Developers appeared before the New Windsor Planning Board last month to present changes to a plan to build an apartment complex on an 11.6-acre site, east of Route 9W in the Plum Point area off Lafayette Drive.
Lafayette Ridge Apartments are slated to house 62 one, two and three-bedroom rentals near the Hudson River. Among other features, the development is expected to include three, 20-unit buildings, a smaller building with two units, parking, playground and a gazebo area.
A forced sewer main is planned to connect the development to the town sewer system.
Speaking before the New Windsor Planning Board in May, property owner Steve Michalski described the apartment complex as “higher-end rentals, targeting people that want to be in Cornwall School District.” When built, one-bedroom units will likely start out at about $1,500 per month, he said.
At a planning board meeting on Aug. 9, however, town officials expressed concern over the potential for erosion at the sloped site.
“We recommend an appropriate retaining wall be provided to cause stability in the fill on the roadway parking areas as well as result in a less steep slope,” town Planning Board Chairman Jerry Argenio said, reading from a letter written by board engineer Mark Edsall.
Edsall drove the point further. “We’re dealing with a situation we have experienced all along this area, parallel to the Hudson,” Edsall said.
“I hate to mention the name Plum Point, where we have actually had slides, significant slides in years past, where fill was placed on these slopes because of the ground water situations and the diverse soil conditions. We had a sheer plain failure that caused eight, nine feet of material to go from the top of Plum Point… and knock over a railroad car.”
“So, we’re not talking minor, this is California style, so we need to make sure, because of the very long history in this area, we need to make sure that we’re extremely conservative.”
“I agree that that would be a major concern having that wash out there,” said engineer Mark Siemers of Pietrzak and Pfau, speaking of two areas downhill of the buildings. “So, we have looked at what type of retaining wall it would take to hold that area back…”
At a public hearing in May, residents also expressed concerns about erosion and a range of potential issues. “You’re building on a cliff right here and now you’re taking away all the trees and all the vegetation that holds soil erosion,” said neighbor James Branath.
“We have lived there for 44 years,” Diane Turner said. “We have seen developers come, we have seen developers go. We have seen the main reasons for these developers going was because of the issue of the sink hole.”
Turner was referring to the same area downhill of the development. “You’re taking 12 acres that are attached to a park that we have coyote, bear, eagles and deer living there and now you’re taking this land and you’re decimating it because you’re taking all the trees out,” complained Paula Martino.
“Where do you guys expect that these animals are going to be able to go to? Because right now, as it is, we have bear walking through our back yard because we’re on the river and we have coyote walking in our back yard.”
Martino asked Argenio if a request could be made to have fencing put in that would be high enough to prevent a coyote or bear to climb over. “We absolutely can do something like that,” Argenio said.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has found bald eagle nesting and wintering habitats near the proposed project, Argenio noted. “Therefore, if any loud noises, rock removal or blasting are proposed between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30, additional review would be needed,” Argenio said, reading from a DEC letter on the project.
Other residents voiced concerns over potential noise pollution and traffic, including school buses, coming and going from Route 9W. “How are 120 more cars going to get in and out of Lafayette Drive?” asked Branath.
Others asked about project financing. “We have seen a lot of projects in the area that have started and stopped because it was poor funding or none,” said Jim Cosgrove. “I’m just wondering what the board feels about… telling us that, ‘Yes, there (are) funds to start and finish this project according to the plan?”
“It’s not… in our purview to answer,” Argenio said, nor did Michalski volunteer to respond.
Once approved, the complex would take nine months to a year to construct, Michalski said. Moving forward, the New Windsor Town Board will be asked to sell town-owned property “to be incorporated into their site plan,” said Edsall.
The project is expected to be discussed at upcoming town planning board meetings in the fall.
By SHANTAL RILEY