By Melanie Lekocevic
Capital Region Independent Media
DURHAM — The first of two public hearings on the Bosque residential subdivi- sion and site plan application drew a crowd of residents opposed to the project.
The hearing was held at the former Durham Elementary School and will be followed by a second public hearing at the same location Dec. 11.
“The purpose of this hearing is to give all of you a chance to be heard, for you to speak to the board about your concerns, both positives and negatives,” Town Supervisor Shawn Marriott said to open the hearing. “The board, attorney, engineers
and all of the parties will listen and take notes. There will be no comments or answers from the board. We are here to listen
Issues raised during the hearing would be addressed at a later date, Marriott added.
Representatives from the Bosque development were given time at the beginning of the hearing to present details of the project.
“The applicant is proposing to develop a 13-lot residential subdivision for 12 single-family lots,” the developer’s attorney, Taylor Palmer, said. “The approximately 95-acre property is divided into two existing tax lots. The collective property has frontage on Cornwallville Road and Strong Road.”
The developer looked to mitigate impacts on the surrounding community, Palmer said.
“The Bosque project is designed to reduce the impacts on land to ensure a rural aesthetic and the Bosque community
is consciously modeled around creativity, exploration and a deeper connection to nature. The proposal has an emphasis on
sustainable, natural building materials,” Palmer added.
Principal engineer Darrin Elsom from Kaaterskill Associates said the project seeks to retain a significant portion of land
“Approximately 75% of the acreage is going to remain as wooded, and of the 95 acres, something like 71 acres are woods
that we will leave in its existing condition,” Elsom said. “The houses are generally not going to be visible from the road.”
All but one local resident speaking at the public hearing was opposed to the project.
Resident Dan Clifton said maintaining the character of the community — including its rural nature — is one of his key
reasons for opposing the development. He spoke of the town board’s decision to find that the project will not have a significant
impact on the environment as part of the mandated state Environmental Assessment Form conducted Aug. 31 and Oct. 5.
“I don’t believe that anyone can seriously say that the Bosque project will not have a moderate to large impact,” Clifton said.
“The visual character — it is the difference between the rural character which we have now and a suburban character.”
The style of the homes is also an issue, he added.
“This would develop 12 houses plus a barn residence, and nowhere else in the entire hamlet of Cornwallville is there a development of this scale, much less in the historic district,” Clifton said. “They are planning for 12 contemporary houses — two building styles, just two in a community where no two houses are the same.”
Resident Christine Nelson also raised questions about the construction style, along with the impact on wetlands and nighttime
“I am opposed to the development,” Nelson said. “The unique nature of our community, why I chose to live there — this does
impact the historical nature with a subdivision of two house (styles), all looking the same. How will that comply with the historical nature, especially with contemporary houses?”
Speaker Margaret Doherty submitted to the board a petition opposing the proposal signed by 271 local residents.
“These signatures represent the concerns of area residents with regard to the significant negative impacts the Bosque major
housing development will impose on our land and on the land — the wells, traffic, wildlife, noise, odor and light, aesthetic and historic value and resources, and the character of Cornwallville and the Durham community as a whole,” Doherty said. “Many of these Durham residents have written letters in great detail explaining the concerns about this potentially disastrous construction project and the impact it will have on our community.”
Neighboring property owner Walter Grote fears water runoff generated by the development onto properties downhill,
and questioned the feasibility of the developer’s business model, marketing pricey homes to “like-minded multimillionaires”
who “have this heartfelt desire to live in a farm community.”
“Quite frankly, I don’t think the whole thing makes sense,” Grote said. “Multimillionaires are not going to be forced to pick
from two styles of houses. They say they will modify the insides and that is great, but two styles?”
Resident Elizabeth Winslow called on the town board to change its stance on the project, specifically the negative declaration on the Environmental Assessment Form.
“The board declared that the subdivision would have no impact on our hamlet’s environment, noise, traffic, forest or character. I find this irresponsible to say the least,” Winslow said. “I implore the town to reconsider the negative assessment and evaluate potential impacts more deeply while we still can because once we put a road in and start pouring foundation, then it’s over.”
Patrick Ciccone, chairman of the town’s Historic Preservation Commission, said the project would be the largest of its kind in
the town’s history.
“The Bosque development is the first subdivision of this size ever proposed in Cornwallville — no housing development of
this scale of identical homes has ever been built in Cornwallville’s nearly 250 years of existence,” Ciccone said.
Resident Jim Stone was the only speaker to come out in favor of the project.
“We’ve got somebody who is proposing to bring in something that will significantly help this town. Are there problems with
it? Yes, but there is a reason why both Cornwallville and Durham are dying, and it’s because of us — because we won’t allow
change,” Stone said. “Places that don’t allow change, they die.”
The second public hearing on the proposed project will be held Dec. 11 at 6 p.m. at the BOCES Educational Building — the former Durham Elementary School — at 4099 Route 145, Durham.