among them was Lisa Jurzyk of Hedgefield Court who said, “This is a very congested development on a small parcel of land located in a single-family home neighborhood. Approving a development of this type within these wetlands will open up opportunities for other projects to be initiated in other inappropriate areas of our town and I strongly urge you to reject this application.”
Deer Run Lane resident Joanna Watts also urged the commission to reject the plan, saying, “We’ve heard a lot of words from the applicants’ representatives and maybe they have addressed some of the issues. But it doesn’t address the essence of this development, which is to build a high density, cluster housing development with 60 bedrooms. The impact that will have on this area doesn’t change by making adjustments. If you have any doubts, your job is to protect the wetlands.”
The final public hearing was scheduled for December 10 at the High Plains Community Center.
By Laura Fantarella – Orange Town News Correspondent