White Lake Mansion House SmART Statements & Comments
A Message From SmART:
WHITE LAKE MANSION HOUSE: NEW DEVELOPMENT PROPOSAL
Continuation of the 1/9/23 public hearing on site plan approval – February 6th, 7:30 pm at the Duggan School Town meeting room: 3454 St. Rt. 55, White Lake, NY 12786*
The size and scale of the project proposed for the corner of Rt.17B and State Rt. 55 is enormous. The rendering (see below) submitted as part of the application for site plan approval illustrates a proposal that is not only massive, but its "community character" is out of scale with its rural surroundings. Ten years ago, in 2013, a similar project was approved, with specific variances at this same site. With the exception of the variances, those approvals have expired. The Planning Board has determined correctly that the proposal before it now, by law, must be considered a NEW application. We ask that the Planning Board slow the process down and treat the application like any development proposal in its infancy.
For reasons that are not clear, we, along with the Planning Board are currently in the middle of a public hearing for a site plan approval on this project. There are additional reviews required, possible studies needed, and information about the site plan itself that must be very seriously considered by not only the Bethel Planning Board, but by the NY State Department of Transportation, the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation, the NY State Board of Health. All of this is necessary prior to arriving at the point of a thorough public hearing on the project’s site plan.
Issues involved include, but are not limited to:
• A thorough and necessary “Hard Look” required by the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA). Is there the potential for at least one significant major impact? If that potential exists, the project is most likely a "Type 1 Action” that requires a higher level of scrutiny. Who will be the "Lead Agency” to facilitate the process; evaluate the potential impacts and study which ones may or may not be able to be mitigated? If so, what is or what are, these impacts, what type of study on the part of qualified professionals will be required?
• A thorough review of the comments made by the Sullivan County Division of Planning and the incorporation of these comments as part of the required 239 Municipal Review. (As of now, the County considers its review incomplete.)
• The project’s proposed use of Bethel’s sewer district and the district's capacity is critical to understand and evaluate. What effect will this project have on the Town’s sewer treatment facility and its effectiveness? (The effluent from the sewer treatment plant flows through White Lake Brook and into Smallwood’s lake, aka Mountain Lake. Mountain Lake and its ecosystem are already under great stress from unregulated discharge into the lake from Smallwood and the immediate surrounding area. Additionally, there are problems related to the sewer district that are, in part, connected to the high nutrient content and toxic cyanobacteria and E Coli in Mountain Lake.)
• Traffic and road safety along the Rt. 17B corridor. Rt. 17B is the gateway to Pennsylvania, the Delaware River corridor, Bethel Woods, the Kauneonga business district, and the western end of the County. It is the busiest and one of the most dangerous roads/highways in the region other than State Rt. 17 east and west. There have been, and will continue to be, fatal accidents on this highway in Bethel and, at and around the five entrances to the densely populated Hamlet of Smallwood.
• Ingress and egress at the intersection of State Rt. 17B and State Rt. 55/aka County Rd. 13 is a very serious concern. The NY State Dept. of Transportation’s comments must be considered now, and potential traffic impacts genuinely studied and not put off until after a site plan approval.
• A clear and approved stormwater prevention plan should be in place and be part of understanding the project’s site plan and in turn, the potential impacts of the overall build-out and intensity of use of the land.
• Bethel and the world beyond were VERY different places when the previously approved project for the Mansion House property was brought before the Planning Board by a different developer, who more than ten years ago participated in the planning process and the creation of a plan before receiving approval, unlike the current applicant, who is unidentified at this time. Certainly, ten years after the 2013 approvals, things are different in Bethel with regard to real estate pressure, second home ownership, traffic and road safety, transient short-term rentals, and issues related to flooding and stormwater runoff due to global warming and other variables.
• There is still not enough information available to the Planning Board and the public for this development proposal and its intensity of use to be properly evaluated.
• The Planning Board is obligated to follow Bethel’s established laws, NY State law, and Federal law. And while the Planning Board has obligations under the law to those who wish to develop land in our town, the Board also has significant discretion regarding the manner in which it both conducts its reviews of applications and permits projects under Bethel’s zoning. For this reason and the reasons stated above, the best outcome for this public hearing would be for the Planning Board to close the public hearing, deny this application, and encourage the developer begin again with much, much more information on the table.
*Attending this meeting to watch the deliberations or deliver a comment at the public hearing can only be done in person. No headway has been made in convincing the Planning Board or the Town Board that it is in the best interests of the Town of Bethel, its Planning Board, and its residents to make Planning Board meetings available to the public via some form of internet broadcasting such as Zoom or YouTube.