Letters To the Editor – Setting the Record Straight on the East Parcel in SH
To the Editor,
Thank you for the opportunity to respond to recently published comments regarding the redevelopment of the “East Parcel” of the former General Motors assembly plant in Sleepy Hollow.
As Lead Agency in this matter, the Sleepy Hollow Local Development Corporation (SHLDC) will include and respond to all public comments made or submitted during the Public Hearings as part of a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) on this project. That is the appropriate forum to analyze and discuss these matters in detail and we expect to publish that document within the next ninety days or so. However, we would like to share the following overview to better inform the public.
The Village of Sleepy Hollow established the SHLDC in 2014. An important aspect of the SHLDC mission is to accept title to lands conveyed to it by or through the Village, and develop those properties in accordance with Village wishes. The East Parcel was the first such property to be conveyed.
This property was part of a multi-year, environmental impact assessment review process conducted pursuant to the SEQRA, initiated by GM as it sought to redevelop the former assembly plant and adjacent parking lots. That SEQRA review resulted in the preparation of the Lighthouse Landing Findings Statement in 2007, but concluded with the issuance of legal decisions by Justice Hubert of the New York State Supreme Court (2010), followed by the subsequent issuance of the Lighthouse Landing Amended Findings Statement and a Special Permit (2011) by the Village of Sleepy Hollow Board of Trustees. That process also included reviews by the Board of Trustees, the Village Planning Board, and the Village Waterfront Advisory Committee of the intended uses of the East Parcel for consistency with Village of Sleepy Hollow zoning code and, in particular, the Village’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Program (LWRP). Together with the 2002 legal settlement of a prior lawsuit between the Village and GM requiring, among other things, that the Village abide by the site contamination mitigation measures set forth by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, these legal documents inform, and to some extent, define and limit subsequent steps in the redevelopment of the East Parcel property.
Despite the fact that current conceptual plans include few substantive changes to the original intended uses for the East Parcel, based on sound legal advice, the SHLDC took the conservative approach of initiating a subsequent SEQRA review in late 2015. We are presently in the middle of that process with the recent preparation of the East Parcel Redevelopment Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). It was the DEIS and subsequent public hearings that prompted Public Comments, some of which were shared with local press prior to SHLDC analysis and response.
We can assure the public that a more thorough analysis and discussion of all issues raised by these Public Comments will be included in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), but there are two important misrepresentations of fact, which require an immediate response.
It has been argued that insufficient attention has been paid to the Pocantico River Estuary requirements found in the 2007 Findings. We can only assume that those making such arguments are unaware that in 2010, Judge Hubert of the NYS Supreme Court ordered those requirements stricken from the Findings, holding that “they did not serve to mitigate any potentially adverse environmental impacts caused by the project.” Still, it should be noted that the SHLDC commissioned extensive hydrological studies to better understand the flooding impact of the Pocantico River on the site, as well as to determine the accuracy of published FEMA flood maps. The results of those studies, which are included in the DEIS, informed our recommendations for location and site levels for proposed uses.
It has also been asserted that the project must turn over eight-plus acres to Historic Hudson Valley (HHV) for use as a “Tenant Farm” contemplated in the 2007 Findings Statement. It is worth noting that HHV, while submitting Public Comment for the record, made no such demand. Again, we can only assume that those making these assertions are unaware that in 2013, the NYSDEC Site Management Plan was issued and states that it will “not allow the Site to be used for planting fruit-bearing trees, raising livestock or producing animal products for human consumption.“ That determination, along with changing program needs at HHV, led to a change in proposed use, increasing shared parking capacity on the East Parcel site, a permitted use and one being examined in the current review process.
The SEQRA process itself is not required to produce a final site plan for a given development- that will be governed by the review process to be completed by the Village Planning Board. Instead, it is intended to determine the maximum scope of the proposed redevelopment use; develop a conceptual plan for that use; identify potential significant adverse environmental impacts, if any, associated with the proposed redevelopment use; and identify mitigating measures that would reduce those potential impacts to the maximum extent practicable. The SHLDC is committed to accomplishing these objectives with complete transparency and fidelity to the law.
Board of Directors
Sleepy Hollow Local Development Corporation
Sleepy Hollow, New York