Public needs to stay engaged in Greens of Chester review
To the Editor:
At a time when Chester has one of the biggest development projects they have seen in decades breaking ground, it is essential for information to be shared between town board members, consultants, department heads, involved agencies and the public, in a timely manner.
As a volunteer for local non-profit, The Preservation Collective Inc., I have been asking questions at the town board meetings. This has included concerns about the adequacy of the planned water supply to service the project and impacts on nearby homeowners given that the studies are outdated.
After learning that the county reached out to the State Department of Health (DOH) over the summer looking for updated water availability and quality reports, I assumed the town was getting involved in this procedure and would have information to share. Instead, I was directed to contact those agencies because the town board did not feel it was their responsibility at that time. After researching the correspondence between the two DOH agencies, I then shared information I had at the Sept. 12 town board meeting because I think it was important that everyone is aware that the State DOH is requiring a resubmittal of the Greens at Chester application due to changes in regulations and design standards over the years as well as due to the amount of growth in the area impacting resources.
Upon further research, it turns out the State did copy the town supervisor on a letter dated Aug. 3 detailing their application request of the Greens, but no such letter had been discussed at subsequent town board meetings. In fact, the letter was not in the town files nor received by the town clerk and distributed internally until Sept. 26, the same day I submitted a FOIL request. It was finally read into the record that night of the town board meeting.
The public’s confidence in the town to oversee inspections and other potential issues has been under question due to the magnitude of the project although recent town citation of stormwater runoff violations have occurred. However, any significant delays in taking action on such things as the state’s review of the water quality and quantity testing could be troublesome. We are thankful once the town’s water engineer was made aware of new groundwater well studies to take place by DOH, he strongly suggested the town’s involvement and readiness to review in protecting homeowners within the area as well as the future homeowners that will reside in the Greens at Chester homes.
We can all agree drinking water is one of the most precious and irreplaceable resources. Before any new development is built, it should be verified to meet the needs of the planned population growth without compromising the water supply of existing residents. We encourage all those with private groundwater wells in the vicinity of this new major development project to stay abreast of the studies and if requested, to participate in the off-site well monitoring.
We recognize the town board is tackling a variety of issues. Our organization would like to see that any significant negative environmental impacts from new development are avoided and adequately mitigated. The public needs to stay engaged as Chester faces new challenges in accommodating new growth while protecting important resources to the community.
Tracy Schuh, President
The Preservation Coillective
The Preservation Collective is a local non-profit supporting public involvement.