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Amenia approves Silo Ridge project

by Antonia Shoumatoff
Sat Nov 21st, 2015

In a contentious meeting that included shouting from the audience and a town board member passing out on the floor, the Silo Ridge Resort Development was approved by the Town Board in Amenia at their regular monthly meeting.  The resolution read by the Town Supervisor stated that “all environmental concerns have been met by the town,” and gives the green light for Phase 1 of the development’s construction, including the golf course and 225 dwelling units.

The Resolution passed 3-2 with Gretchen Hitselberger and Vicki Doyle voting no, saying they needed more time. 
“If we do not look at this carefully we risk the agony of undergoing an Article 78.  We should not rubber stamp this without taking time to have a better understanding of all the documents, some of which were submitted at 8 a.m. this morning.  I have not had time to evaluate this application, we should take another few meetings to do that,” said Vicki Doyle who said she thought provisions should be added to requiring testing the streams for run-off pollution.  She said she did not understand why the developer could not find alternative sites for 26 houses that are on steep slopes.

Pedro Torres countered saying that they looked at every alternative to putting the houses on the steep slopes but that was the only way they could make the project ‘economically viable. ’ He claimed there was “nothing in the zoning that prevents people from building on steep slopes.” He also stated that Silo will be required to monitor the streams above and below the site.  “It is one of the provisions of the Natural Resource Management Plan”.

Earlier in the meeting, Leo Blackman, an architect and former Zoning Board of Appeals chair, cast doubts on the integrity of the Planning Board saying, “their primary concern always seemed to be the convenience of the developer, not protecting the citizens of Amenia. They repeatedly ignored the professional opinions of their consultants, and the deep knowledge of environmental groups (DLC, HVA) and the government (DEC, CAC).”  He also said that the massive structures are out of character for our region.

“The Resort Overlay District (RDO) zoning clearly intends any new large-scale project to have the appearance of one of the 5 existing hamlets. The massive structures, indeterminate style and gated enclosure could not be more different from the welcoming, small-scale, area-specific rural architecture of Amenia. One could question whether this proposal even IS a resort. It is not too late to ask more from this developer, rather than trusting their good intentions.” [Blackman’s letter is published on the editorial page.]

After the meeting, board member Hitselberger told TMI in an e-mail:  “ Since I could not do a thorough, careful review for Silo, I had no choice but to vote no.  We did receive additional emails [from the applicant] the day of the meeting. I had no chance to research them for accuracy, which is why I wanted more time.”

Fred Whitridge, president of Wassaic Water and Viewshed Protection Project  spoke, saying that his group has written two comment letters to the NYS DEC regarding the potential threats to water quality from hundreds of thousands of gallons of contaminants that were dumped in the nearby landfill.  

"Now is the time to answer many unanswered questions," he said, explaining that his group was one of the plaintiffs in the Motion to Intervene the Article 78.

“There was never any proof that the drums with these contaminants were removed and only when this is acknowledged can it be cleaned up.”  He suggested reusing the effluent from the wastewater treatment center to water the golf course.

Josh Douglass, former attorney for the Amenia gun club said the crux of the issue is that “modifying the project from 300 hotel units to less than 30 is a change that should have been analyzed with a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement and that the mitigation must be from the Modified Plan itself and NOT compared to the old plan.”

Board member Stephen Perotti responded to the statements from the public saying.   "When are property rights of the developer being stomped on?  It is time that we move forward on this, enough is enough.  The Planning Board worked hard. We don’t need more people to come out of the woodwork.  Silo is re-establishing the identity of the Town of Amenia, creating jobs, homes and a tax base.  Right now we have nothing, the people deserve better.  We don’t have any industry here.   The lifelong rednecks deserve better, we do not have the DDSO, all we have is squatters off of Rte. 22.  We need a new firehouse. This project can facilitate all this.  There are plenty of millionaires and billionaires in Smithfield Valley who could have written a check for our firehouse, highway garage and our kitchen generator.  But where are they, they are filing Article 78’s instead of helping us.  We are sick of it.  The local people of this town, not the transplants, the life-long residents of our town, are fed up with being told what is best for us.”

Leo Blackman countered Perotti’s outcry saying: “My husband and I donated a garden to the Town of Amenia and I donated my time as an architect to design the kitchen so cool your jets!” At that point Victoria Perotti threatened to have the constable throw people out of the meeting and proceeded to take the vote.  Gretchen Hitselberger then fainted, falling onto the floor. An ambulance was called. Ms. Hitselberger recovered and was fine the next day.