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Cortlandt Planners Issue Negative Declaration for Hudson Wellness

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A proposed luxury drug and alcohol rehabilitation specialty hospital in Cortlandt that has been closely watched by residents and officials in New Castle and Ossining cleared a major hurdle last week.

The Cortlandt Planning Board voted 6-1 on Apr. 5 to issue a negative declaration under the state Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), stating the project should not have significant adverse environmental impacts. The decision allows Hudson Wellness Center to avoid preparing a lengthy and costly Environmental Impact Statement and gives the go-ahead for the applicant to move on to the Zoning Board of Appeals.

The ZBA must grant a variance since the town code requires hospitals in residential zones to be on state roads, and Quaker Ridge Road is not. Without the variance, the controversial project would not be able to move forward.

A special permit is also required to build a specialty hospital in a two-acre residential zone.

Robert Davis, the attorney for Hudson Wellness Center, told planners before the vote occurred last week that his client had demonstrated a negative declaration was warranted.

“We believe we’re entitled to a negative declaration,” Davis said. “We believe a negative declaration is more than amply supported by the record.”

None of the six Planning Board members that agreed with Davis offered any remarks to accompany their votes. George Kimmerling cast the lone dissenting vote. The resolution contained 34 conditions.

If the ZBA issues a variance, the Planning Board will get another chance to evaluate the project during site plan review.

Hudson Wellness Center is looking to utilize the former Hudson Institute site on Quaker Ridge Road which encompasses 20 acres in Cortlandt and 28 acres in New Castle.

First presenting the project to Cortlandt officials in 2015, the backers of the project have spent nearly $3 million to buy three parcels of land, paid attorneys and consultants hundreds of thousands of dollars, carried property taxes costing nearly $400,000 (although sometimes paying late) and renovated the existing buildings on the site to the tune of $1.5 million.

However, several residents have raised eyebrows about the criminal background of one of the stated principals of the project and inconsistencies in some of the documents filed by the operators. Residents have also questioned why the applicant hasn’t reached out yet to the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS), which would license and regulate the facility.

The number of patients that would be served by the facility has been reduced in its first year of operation to 49, and 58 thereafter. When plans were first unveiled, 92 beds were sought.

The property is near Teatown, a 1,000-acre nonprofit nature preserve and environmental education center with 15 miles of hiking trails and a two-acre island refuge.

Hudson Wellness has caught the attention of officials and residents in Ossining and New Castle. New Castle officials are concerned about increased water and sewer use in the area, and Glendale Road being used by vehicles traveling to the site. There has also been talk of asking for a conservation easement for the acreage on the New Castle portion of the property.

“We’re opposed to this application for very sound and practical reasons,” David Valdez of the Millwood-West End Advisory Board said at a past public hearing.

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