EnvironmentThe Examiner

Proposed Cluster Subdivision DEIS Blasted in Mt. Pleasant

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Opponents of a controversial 31-lot cluster subdivision proposal in an environmentally sensitive area near Pocantico Lake harshly criticized the applicant’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) as defective and failing to offer a viable alternative.

More than two dozen speakers lined up for nearly three hours at a special Mount Pleasant Planning Board meeting last Thursday evening to repeatedly blast ZappiCo Real Estate Development’s plans for the Meadows at Briarcliff Manor at 715 Sleepy Hollow Rd.

The speakers pointed to omissions, sweeping assumptions, questionable data and a failure by the developer to include any proposal that is less than 31 homes. The site is adjacent to Pocantico Lake County Park, an area that was designated by the state to be a Critical Environmental Area. The more than 160 acres that make up the park was purchased by Westchester County about 30 years ago.

ZappiCo’s 36.8-acre parcel includes steep slopes, more than 22 acres of which had been set aside by the developer to be part of a conservation easement largely because of wetlands. There were also concerns about runoff into the lake, which serves as a backup drinking water source for several southern Westchester communities.

The proposed 31 homes would be built on about 11 acres, which drew questions from some in the audience regarding how many may be allowed to be built.

“If you’re starting off with 20-plus acres of wetlands and lots of hillside problems, well, you’ll have a problem, but he’s kind of turned it into his advantage with a plan to build cluster homes and gives conservation land off,” Sleepy Hollow Road resident Matt Golodetz said. “It’s quite clear that by doing this he doesn’t have to worry about the wetlands, it’s unbuildable anyway and he’s planning to build 31 homes. We know all of this. His problem is the legality is not quite clear.”

Anne White, co-chair of the Sleepy Hollow Environmental Advisory Committee, said very little attention was paid to the potential impacts on her village’s most important features, including its historic sites, parks and pools. She was one of several speakers who called for a supplemental DEIS so the developer could offer a reduced number of homes, which would greatly diminish the risk of contaminated runoff into the lake.

“This plan deserves a real alternative, choices to consider, an alternative that adds to the supply of new housing but at the same time better protects the natural environment,” White said.

Other speakers questioned how the developer plans to enforce the statement in the document that there would be no pesticides or herbicides used on the homes’ lawns and backyards.

“The DEIS makes clear there will be stormwater runoff from the backyards of built homes adjacent to the lake without adequate enforcement mechanisms to prevent the runoff from entering the water supply,” said local resident Jennifer Sendek.

Attorney Adam Stolorow, representing a coalition of residents called Save Pocantico Lake, said leaving that important work into the hands of a homeowner’s association that may not be equipped to handle that responsibility is problematic.

“They never tell you what the impact could be if the mitigation measures don’t work and that doesn’t allow you as a lead agency to take the hard look that’s required under SEQRA,” Stolorow said.

Amy Karpati, a conservation biologist and the director of science and programs at Teatown Lake Reservation, said the vegetation survey that was included in the DEIS was copied directly from a document from the New York Natural Program. The vegetation survey included in the document also failed to include some basic information, according to Karpati.

“At minimum, that needs to be addressed,” she said. “We at least need to know what plant species are there, there needs to be a survey undertaken across seasons for spring flowering plants, summer, fall flowering plant species in order to get an accurate representation of the site.”

Former assemblyman Thomas Abinanti said when he was still in office last year he sought state money to try and buy the land for preservation. He was on the Board of Legislators in 1992 when it appropriated $3.7 million toward the purchase of the adjacent 164 acres that comprise Pocantico Lake County Park.

In March 2022, a county advisory board recommended the county buy the 36.8 acres to preserve as open space. However, County Executive George Latimer said on Mar. 13 that there is no agreement pending. oHoHo

“We don’t have any agreement on the table for the county to buy some or all of the land, but we are prepared to do that within certain reason,” he said. “But we do think that the land is sensitive to the degree that it buffers land that the county already owns to the degree that it protects an important water body.”

The hearing on the DEIS was tentatively adjourned until May 4, Chairman James Collins said, provided an environmental consultant’s report is received by next Wednesday.

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