Special Meeting on Costco SEQRA Findings Statement
December 15, 2014
Attending: John Kincart, John Savoca, Richard Fon, John Flynn, Darlene Rivera
Prior to the discussion on the Findings Statement, Mr. Fon read out a December 5 email from the NYS Watershed Inspector General’s office stating the all the office’s concern have been satisfactorily addressed and requesting that the applicant submit a revised stormwater plan (SWPP).
After more than two hours of discussion editing the substance and grammar of a 71 page (plus appendices) draft Findings Statement, the board unanimously adopted the Findings Statement bringing to an end the SEQRA review process that identified the project’s potential adverse impacts and how they would be mitigated.
Among the issues discussed were:
1. The Findings Statement notwithstanding, theboard still have the flexibility to request changes in the site plan as long as the changes do not introduce a new impact or add to an existing impact. Changes that reduce an impact present no problem.
2. Open space. The Comprehensive Plan includes a statement about the goal of 30% of a commercial site being left as open space although there is nothing in the Zoning Ordinance that requires this. When it was pointed out that the Costco plan states that only 24% of the site will remain “undisturbed” open space, the equivalent of about 1.13 acres, a Costco representative said that an additional 5+acres of “disturbed” land will be re-landscaped and remain green, thereby exceeding the 30% figure.
3. Noise and visual Impact on FDR park. Although it was noted that the park is not an abutting property, because a considerable portion of the traffic to the site will be coming from the Taconic Parkway, Mr. Flynn was concerned about the increase in the noise level at those parts of the park closest to the parkway. In response, a Costco representative pointed out that the noise level from the estimated 1,000 cars a day, as measured in decibels, would be insignificant. As for the visual impact, it was agreed that the Costco building would be visible from one area of the park. But, it was also agreed that the impact could be mitigated with landscaping requirements that would be part of the site plan review.
4. Gas station. It was agreed that there would be an attendant at the station at all times, that the attendant would have the proper training and that all equipment and materials needed to deal with potential spills would be located at the gas station facility. The fueling facility will only be available to Costco members, a provision that was one of the measures designed to mitigate (lessen) the potential traffic impact.
5. Hire local residents. This provision, which Costco had earlier volunteered to include in its application, was eliminated from the Findings Statement as it was agreed that it was most likely illegal.
7. Other improvements. The board added a “wish list” of improvements that it would like Costco to consider. The list included: a bus loop linking Costco the the Staples Center, a charging station for electric cards, additional work to remove invasive species, a link to FDR Park and the North County Trailway, and relocating a mid-1880s farmhouse that while having no historic value would be valuable to keep.
8. The old motel site. While all agreed that the Costco plan that will demolish the derelict building was a “positive,” it was pointed out that had the town enforced existing town codes, the building issue could have been/should have been addressed even without a Costco plan.
9. Taxes. The wording that the Costco plan would generate “additional” tax revenue was modified to reflect Mr. Flynn’s concern that any additional property tax revenue generated by Costco might be offset by the loss of property tax revenue from existing businesses that went out of business because of Costco.
10. Alternative development plans. In what board attorney Lisa Hochman called the “crux” of the Findings Statement, the board looked at the Statement’s alternative development options (the only one discussed to any extent was the “no gas station” option) and following the advice of counsel, decided to follow the language of the SEQRA regulation that loosely states that the proposed Costco is one alternative that avoids or minimizes adverse environmental impacts to the maximum extent practicable. As explained by the Costco attorney, SEQRA did not require the board to pick a preferred alternative or to compare the alternatives.