Carvel/Durst Updates

The proposal began in 2003 with 1,000+ new units (some houses are already on the property) on 2,200 acres mostly in Pine Plains, with a small part of the property in Milan. News and related updates are listed below.

Carvel Update, July 2012

July 30, 2012

The Town Board recently appointed Peter Fairweather as its planner for the Carvel NND application. He is a well respected planner from New Paltz whose expertise lies in doing very specialized fiscal and community impact studies and reviews. He joins George Rhodenhausen, the land use attorney mentioned in the previous update, in working with the Town Board on this review.

In their last meeting the Planning Board voted to appoint Nan Stolzenburg as its planner in the continued SEQRA review of the proposal. Nan will work closely with Ray Jurkowski (the town engineer) and Warren Replansky (the town attorney) on the Planning Board’s review. The Planning Board decided not to appoint Bonnie Franson as a second planner to work with its team. Bonnie had worked on the ultimate version of the Zoning Law after the draft the Zoning Commission had developed with Nan Stolzenburg was turned over to the Town Board. The Planning Board’s previous work on the Carvel DEIS was led by Nan, Warren and Ray; so the board felt they will be able to seamlessly pick up where they left off.

The agreement between the Durst team and the town about the escrow fund to pay for the town’s consultants’ work on the review will be worked out by the attorneys for the town (Warren and George) and Durst’s attorney, who we presume is still Jennifer van Tuyl of Cuddy and Feder.

On the property itself Durst has been busy tearing down more buildings, at least one of which is an original Dutch barn that was located on the Hedge farm. Since buying the property the Durst organization has allowed many of the buildings to fall into disrepair. This practice is sometimes called “passive demolition” by people who are knowledgeable about the development field. Eventually developers claim that the buildings are in such bad shape that they cannot be rehabilitated and must be removed. A couple of years ago some of the buildings they demolished were a revolutionary era house and small barn on Hicks Hill Road and a barrel roofed barn on the Rosenthal property that had originally been quite beautiful. They have restored a similar barrel roofed barn on the Hedge farm that is located north of where the Dutch
barn stood. The history of Pine Plains lies partially in its old buildings. The loss of such important ones is a tragedy.

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Planning Board Named as Lead Agency

May 14, 2012

Following meeting with their newly appointed legal advisor on land use, George Rodenhausen (in an executive attorney-client meeting in late April), on May 9th the Pine Plains Town Board unanimously adopted a resolution affirming the Planning Board as lead agency without further discussion. The resolution requested that the Planning Board conduct a “highly coordinated” SEQRA review of the Supplemental DEIS by copying the TB on all relevant agendas and communications, by holding joint TB/PB meetings on occasion, etc. It also requested that the SDEIS document contain the material originally submitted in the DEIS so that only one set of documents will be needed during the course of the review of the SDEIS.

In the Planning Board meeting held that same night the PB adopted a resolution to have the applicant prepare a draft SCOPING  document, which is the first step in the process of identifying what impacts of the revised plan the SDEIS will examine. Then the town’s consultants and boards can weigh in and finally a public SCOPING session (essentially a public hearing) will be held during which the public can add any issues about impacts they think should be included in the document. These can be impacts that either were inadequately dealt with in the original DEIS or impacts that need to be looked at because of the changed footprint of the plan. Environmental impacts include impacts on community character and fiscal impacts; so the focus can be quite broad.

Also Warren Replansky advised the board that a new escrow agreement with the applicant needs to be in place before the work starts on the review and that a joint TB/PB meeting should be held shortly to discuss what consultants and subconsultants the town will use to assist them in their review of the material submitted by Carvel. In addition, the Town Board needs to examine if the NND application meets the thresholds required of an NND application. If it doesn’t, the applicant will have to revise the application so that it does. Another issue that should be decided quickly is whether all the material in the first DEIS must be included in the Supplemental (e.g. impacts of the roads and house locations of the original plan) even if they are no longer relevant to the new plan (which has fewer roads and a much more concentrated house location layout).

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Clearing the Fog

May 2, 2012

Anyone who attended the last Planning Board and Town Board meetings and heard the comments and accusations regarding the Durst proposal probably came away with varying states of confusion. The following is an attempt to clear the fog and keep the discussion logical and civil.

First, the Durst Corp. could build up to about 500 units on the former Carvel property by proposing a conventional conservation subdivision, which is a much simpler and less expensive process than the New Neighborhood Development (NND) rezoning they now seek. In fact, they could proceed with an application revising their original plan to the Planning Board almost immediately. Because this revision would cover a different footprint than the original, they would probably still need to do a Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Study and complete the SEQRA process that they chose to stop after the public hearings in the spring of 2008. They seem to be willing to gamble that the much lengthier and expensive process required to obtain an NND will pay off for them in the form of 150 to 160 more units (for a total of 645 units in Pine Plains and Milan).

