Keeping an eye on developments at Reader’s Digest

By Lee Bowen
November 30, 2007

Last Tuesday night, Nov. 27, the New Castle Town Board, as required by law, made a declaration concerning the proposed development at the former Reader’s Digest property.

The board officially declared that the potential impacts of this proposed project are serious enough to warrant an environmental review. This “positive declaration” triggered the next step: the opportunity for the applicant (developer Summit Greenfield) to produce a draft scoping document, their list of what they think the environmental issues are. 

The environmental review process begins

As a result of a positive declaration, the scoping process as required by the state environmental quality review act has begun. The town has 90 days (normally 60 days, but the developer granted a 30 day extension requested by the board) in which to issue a final scoping document, which will include environmental issues identified by both the developer and New Castle residents. During this period residents may attend the two or three sessions the town board will schedule and will have the opportunity to specify environmental issues that must be addressed by Summit Greenfield. Members of all of the various town boards may also participate in this process.
Steve Mullaney spoke for, a citizens’ group that opposes the developer’s proposed rezoning of the Reader’s Digest property. He asked that the town board help residents stay informed by describing the timeline. When asked if the town board had to make this declaration now or whether they could have waited, the board was unclear as to whether they had exhausted the time they had available to them and felt the prudent course of action was to start the scoping process. 

After the final scoping document is issued, Summit Greenfield will prepare a draft environmental impact statement that must address the environmental issues that were raised in the scoping sessions. This preparation has no defined time period. The developer may take as much time as necessary to respond to the list of environmental impact issues regarding the proposed development and to say how the impacts would be mitigated, as well as spell out a range of alternative plans to the initial proposal.

While down at the planning board and the zoning board . . .

In the meantime, as required by the town code, the planning board must submit to the town board by Dec. 20 their recommendations regarding this project’s rezoning application to change the Reader’s Digest property’s current zoning from BRO (Business Research Office) and RA1 (Residential Acre 1) to MFPD ( multi family planning district).

The zoning board may not take final action as to the applicant’s commercial use rezoning request to remove the four tenant restriction until the town board completes its environmental review.

After the “positive declaration,” the developer’s lawyer immediately submitted a draft of the scoping document.  The public information officer for the town, Lori Sachare, announced she would copy this document to the town’s website, as well as the legal memorandum submitted by the developer’s legal counsel on the enforceability of the over-55 age restriction.

Lee Bowen has lived in New Castle for 29 years.  She reports from her vantage point at the corner of Roaring Brook Road and the HGHS entrance.