Feb. 10, 2010: Subdivision should not be allowed

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Editor’s note: The following letter was written to the Town of Middletown Planning Board. The author asked that it be printed here as a letter to the editor.

To The Editor:
Reference: Application of Manuel Ramirez to create a five-lot subdivision on Brush Ridge Road in the Town of Middletown. I am writing to express my substantial concern about the Town of Middletown granting approval of the subdivision plan. My concerns are both as a neighbor and as an environmental professional. They are as follows:
I. Neighbor concerns
a. View shed impacts and noise and light pollution – My property looks directly up to Brush Ridge Road and the construction and use of five new houses will undoubtedly affect the enjoyment of my home and land.
b. Available drinking water – The construction of what are likely to be five new luxury homes potentially with pools, hot tubs and other water using appliances will likely draw substantial water from the local aquifer. In previous development proposals, notably a project planned for the top of Munka Hill, concerns were raised by qualified professionals that the aquifer may not be able to support numerous additional water users.
c. Community character – Currently the area has a decidedly rural character. Five new homes closely clustered will create a far less appealing suburban look and feel to the community.
II. Environmental concerns
a. Steep topography and immediate proximity to a critically valuable water body – Mr. Ramirez’s land is characterized by thick forest cover, steep slopes leading down into Townsend Hollow and close proximity to the Emory Brook and associated wetlands. The Emory Brook is currently a high quality trout stream that eventually feeds into the East Branch of the Delaware River, a critical element of the New York City water supply system serving nine million people. The wetlands created by this meandering stream are extensive, varied and unique. Expansive and potentially poorly planned and managed development and active use by individuals with little understanding and concern for water quality could result in substantial impact to these resources. This could include haphazard removal of forest cover and sediment and pollutant loading to the stream and wetlands, negatively impacting this valuable and unique environmental asset and the associated ecosystem services that it provides (including: high quality water; trout spawning habitat and habitat for numerous other species; beautiful aesthetic qualities; etc.).
Because of the importance of this resource, the City of New York has acquired acreage further down stream on the Emory Brook. As a 21-year resident of Middletown, let me stress here that the fact that the city has acquired land in this hollow should not be taken as a signal that unfettered development should be allowed in other areas to counter balance the city’s economic impact. Instead, it should be taken as a signal that local players have a similar obligation to assure that economic activity has a minimal impact on a natural environment that doesn’t just provide water for distant users, but also sustains our lives and well-being here in the Catskills.
I urge that the Building and Zoning Board and the Town of Middletown give great weight to the concerns presented in this letter. I urge you to consider scaling back the number of lots permitted in this subdivision and placing restrictions on how this land can be developed. As important stewards of our land and planners of our community, your obligation is not merely to facilitate construction projects (which albeit provide jobs and tax revenue in these difficult economic times), but also to assure that the unique quality of life for existing residents and high quality of our natural environment is preserved and enhanced into the future. To this end, please also note that I pay taxes, support (with great intent) local businesses, and contribute to community charities and other causes and, therefore, my concerns should not be viewed as insignificant.

Jeffrey Potent,
Highmount