Town of Washington Planning Board Expresses Concerns About Hudsonia
August 07, 2007
The Option, But Not The ObligationAt it's August 7, 2007 meeting, the Town of Washington Planning Board continued to express its concerns about possible loss of autonomy. At a prior meeting it was the affect of the Greenway Compact guidelines, and now it's the role of the Hudsonia Study and Maps in the review process.
Chairman Tom Beaumont used such terms as "nothing concrete" and "subject to abuse" when referring to the SIGNIFICANT HABITATS IN THE TOWN OF WASHINGTON 1. study and the supporting 2004 maps done by Hudsonia 2.. He felt the Planning Board should have the option, but not the obligation, to use them in matters involving environmental concerns. He did not want to be a required to use it as a part of the application approval process.
In other words, Chairman Beaumont feels that if a project comes before the Board and the Hudsonia Manual and Maps of the Town of Washington indicate a potential environmentally sensitive area, the applicant and the Planning Board should not be obligated to address that in its review. Rather than having it formalized as part of the review process, he indicated that the Planning Board should have the option to use it only "as it sees fit." The Planning Board itself would decide what is significant and what is not.
If considering habitat were required as part of the review process, an applicant would have to include a section in the subdivision and site plan submission that would assess the existing environmental conditions, identify any areas of ecological sensitivity, and determine what the impact of the proposed development will be. The Hudsonia Study and Maps would help identify and locate the habitat that would be under review.
Typical areas normally included in this type of assessment are: water resources (including aquifers, streams, wetlands, and vernal pools, whether or not they are protected by state or federal regulations) vegetation, soil types, elevation, aspect and slope (including rocky outcrops, steep slopes and ridgelines), wildlife of conservation concern.
During the public questions part of the meeting Chairman Beaumont elaborated on the Board's position regarding Hudsonia.
When asked to explain his concerns about Hudsonia, Beaumont characterized their findings as "Maybe; Maybe; Maybe," stating "What we want to do is not work with maybes. We want to know definitively." While saying that he was not opposed to Hudsonia "in theory," he did not want to be required to review by it because he felt "it was a tempting area for abuse."
When questioned about what harm could there be in acting in accordance with environmental concerns, Beaumont responded that "people can make allegations that there are certain species there that are endangered ... What it does is cause all kinds of problems in terms of bringing in biologists, wetlands experts, whatever, on something that is just used to delay and take up the Planning Board's time."
In response to a question about what happens if species get destroyed because it just as easy for someone to say that there is nothing there, Beaumont repeated his concern that it "was too easy for someone to just make something up."
Public Access to the Hudsonia Maps
It was noted that the Town of Stanford has its Hudsonia maps displayed in its Town Hall. When asked if our Hudsonia maps could be hung in our Town Hall so the public could see them, Beaumont replied, "The answer is no." He indicated that they were in the Planning Board office and available upon request.
Planning Board member James Shequine followed-up, giving the definitive answer to the map display issue by saying that the Planning Board room was also the Town's court house, and it was up to the judge, who happens to be his wife, if the maps could be displayed or not.
Feeling there was no need for further discussion, Chairman Beaumont closed the meeting.
To date, the maps are not publicly displayed in the Town Hall.
The Hudsonia Study is meant to be tool for proper planning
Hudsonia's scope is broad, as stated in their introduction to SIGNIFICANT HABITATS IN THE TOWN OF WASHINGTON,
"Rural landscapes in the Hudson Valley are undergoing rapid change as farms and forest are converted to residential and commercial development. The consequences of rapid land development include widespread habitat degradation, habitat fragmentation, and the loss of native biodiversity. Although many land use decisions in the region are necessarily made on a site-by-site basis, the long-term viability of biological communities, habitats, and ecosystems requires consideration of whole landscapes. Local land use planning and decision making can be improved if general biodiversity information is available for large areas, such as whole towns, watersheds, or counties."
Regarding accuracy, the Hudsonia maps are produced much in the same way and rely on much of the same data sets as many of the maps that the Town of Washington will use for its wetland ordinance, and are of comparable reliability. In addition Hudsonia extensively field checks its maps and will do periodic updates if requested.
1. SIGNIFICANT HABITATS IN THE TOWN OF WASHINGTON
"Hudsonia Ltd. conducted habitat identification and mapping in the Town of Washington between February 2003 and March 2004. We received funding for this project from the Millbrook Tribute Garden and the Dyson Foundation, and support from the Dutchess Land Conservancy, the Washington Town Board, Planning Board, and Conservation Advisory Council, and Town of Washington
Through map analysis, aerial photograph interpretation, and field observations, we created a large-scale map showing the location and configuration of ecologically significant habitats throughout the town. Some of these habitats are rare or declining in the region, while others
are high quality examples of common habitats and habitat complexes. In total, we identified 24 different kinds of habitats in the Town of Washington that we consider to be of potential ecological importance. These included widespread, common habitats, such as upland forest, upland meadow, marsh, and hardwood swamp, as well as more unusual habitats such as fens, kettle shrub pools, and a circumneutral bog lake. In this report, we describe some of the ecological attributes of each habitat, and discuss some conservation measures that can help to protect the habitats and the species of conservation concern they may support."
"Hudsonia's training programs, and the "Biodiversity Assessment Manual," were designed especially for members of municipal agencies, such as Conservation Advisory Councils and Planning Boards, staff of land trusts, and other individuals regularly engaged in deliberations and decisions that bear directly on protection or destruction of biodiversity resources in the region."