Re-re-re-review, but no vote yet on GRJH

COPAKE—A decision on the GRJH, Inc. application to build a gas station/convenience store in Craryville may happen in the foreseeable future.

The matter is before the Copake Planning Board for site plan review. At the board’s December 5 meeting, a majority of board members voted to finally close the public hearing that has been lingering for more than two years.

The site for the controversial proposal is on the northwest corner of the state Route 23, county Route 7 and Craryville Road four-way intersection, between the Craryville Post Office to the west and the Craryville United Methodist Church to the east. Craryville is a hamlet in the northwest part of the Town of Copake.

GRJH President Alicia Metz told the board at the meeting that she had submitted answers to questions about the project’s Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) asked for by Save Craryville last month.

Save Craryville is the grassroots coalition opposing the project.

Planning Board Chairman Bob Haight acknowledged receipt of the answers and said he sent them out to everyone. The answers were provided by GRJH engineer, Steven E. Smith, PE, and Ms. Metz noted that no changes to the plan were made.

Hillsdale resident Michael Dvorchak spoke during the public hearing on behalf of Save Craryville, reading portions of a letter from Zarin and Steinmetz, attorneys for Save Craryville, into the record.

The letter brought up issues related to:

* The need for an adequate soil remediation plan

* A request for a record of GRJH soil testing results and statement regarding future soil testing

* Improper testimony from GRJH’s geologist at the November meeting

* Unreasonable rules regarding filming and recording of public board meetings

* Lack of transparency with respect to documents relied upon during board meetings

* Non-conforming northeast driveway set-back.

After the board said it had no further questions or requests of the applicant, Mr. Haight deemed the application complete and moved that the public hearing on the GRJH project be closed “for good.” The public hearing has been opened since November 2, 2017. The motion was seconded by board member Steve Savarese.

Board member Jon Urban said the public should be given one month’s notice prior to the closing of the public hearing. He said that at every meeting things have arisen that the board would not have known about had it not been for the public hearing. He said the board should not just close the hearing “arbitrarily,” the application is unlike any other that has come before the board previously.

“We’ve come this far, we should go the extra bit” and say the hearing will close next month, Mr. Urban said.

“I think we have gone that extra mile” countered Mr. Haight. He said the board had never before given advance notice on when a public hearing would close.

Board member Ed Sawchuk agreed with Mr. Urban, saying, “We can’t go wrong by giving notice.” It would be “prudent and in keeping with the process,” he added.

After further discussion, Mr. Haight amended his motion to close the oral public hearing, but to continue to accept written submissions until December 15.

During a roll call vote on the motion, Mr. Haight, Mr. Savarese, Marcia Becker and Julie Cohen all voted “yes.” Mr. Urban and Mr. Sawchuk voted “no.” Chris Grant was absent.

With regard to soil contamination dating back about 50 years that was recently discovered at the site and brought to light at the November meeting, Mr. Haight noted that the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will oversee the soil remediation and the town’s building inspector should be made aware of it so he can make sure the applicant has complied.

Ms. Metz said the DEC and GRJH “tech people” will agree upon a remediation plan that may involve removing the soil or treating it in some way.

Ms. Metz said that GRJH Hydrogeologist Jean Patota had contacted the Department of Health (DOH) about testing the well water of any neighbor who wanted it done, but DOH will wait until the remediation plan is in place.

She said the DEC has asked for all the soil sample testing results and ground penetrating radar results so it can re-review everything.

Mr. Haight suggested that the board may be ready to vote next month. The board would normally be under a 30-day time constraint to vote once the public hearing is closed, but the applicant has waived that requirement, Mr. Haight said in a follow-up phone call this week.

Town Attorney Ken Dow told the board at the meeting that it will have “to go through a lot of stuff to see if you are in a position to reach consensus.”

The board’s next meeting is January 2 at 7 p.m.

To contact Diane Valden email

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