EnvironmentThe Examiner

New Castle’s West End Residents Upset at Proposed Water Protection Regs

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A contingent of residents from New Castle’s West End expressed frustration last week that their property may be subject to new water-protection restrictions if the town agrees to a proposed multi-municipality agreement.

There are 102 properties that lie within the proposed Indian Brook-Croton Gorge Watershed Protection Overlay District in New Castle that also includes portions of Cortlandt, Croton-on-Hudson and the town and village of Ossining. It was first discussed in 2007 and 2008 as part of a conservation action plan proposed by New York State to help protect an environmentally sensitive area.

The area also includes Ossining’s watershed, which derives its drinking water from the Indian Brook, said New Castle’s Director of Planning Sabrina Charney Hull.

“The impetus to create the overlay protection zone came directly from that conservation action plan,” Hull said. “It was really spearheaded by the Town of Cortlandt who contacted the four remaining municipalities because the intention was to try and create a single level of protection throughout all the different municipal entities within this watershed,” Hull said.

Of those municipalities, New Castle has a higher level of protection than its neighbors, which is reflected in its code, she said.

The Town of Cortlandt was the first of the five municipalities to approve the restrictions earlier this year, with the other towns and villages in various stages of review.

While most of the regulations are the same or similar to what is in effect in New Castle, several would be more stringent, upsetting some of the residents. During a public hearing last week before the Town Board, West End residents repeatedly lodged their displeasure that they are being asked to bear additional responsibilities when many of them take the existing regulations seriously.

“I’m here to express my objection to the proposed overlay district, which attempts really to rationalize a far-reaching set of onerous regulations that will permit the Town of New Castle to deny or tax with fees the building permit requests, control of building materials that the property owners can use and essentially take away their property rights without compensation,” said Pine Hill Road resident David Valdez.

Valdez added that the boundaries of the overlay protection district appear arbitrary.

Key provisions for the district that West End residents pointed to as potentially troublesome was the requirement of having to pump their septic systems every three years rather than every five years and that lawn chemicals must not be used with 25 linear feet of any watercourse or wetland buffer were currently use within the buffer is permitted.

Other overlay protection district regulations that could be more stringent would the requirement that more than 5,000 square feet of soil disturbance would be subject to the requirements set in the 2014 state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Stormwater Manual, although areas in town that are in New York City’s watershed already have that restriction.

Also, all new subdivisions greater than four lots would have to be designed as cluster or conservation subdivisions maintaining that at least 30 percent of the acreage be permanently preserved. Currently, the town’s Planning Board has the discretion to decide on conservation subdivisions regardless of size.

Several residents were irritated that large entities such as the Sunshine Children’s Home and the Hudson Wellness Center in Cortlandt are not included in the district, forcing individual homeowners bear the costs.

Resident Anne Martin said approval of the Sunshine home, with its major expansion to 150,000 square feet of floor space in an environmentally sensitive area, “was a bitter pill to swallow.” She said it’s likely that the value of their properties will be negatively impacted because of the additional restrictions.

“We just feel targeted and we already take care of our water, our property,” Martin said. “There are no problems here. We just feel very targeted.”

Another resident, Delores Cerulli, expressed her disappointment that she and other residents received the letter in the mail on June 8, informing them of the hearing three nights later, even though the letter was dated May 31.

Because of the Sunshine home, Cerulli said already is forced to use four different filtration systems.

“All of this happened with Sunshine,” she said. “Where was New Castle then?”

Glendale Road resident Bruce Topman pressed the Town Board to wait to enact anything until the two municipalities that are most affected, the town and village of Ossining, have acted.

There was also confusion at the hearing which regulations would be more stringent. Before last weekend the town sent out a list to residents highlighting which of the district’s provisions would differ from what residents are currently required to follow.

Supervisor Victoria Tipp said last Friday that the town will not vote on whether to approve the legislation until Ossining has decided what it is going to do.

The hearing will continue next Tuesday, June 25.

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