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Amenia Hills proposal not ready for board decision

AMENIA — Consultant Michael Klemens spoke to the Amenia Planning Board on Thursday, June 23, about the proposed Amenia Hills project.Based on his findings, Klemens said that he would not recommend that the board approve the project at this time.Klemens said the Amenia Hills development does not meet the best practices in protecting the bog turtle, which is an endangered species that makes its home in the area. Much of the development would lie within the 300-foot buffer zone around the wetlands where the bog turtles live. Klemens says that the Fish and Wildlife Service has become more stringent about preventing anyone from building in that buffer zone.Klemens also noted that nearly all of the studies done for the project are now almost a decade old. Those studies will need to be redone to ensure the planning board members have the most accurate and up-to-date information before they make their decision.Other new factors will need to be taken into account as well. Since the project was first proposed, the area has seen changes in its local climate, particularly in its flooding patterns.Bob Burns, a consultant for Dvirka & Bartilucci, spoke about the project’s plans to dig wells on the property. He said that 72-hour tests on the wells showed a “draw down” effect on only the supply well, which was located 100 feet away from the wetlands.Burns maintains that the static water level of the underground aquifer is 80 feet below the surface. He said that the soil has low permeability, which means that it retains water on top, effectively separating the surface water from the aquifer from which the wells would pull water.Burns said that this would satisfy the Department of Environmental Conservation’s regulations about the impact and the draw-down effect of the wells.Klemens responded to this by saying, “Something isn’t adding up for me.” He said he wants tests done to prove that the surface water and the aquifer are completely separate and isolated from one another.Town Attorney Michael Hayes said that this does not make the land unbuildable, but it will need to be addressed before the proposal application can move forward.

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