Fleischmanns tank plan meets fierce opposition

 

 

Need for water tank questioned at meeting; cost issue also raised

 

By Matthew J. Perry

The Village of Fleishmanns has applied for a special use permit to build a water tower on a hill above the village, but a pair of angry residents are saying, ‘not so fast.’  

On Thursday the Middletown Planning Board sat through a presentation by Delaware Engineering that seemed to outline a straightforward project initiated by a Department of Health mandate.  

Emergency source

According to Alan Tavenner, DE’s representative, the village relies on a 200,000-gallon reservoir of unchlorinated water, and needs an extra facility in the event of emergency or unusually high usage during summer months.  After considering a number of sites on elevations above but not distant from the village, roughly a quarter-acre on the property of Arnold and Roslyn Bernstein, off Paradise Camp Road, was selected for a 99-year easement.  There, at an elevation of 1,660 feet, the village proposes to construct a 30-foot high, 325,000-gallon tank, a full 200 feet uphill from the nearest residence.

But that residence, the only one on Paradise Camp Road,  belongs to David Schneider-man and Anita Rubin. They envision a “massive eyesore” that will have a negative impact on real estate values, theirs most of all.  After Tavenner concluded his presentation, they marshaled a force of one engineer, two lawyers and two prepared statements that implored the planning board to deny the village’s application.  

The engineer, J.M. Michaels, questioned the reasons for building a storage tank, construction procedures, and even the projected and actual figures of water usage in the village.  Attorney Kenneth Ayers then tried to blast holes in the village’s paperwork, raising issue with environmental assessment forms (EAF), questioning whether the village or Bernstein was the proper applicant, and concluding that “any special permit . . .should mitigate the potential harmful impacts to nearby residential property by imposing specific conditions consistent with the stated objectives and requirements of the Mid-      dletown Zoning Ordinance.”  

Specifics requested by Rubin and Schneiderman include maintenance of a tree line screen for the duration of the easement, fencing and signage to discourage vandalism, and assurance that the wording of the easement will not be altered.  This last condition speaks to a stipulation that would allow, after 30 years, for increasing the volume of the tank to one million gallons.  The question of why a village with a peak usage of 280,000 gallons would need such a copious reserve was raised repeatedly.  The possible expansion of the village’s population, presently 457, seemed to be the answer; Michaels speculated that the village might hope to sell water to an outside concern in the future.  

The planning board listened attentively and ultimately tabled the application until next month’s meeting.  Fleishmanns was instructed to produce SEQR updates, a maintenance agreement for Paradise Camp Road, and copies of the DOH mandate.  Board members determined that they also needed to visit the site themselves before making a final decision on the application.

The public hearing was often a testy affair, with Ayers and Ed Kaplan, attorney for Fleishmanns, displaying annoyance and impatience with each other.  Both Rubin and Schneiderman indicated that village authorities had not been forthright about their intentions over the past two years, an accusation strongly denied by Kaplan and Tavenner. Ayers questioned the validity of the DOH mandate, and challenged Fleishmanns to produce documented proof of its existence.

“Give me your address,” Tavenner replied tersely.

 Kaplan assured the board that everything requested to mitigate the impact of the tank would be granted to Rubin and Schneiderman.  He also reminded the gathering that the tank would be paid for with village water rents, and would not impact the greater Town of Middletown.  

Fleishmanns would receive a $1.3 million matching grant from New York State, according to Kaplan, with low-interest loans covering the balance of the expenses.  At its essence, the village’s argument was that the tank would be obscured, not an eyesore, and a necessity.

“I don’t think I’d find it offensive,” Kaplan said of the tank.  “We need to put a tank somewhere.”  Referring to Rubin and Mr. Schneiderman’s home, he tried to put the project in a favorable perspective.  “The house is bigger than the tank will be,” he said.