September 30, 2014
Special meeting to continue review of Costco FEIS
Attending: John Savoca, Darlene Rivera, John Kincart, Richard Fon
The board completed its review of the FEIS and expects to vote to “accept” it as complete at its October 6th meeting.
Prior to commencing the review, the board discussed how to handle comments that raised issues that had not been identified earlier. The question was being asked hypothetically. The board’s attorney, Lisa Hochman, explained that although the initial scoping session that identified what was to be included in the DEIS was supposed to be finite, if a “new” issue was determined to be significant, then it could be looked at. In reviewing the FEIS, she said, the board should be more concerned about comments at the DEIS hearing that had not been addressed.
Mr. Fon noted that if the board felt that the FEIS did not adequately respond to a comment, that determination could be noted in the board’s Findings Statement.
On most of the FEIS chapters, such as utilities, noise, and air quality, there were no substantive discussions. On traffic, the board indicated that it would like more traffic counts for portions of Connecticut that might be considered to be in the market area, as well as more information of potential traffic delays along Route 202. Regarding the latter, it was noted that the need for signal changes could be made a condition in the Findings Statement, although any such changes would need DOT approval. It was also noted that with the new BJs application for gas pumps, the traffic generation numbers of Costco would likely be different.
On the issue of police services, the board noted it needed an update on current department staffing levels.
On the issue of the impact of Costco on other businesses, the board said that this issue was beyond its scope of consideration and Mr. Tegeder added except to the extent that Costco might have an adverse impact on other businesses along Route 202 which might go out of business and create a blight situation along the road. Mr. Fon, citing the new development applications in the Bear Mountain Triangle area, noted that Costco’s impact on Route 202 was likely to have the opposite impact.
In the chapter discussing alternatives to the current plan, the board agreed that something needed to be included in the Findings Statement dealing with either eliminating the gas pumping operation from the plan or mitigating its adverse impacts. It also agreed that evaluating some alternative development options, such as a hotel, were beyond the applicant’s capabilities.
Citing the noise and dust associated with blasting, Mr. Kincart saw no merit to the underground parking alternative although Mr. Fon said he felt that a temporary inconvenience was sometimes worth a permanent convenience.
In the growth inducing chapter, the impact of the proposed Crompond Terraces plan was discussed and although that plan, which involves rezoning, is still in the preliminary stages and subject to change, Ms. Hochman advised the board that there should be some mention of the proposal.
On the issue of segmentation and the potential for a lawsuit, Ms. Hochman said that the cumulative impact of other development had been looked at and while the segmentation issue had been raised at the DEIS hearing, she said the FEIS adequately refuted the argument. Costco and the potential Stateland project are not components of the same project, she said.
As a general statement, Mr. Fon noted that the comments of the professionals hired by the citizens had made a significant impact on changes that Costco had made to its original plan.
Based on a discussion at the end of the meeting, the following procedures were outlined.
1, After accepting the FEIS as complete at its October 6 meeting, the board will leave open a period for written comments, with a minimum of 10 days.
2. The board has a maximum of 30 days – which can be extended – to submit its Findings Statement. (It was not clear if the 30 days is from when it voted to accept the FEIS or from the close of the written comment period.)
3. In the Findings Statement the board can flag certain issues it believes need to be looked at more closely at the site plan review stage.
4. Ms. Hochman advised the board to take a “wait and see” approach to how it might handle the written comments and the impact those comments might have on the Findings Statement. As expressed by Mr. Savoca, there was concern of not opening a Pandora’s Box; the process, he said, has to be finite at some point.