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Special meeting set for Silo Ridge environmental review


AMENIA — The Planning Board has scheduled a special meeting on the draft Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Silo Ridge Country Club’s proposed expansion plan for Tuesday, Sept. 16, at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.

The meeting was set after the board discussed the FEIS at length with representatives of the country club during its meeting Sept. 4.

It is possible that the Planning Board could approve the FEIS as complete during the special meeting. Once deemed complete by the board, the FEIS will be made available for viewing by the public.

Representatives from the country club suggested that after the Planning Board approves the FEIS as complete, instead of a public hearing on the FEIS, the club hold a public presentation on it. The board would accept written comments on the presentation afterward for up to 30 days. Normally, the board would hold a public hearing.

"There is no express authority in SEQRA [State Environmental Quality Review Act] for there to be a public hearing on the FEIS, but some lead agencies have done that," Attorney to the Town Michael Hayes said. "SEQRA does allow for a public comment period, but you are under no obligation for a public hearing."

The board agreed with the country club's request, which did not sit well with resident Laurence Levin, who accused the board of not taking previous written comments made about the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) into consideration.

"I assume that you will get hundreds of pages of letters [of public comments]," Levin said.

"But they will all be the same ones," board member Bill Flood said, interrupting Levin. Earlier in the meeting, Flood said that many of the written comments made about the DEIS were repetitive.

"No, they won’t be repetitive because people have many things they want to talk about," Levin said. "I submit that people wouldn’t want to read 50 pages of memos even from Michael Hayes. A public hearing would at least give an opportunity to listen to our voices. If we write letters, it would not be read [by the board]."

"I think you may assume that we are acting in good faith," Planning Board Chairman George Fenn told Levin. "This is part of the process — to read those letters. I don’t enjoy reading mountains of DEIS material either, but I do it."

Friends for a Better Amenia (FBA) member Steve Benardete told the board that any determination on the FEIS may be premature until the board reads and considers recently submitted letters from attorney John Lyons, Dutchess County Land Conservancy President Rebecca Thornton and Chairman of the Amenia Conservation Advisory Council Dave Reagon.

Lyons, who works for Grant & Lyons, LLP from New York City and Rhinebeck, was hired by the newly formed citizen activism group, FBA. He submitted a memorandum of comment on behalf of FBA on Aug. 25, citing the group's issues with the Silo Ridge application process.

"I haven’t heard any mention or discussion on those letters," Benardete said, referring back to letters written by the public regarding the project. "I was just wondering if anyone had any comment."

A majority of the board said they had only recently received the letters and had not had an opportunity to review them.

However, Hayes said he read the letter written by Lyons, in which Lyons wrote that, in his opinion, there were "... significant substantive inadequacies in the environmental review thus far, corroborated by the record, in particular with regard to the review of visual and community character impacts."

"I’m comfortable with the process that [the board] has been following," Hayes told Benardete.

Benardete still insisted that it would be premature for the board to determine the FEIS as complete.

"Just speaking about what was written by [Lyons], I just want to say that I don’t view that as a public comment but rather as stern advice onto the board on what he deems to be deficiencies in the process," Benardete said. "I would encourage the board, and the applicant as well, to consider the issues that he raised in order not to expose the Planning Board to any kind of legal action."

When asked by the board who the members are of the group, Benardete did not give a direct answer. Levin's name, however, was included in an e-mail sent on behalf of FBA, informing the board and the media of the memorandum of comment.

If approved as presented, the proposed development will add 328 townhouse units, 41 single-family homes, one resort hotel with a total of up to 320 rooms, banquet space, two restaurants, conference space and a spa to the resort. A winery-themed restaurant and a wastewater treatment plant are also part of the country club’s expansion plans.

Because the FEIS is still under review by the Planning Board, it has not been made available to the public.

The Draft Environmental Impact Study (DEIS) is available for public review at the Amenia Town Hall and the Amenia Free Library. It is also available for download on the town’s Web site, www.ameniany.gov.

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