Town Board busy digesting both DEIS and its own consultants’ studies

Possible recreation complex fronting on Roaring Brook Road, field space behind
May 15, 2009
by Christine Yeres

Besides poring over the massive documents supplied by teams of lawyers and consultants for Summit Greenfield’s proposed plan for the Reader’s Digest site, board members are also digesting studies its own consultants, Saccardi & Schiff, are supplying on possible town uses of portions of the site. These alternative uses may be included in the alternatives section of the draft environmental impact statement Summit Greenfield is preparing for New York State Environmental Review Act (SEQRA) proceedings.


Town board’s consultants map town uses of Summit Greenfield property

In a work session Monday night, Saccardi & Schiff presented drawings indicating possible locations for town uses of Summit Greenfield property on Roaring Brook Road. Summit Greenfield owns four house lots along Roaring Brook Road, three with houses, one without, stretching from the high school entrance to Bedford Road.

High school entrance on Roaring Brook Road

The corner property on Bedford Road would not be part of Plans I and II, as they are labeled on the map (photo above). Access to the Digest property for Plan I and Plan II would be created by building a road directly opposite the high school entrance. The Saccardi & Schiff maps showed a Plan III lodged in the upper northern section of the Digest property (photo below) where the least valued of the buildings now stand, to be used “in conjunction with I or II,” according to the map’s legend.

Northern corner of Digest property; for map of entire Digest property, see photo at bottom

Saccardi & Schiff consultants envision possible field space in either or both spots as well as a 20,000 square foot recreation complex in one of the spots, to be built in the future. No costs figures were attached to the complex. “These are just areas where alternative uses could be located,” explained New Castle Town Planner Lincoln Daley. “Saccardi has looked at the site and located on the property three areas in which potential municipal uses could be placed. The type of use has not yet been determined; that takes place next in the feasibility study. This will give the town a better understanding of what might fit into the proposal by the applicant.”

Town board members prioritize possible alternative uses

Saccardi & Schiff also provided the results of the board’s efforts to prioritize a list of 12 “Alternative Use Program Space Needs.”  They had asked the board to narrow the 12 to three, and members saw one another’s order of ranking at Monday’s work session. After adding up individual members’ ratings of the options, Saccardi came up with both a weighted average and a final ranking.  The board’s final ranking follows. 

1.  Maintain critical mass of non-residential tax ratables

2.  Provide mixed use opportunities including identified public uses

3.  Create mix and density of uses that result in an attractive, successful residential community

Tied for fourth:

4. Maintain site character adjacent to surrounding neighborhood

4. Provide substantial affordable housing opportunities

5. Avoid impacts to sensitive site environmental features

6. Create site access and egress that minimizes traffic impacts on surrounding roadways and improves pedestrian safety

7.  Provide adequate on site open space and maximize on site tree retention within context of provision of mixed uses

Tied for eighth:

8. Prohibit gated residential community

8.  Provide adequate on site shared parking facilities

9. Provide viable pedestrian connection to Greeley H.S., downtown and town wide trail system

10.  Maintain on-site parking and circulation where appropriate

To see individual board members’ rankings of these objectives click here:
New Castle Town Board Members’ Priority Rankings for Suggested Program Objectives for Reader’s Digest Site

Deciding on what public uses might be possible

Three weeks prior to Monday’s work session, at an April 21 work session, the consultants met with the town board to discuss what specific municipal uses of the Reader’s Digest property to consider for inclusion in the DEIS. Saccardi & Schiff consultants had interviewed various town groups including the board of education, the fire department, the recreation department and NCCTV.

Based on those interviews, they drew up a matrix of possible desired uses such as constructing a playing field or two; creating studio space for NCCTV; making use of office space for recreation department office staff; constructing a pool and/or recreation complex; housing police and ambulance; building a senior center or a non-senior community center; and creating more trails and open space.

The board’s desire to acquire the Wallace Auditorium for performance art space has cooled since the Saccardi & Schiff team of consultants reported that the structure would require far too much alteration.  The board also feared that its development would undermine efforts to revitalize the downtown hamlet. 

In their study of each use, the consultants examined location, characteristics, size of space required, land area, necessary parking spaces, time of parking and amount of traffic generated. Saccardi & Schiff’s report to the board on Monday night indicated that they are no longer considering Reader’s Digest space for police, senior center, NCCTV in existing office space, or an on site performing arts center.

Now that the consultants have pared down possible uses of the space and mapped out possible placement of the remaining possibilities on the Digest property, their next step is to consider how town structures or fields at these locations on the property might work with the proposal by Summit Greenfield to build 278 condos in its center and northern corner.  They will meet in a work session on June 10 to continue this discussion, which will include, according to Daley, an analysis of the existing Summit Greenfield buildings and adaptive reuse of them as well as the set of residential uses, a mix of age-restricted and affordable, that the developer has proposed.  Plans I and II as well as Plan III list dwelling units and square footage of multi-tenant office usage as “to be determined.”

Hearings or comments will likely be scheduled in June

Summit Greenfield’s representatives are growing impatient for the board to finally declare its DEIS complete and get on with the SEQR process, the next step of which is public hearings or public comment on Summit Greenfield’s proposal to build 278 condos on the property and have its four-tenant restriction lifted on its commercial office space. 

Lawyers for Summit Greenfield urged the town board in its regular meeting Tuesday, May 12, to declare its DEIS complete. The town board responded that it was not ready to take that step, even though the board is anxious to begin the hearing and comment period before summer arrives and families begin vacation.  “The board is conscious of the summer issue, very much so,” said New Castle Town Administrator Gennaro Faiella. “We can at least open public hearings prior to July.”

Do the math: SEQRA clock starts ticking

Once the town board declares the DEIS complete, 15 days must pass before a public hearing can occur on the final document.  During this time, the town board must spread the word that the DEIS is complete and invite the public to participate in the comment period.  As lead agency, the town board is free to decide whether to hold a hearing in addition to the comment session. 

The public comment period could last 30 days; a hearing or hearings could be held any time within that interval, but the comment period must continue ten days beyond the close of any hearing.  The final EIS – with its revisions and supplements, copies or summaries of substantive comments received and their sources, and the town board’s response to those comments – should be ready within 45 days of the final hearing or within 60 days of the completion of the draft EIS —whichever occurs last.
To learn more about the proposal for development, visit our ARCHIVES on Reader’s Digest issues; or type “digest” (in quotation marks) into the “SEARCH” box at the top of every page. 

Below, find a copy of the DEIS as it was on April 10, 2009:

UPDATE: Full text of revised DEIS for Digest development proposal—DEIS under review by town board; public hearings possible in late May or early June