For countless years, Town of Kent leaders have yearned to boost economic development in the bedroom community, but mostly to no avail. Now, with a major project on the table, it appears more than a handful of residents aren’t interested in what it might offer.
Kent residents are mobilizing to speak out against the project, Kent Country Square, skeptical of the proposal and how it could affect the town. The project includes two hotels, an indoor waterpark, convention center and a truck stop, which appears to be the most bothersome to opponents.
The proposal first came forward in Oct. 2017 in front of the town board and then began appearing in front of the planning board in Feb. 2018. The development would be situated on Route 52 near Ludingtonville Road stretching into the woods.
The planning board is the lead agency for the project and would need to approve a final site plan.
Planning board chairman Phil Tolmach said while he’s heard a rumor that most of the tax revenue from the project would go to Putnam County and not the town, that claim is inaccurate. The property is on town parcels, Tolmach stressed.
A zoning change might be necessary depending on the height of the two hotels, Tolmach said. There is a question how many floors the applicant wants the hotels to be and if the proposal does not conform to the current zoning code, the town board will need to consider a zoning change.
The planning board had a scoping session a few months prior where people from the town could state their concerns with the project and planning board members could also convey issues they had that were presented to the applicant. A 37-page scoping document was issued by the planning board recently detailing what they want to see in an environmental impact statement.
The applicant now has to address those concerns and once they present in front of the board again, a SEQRA process will get underway, Tolmach said.
“They’ll give us a full application that’s been executed in the way we wanted it to be and eventually I will sign it and they’ll build the project one would hope,” Tolmach said.
Questions raised so far include how much noise and air pollution would residents be subjected to and what increase in traffic town roads could face, Tolmach, who lives right behind where the project is proposed, said.
Kent Supervisor Maureen Fleming said the influx of tax revenue for the town and Carmel school district if the project comes to fruition would be significant. While “mom and pop” businesses are important, they can’t help keep residents’ property taxes down like a major development would, she said.
“We have to look to smart development,” Fleming said. “Development that doesn’t negatively impact our residents’ quality of life.”
She thinks the proposal is a “win” for the town, noting state agencies, like the department of transportation, will help ensure that residents aren’t hurt by the project.
But some residents are wary whether or not this a true win for the town.
Kent resident and Carmel-Kent Chamber of Commerce president Henry Boyd said the chamber’s board of directors doesn’t think the truck stop is good for the town. He said the traffic from the truck stop would be “horrendous.”
“The trucks themselves are a big no- no, plus the environment that they create around the truck stop,” Boyd said.
While Boyd thinks the hotels would be good for the community, he questions whether the possible height of the structures would be a good idea because the local fire department would need a new ladder truck in the event of an emergency at one of the hotels.
Resident Eileen Civitillo said her major issues with the proposal is the mining of the land where the structures would be built and the truck stop that would include a truck wash and repair set up. She isn’t against the idea of a waterpark and hotels, which she believes are needed in Putnam.
Civitillo said she doesn’t think the project fits in the town’s Master Plan. While tax relief from the project would be helpful to homeowners, she said the project is not worth the revenue gained.
The extensive mining that would be required is alarming to Civitillo, who questioned if well water could be negatively affected. The trucks that would gather at the stop could be harmful to the environment, Civitillo said.
Kent resident Katharine Curtiss, who has attended several planning board meetings, said she thinks it’s a bad combination to have a truck stop, waterpark and hotels on the same piece of property. (There is one entrance for the truck stop and another entrance for the waterpark and hotels, Fleming noted.)
Additionally, she doesn’t like that it’s near two schools in the Carmel school system, is concerned about environmental impacts the site could have and is worried about the beating local roads could take.
“I’m not opposed to business,” she said. “I’m opposed to this particular concept of business.”