Motocross Environmental Impact Statement Not Yet Adequate
by David Flint
Howard Commander’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement for his proposed Motocross park was deemed not yet adequate for public review by the Stephentown Zoning Board of Appeals at their meeting on August 2. The Board accepted a recommendation from their consulting engineer, Michael Bianchino of Clough Harbour Associates (CHA), who had reviewed the DEIS and found a number of areas lacking sufficient information. [private]Commander’s engineer, Patrick Prendergast, said that he and his noise consultant, Thomas Baird, would meet with Bianchino to go over his list of deficiencies item by item in order to make sure they supply all the information requested to his satisfaction. Board Chairman Roland Barth said that as soon as agreement is reached the Board could hold a special meeting to accept the DEIS as complete and start the 30 day public comment period.
The ZBA had earlier made a positive declaration that the project would have significant environmental impact in two areas, noise and changing the character of the neighborhood. Bianchino’s final scoping document for the DEIS was based also on public comment both written and received at a public hearing. In the submitted DEIS he found deficiencies of information or discussion in a number of areas including groundwater resources and floodplain impact, vegetation, wildlife, existing surrounding land use, conflicts with nearby residential uses, need and justification for a use variance and impact on agricultural land, emergency services, traffic and air quality. He also wanted discussion of whether additional archeological survey work might be needed since the proposed map location of the track had been moved.
The scoping document required that the DEIS address possible alternatives to the site or to the layout of the project. Bianchino wanted to see the identified impacts compared in each of the possible alternatives. He also requested discussion of the development potential of other lands that Commander owns in the vicinity of the proposed project.
The Board also received a letter from Nancy Baker at the State Department of Environmental Conservation commenting on the DEIS. Baker noted that the project had changed significantly since she saw it last. She appreciated that the race track had been moved outside of the wetland and its adjacent area. She was concerned, however, that, “Certain of the new elements added to the project to mitigate noise impacts are within 100 feet of the wetland boundary and will require a wetland permit, including paving of the access road and construction of a berm. In addition, since the ‘pit area parking’ is not clearly delineated, it is unclear as to whether this too is within the adjacent area of the wetland.”
CALM In Opposition
Lewis Oliver, attorney for the Citizens Against Lebanon Valley Motocross (CALM), submitted a 15 page document regarding completeness of the DEIS. The comments go into great detail as to why the noise study that was done was inadequate. Backing up this contention, Oliver included a 4 page document from CALM’s noise expert, Novus Engineering.
Also considered inadequate is the analysis of traffic and parking, the storm water pollution prevention system prepared before the track was relocated and the discussion of the character of the community. The comments also discuss in detail how the DEIS fails to address the adverse financial impact on homeowners and the Town, the violation of the 25 foot minimum side yard setback, alternative sites and the “cumulative and long-term impacts of progressive intrusion of commercial and industrial projects into the residentially zoned area.”
Regarding alternative sites, Oliver wrote that, “The DEIS concludes simply that there are no other alternative sites available because they are being put to other uses. We believe this is not true. There are a number of sufficiently large parcels, either separately or in conglomerate, which have been unused for years and are vacant. This includes the vacant parcels Mr. Commander controls toward the eastern end of the drag strip…The DEIS fails to take a hard look at this issue.”[/private]