I'm Leo Blackman, an architect, chair of the Zoning Board of Appeals & resident of Wassaic. Silo Ridge will be a huge transforming project for our town. I appreciate the time the Planning Board has spent, but their primary concern has always seemed to be the convenience of the developer, not protecting the citizens of Amenia. They have repeatedly ignored the professional opinions of their consultants, and the deep knowledge of environmental groups (DLC, HVA) and the government (DEC, CAC).
The Planning Board, as lead agency, decided early on that the applicant did not have to go through a real SEQRA process, but could rely on the findings of the significantly different previous Silo Ridge project. This denied them, and us, an opportunity to evaluate the new proposal on its own merits. IÕd like to focus on the ways in which the PB has given Silo a free pass on the requirements of our Zoning Code and the intent of our citizen-developed Comprehensive Plan.
The Resort Development Overlay District allows the applicant some site flexibility in exchange for open space protection and design quality. But the RDO 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, as that would presume some public access. But the PB didnÕt ask any questions. Silo Ridge will be a private residential enclave, its golf course and facilities closed to the rest of us.
Our Zoning Code strongly discourages building on steep slopes. Yet the proposed Estate Homes are shown on slopes of 30 degrees and more. The PB wants to waive the requirements on maximum slope (or minimum size) of lots for EIGHTY residential parcels. That means more than a third of Silo homes require zoning exemptions to get built. Once this precedent has been established, it will be impossible for the ZBA to convince future applicants to follow the Code.
Locating these houses where proposed will require extensive loss of vegetation and major regrading (including a series of 8 foot high concrete retaining walls). SEQRA would have required that serious visibility studies be performed. Yet last year, the PB allowed the applicant to hang tarps between leafed-out trees to roughly approximate the location of three (out of 26) new homes. The PB then signed off on the Estate Homes as having no visual impact. On the day of the ÒstudyÓ I could see the tarps looming over the valley from Old Route 22 & Depot Hill. After trees are cleared for roads & foundations weÕll see two rows of houses, rather than a green-clad slope.
Silo Ridge promises Amenia economic development, with much-needed jobs and taxes. But we can have it without forever giving away the natural beauty of our Town! Protecting Delaverne Hill & our scenic vistas was a focus of the Comprehensive Plan. Since the Planning Board has not taken on responsibility for its defense, it falls to the Town Board to be tougher negotiating on our behalf. It is NOT too late to ask more from this developer, rather than trusting their good intentions.
Ask the Town Assessor to verify their promised tax numbers, and that the sum in lieu of payment they negotiated can actually build 21 affordable housing units. Demand instead that they contribute the $1.3m to fund a town sewer as originally agreed. Hire a risk expert to make absolutely sure DL/SRV are adequately bonded to restore the property if needed. Hold them to their promise to use only grey water on the golf course. Have the DEC verify that the draw from their wells wonÕt dry up the Wassaic Creek. Insist that they prove the contaminants found in one well wonÕt poison our aquifer. For5ce them to stop clearing trees and re-grading residential areas of the site until the project has been approved. Find out why they fired both their hydraulic consultant, and the Dutchess Land Conservancy from monitoring the open space easement. Require them to remove the nine most visible estate homes, and a large proportion of the vineyard cottages, as proposed by the TownÕs paid consultants. Do NOT allow the owners to bypass this huge number of laws Ð laws enacted for our protection - simply because the Planning Board failed to get a good deal for Amenia.
Leo J. Blackman
Former Amenia Zoning Board of Appeals Chair