Critics want studies of Livingston gas plaza plan

Looking south/southeast at the intersection of Routes 9, 9H, 23 and 82, the property in the foreground is where Global Partners, owner of the Xtra Mart chain of stores, wants to build a new, larger store and gas/diesel filling station. Photo by David Lee

LIVINGSTON—The Livingston Planning Board held a public hearing on Wednesday March 6, at the Livingston Town Hall to give the community an opportunity to voice opinions on the proposed Global Partners gas station and store. The room was packed, with many people standing. All members of the Planning Board were present.

Global Partners, the company that owns the Xtra Mart chain, has submitted an application for a gas station and convenience store on the northeast corner of the intersection of US Route 9 and State Routes 9H/23 and 82.

The new structure would be 4,800 square feet with 16 gasoline dispensing locations and a 4,000 square-foot canopy, two diesel dispensing locations whose canopy would measure 1,000 square feet, two enter/exit driveways on Route 9H and one on Route 9, 32 parking spaces and a diesel island truck queue.

Members of the community who spoke at last week’s meeting expressed concerns about the impact of the proposed project. A group called Livingston Concerned Citizens, headed by Pam Kline, reports that it has 60 core members with an additional 100 auxiliary members. “We want a positive declaration” says Ms. Kline, who was not able to attend the meeting. The term refers to a determination the Planning Board will make as to whether the applicant must prepare a full environmental impact study.

Overall there were 17 speakers by one unofficial count, seven of whom had specific expertise in environmental matters. Of the total, two women, both of whom said their husbands are truckers, spoke in favor of the proposal.

The State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) mandates that preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement for proposed actions that may include the potential of significant adverse environmental effect. David K. Gordon, the attorney representing the Livingston Concerned Citizens, said that “because of the multiple environmental impact detailed, it’s incumbent upon the Planning Board to issue a positive declaration and prepare an environmental impact statement to ensure environmental impacts are mitigated.”

At present, people concerned about the proposal say the Global Partners’ application is not complete. The company has not provided elevation drawings showing the size and design of building or fueling facilities or any associated fixtures such as signs, as required.

The elevation drawings are necessary in order to review the aesthetic impact the project will have.

There is also the question of the remediation of the existing gas station, which Livingston Concerned Citizens (LCC) say is part of the proposed project. The applicant’s effort to separate the two components of the project is contrary to New York State law, according to LCC.

Last December a Global Partners’ engineer expressed the company’s intentions to raze the existing Xtra-Mart store, canopies and other structures and remove the fuel storage tanks at the southwest corner of the intersection. That demolition was to follow construction of the new facility. But at the January 9 Planning Board meeting this plan had changed, leaving the old building in place and removing only the tanks. And in a letter to the Planning Board on January 25, 2019, the company ignored the old site entirely.

In a letter to the Planning Board, Mr. Gordon wrote, “There is no question that the decommissioning of the existing facility is part of the application to develop the new facility.”

Among the other issues addressed at the hearing:

• Water resource impacts. Both the proposed and existing gas station are located atop a complex system of wetlands, said hydrogeologist Paul Rubin at the hearing. The site of the proposed gas station overlies a productive aquifer that forms the headwater recharge area to wetlands, groundwater and streamflow. “These deposits” Mr. Rubin of HydroQuest, told the Planning Board, “are the town’s most productive groundwater sources.” This site is quoin between Bells Pond, DEC wetland HS-3 and wetland directly to the north not currently regulated by DEC. The stream that runs under the existing gas station and the stream from the wetlands on the northern part of the site flow into the Mud Creek which joins the Taghkanic Creek which flows into the Claverack Creek that joins the Stockport Creek and enters the Hudson River. The Stockport Flats is a part of the Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve.

“The risks of polluted runoff contaminating adjacent wetlands and ground water must be carefully considered,” Mr. Gordon’s said in his letter.

• Visual and community character impacts. Since the applicant has not yet provided elevation drawings to the Planning Board LCC has no way to evaluate the visual impact the proposed project would have. The group is also concerned about semi truck traffic, light pollution and the impact of the project on the value of neighboring properties.

• Traffic safety assessment. LCC wants a study of the impact of the three additional driveways at the busy intersection.

Alfred L. Scott of Cotswold Holdings, LLC owns a 288-acre property with frontage facing Routes 9H/23. Within this parcel is the home of the Rockridge Stud and nationally recognized thoroughbred horse breeder Lere Visagie, who said he is concerned by the proposed entrances to the gas station. Stephen R. Clark of Empire State Appraisal Consultant concluded the impact “would be destructive to Cotswold Holdings land property value and to the thoroughbred horse farm.”

Assemblymember Didi Barrett (D-106th) commented in a letter to the Planning Board read on her behalf in which Ms. Barrett says, “I strongly urge you to decline Global Partners’ application for a special use permit and issue a positive declaration in favor of a full environmental impact study and site remediation of the current gas station.”

Global Partners attended a previous meeting and did not attend last week’s hearing, opting instead to make a statement through the Planning Board attorney Ted Hilscher: “We are reviewing all concerns raised at the January 25, 2019 meeting and request that all further concerns be submitted in writing to the Planning Board.”

Global Partners is expected to attend the next Planning Board meeting.

Before the last week’s hearing began, Mr. Hilscher announced that Planning Board Chairman Phil Schmidt, who conducted the hearing, will recuse himself from all future proceedings in this matter due to a conflict of interest involving family ties.

The next Planning Board meeting is scheduled for April 3, 2019 at 7pm.

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