Second, the NND rezoning was always meant to be a negotiation in which the developer offered to buy the right to have additional units (and make more money) in exchange for giving more community benefits to the town. So far, Durst has proposed to give the Town a one- to two-foot- wide walking trail parallel to Route 199 – but only after they’ve built more than 500 houses (which could take a decade). They have also offered to turn over the Spruce Farm house, even though there are already historic community owned buildings that need continuing costly maintenance. And they have offered increased open space and land for a community garden even though one is about to be started on land at town hall. In any event, community benefits may be negotiated under a subdivision application as well as under the NND process.

At last week’s town board meeting, several comments were made that were incorrect, ill-informed or perhaps simply deceitful. Here is a rundown of some of the “true facts” raised by those comments:

  • CLAIM: The Town Board has delayed the Durst project for more than 10 years. In fact, although this has been a lengthy process, the developer was allowed by the town to proceed with the SEQRA review during the building moratorium that was enacted during the process of developing the zoning law. Once the law was enacted in 2009, Durst could have immediately submitted a revised subdivision plan, as we note above. If he had done so then, the revised SEQRA review probably would be finished by now and he would have been well on his way to final subdivision/site plan approvals. Instead he chose to submit a pre-application NND plan in January 2010 and then did not follow up with an actual application until late December 2011, right before the current town board actually took office. In addition, only one present town board member was on the board before 2009, so the current town board has actually done nothing to delay the project.
  • CLAIM: Durst is planning to sell the property to a nonprofit organization. The basis of this rumor is unknown. In fact, over the past year Durst has purchased at least seven additional properties in and around the Carvel estate, including a 50% interest in the 100 acres containing the main public trail to the Stissing Fire Tower.
  • CLAIM: Durst is tearing down houses and buildings because they are not making progress on their development. In fact, the developer’s plans all along have included removing existing buildings that did not fit into his development scheme and he has abandoned a number of livable units /homes that could have been occupied and rented. In addition, the developer has let several historic barns and buildings fall into disrepair because they do not fit with future plans.
  • CLAIM: Durst has closed the golf course to protest lack of project progress. All of the plans submitted by Durst in the past have indicated that the golf course will be converted to a private course. Closing the course to the public has always been part of their plan.
  • CLAIM: The board has delayed the rezoning by hiring unnecessary outside counsel to advise the Town Board on process and evaluation of the proposal. The new town board took office in January. The majority of the board decided that, just like getting a second medical opinion before major surgery, a second legal opinion was prudent and they have hired George Rodenhausen of Rapport, Meyers to advise them on it. Warren Replansky, the town attorney who was instrumental in drafting the zoning law, continues to serve as the town attorney.
  • CLAIM: New counsel will cost the town significantly more money. In fact, both the existing attorney and the new land use attorney are paid at a similar hourly rate, so whichever attorney is attending Durst meetings will bill for the same hours.

The next steps:

  • If Pine Plains wishes to see the Durst proposal proceed at the fastest rate with the fewest complications, we believe the developer should be encouraged to proceed with a conventional “as of right” conservation subdivision that will allow 450-500 homes.
  • If the town board wishes to pursue rezoning (it’s entirely up to them) they should convene a public meeting where the community can express what they expect the board to obtain in exchange for allowing up to150 to 160 additional units.
  • If Durst continues to pursue the NND application the town must also insure that a detailed, conventional, “as of right” conservation subdivision plan is prepared along with the rezoning plan, to allow a careful, side-by-side comparison of the costs and benefits.

The Comprehensive Town Plan adopted in 2004 calls for the community to focus more intensive residential and commercial development in and around the hamlet center of Pine Plains to keep it vibrant and preserve the outlying scenic and rural character. We continue to believe this is the best path forward for Pine Plains.

Pine Plains United is made up of a unique group of individuals with varying perspectives representing life-long residents, weekenders, those who have moved to the community, working people in all walks of life and retired folk. Our goal has always been to assist the community and especially the town government in following the town’s Comprehensive Plan, and to encourage civility and respectfulness in public discussions. We recognize the need for and welcome new development that follows the comprehensive town plan. Most of all, we wish to maintain and improve the great community we have. Our motto remains “Grow Smart.” Please help by participating in our community and making your views known. Communities work best when we all work together with constructive ideas and solutions.

Steven Neil, Esq.
Secretary, PPU

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Durst Present NND to Town and Planning Board

March 23, 2012

The Durst Corporation presented their New Neighborhood Development application to a joint session of the Town and Planning Board on March 14th, 2012.  The powerpoint presentation given by Alex Durst outlining the Carvel NND can be downloaded here.

In his presentation Alex presented a flow chart of the application process (starting with slide 59) that said the next step was for the Planning Board to have the applicant prepare a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement.  However, this is not necessarily the case.  The NND application is technically a request to rezone the property, which is a legislative act that only the Town Board can make, along with input from the Planning Board. In that scenario, the Town Board would be the lead agency and the application is a new application.

Durst is saying that this application is a revision of the previous application and the Planning Board is still the lead agency. The planning board and the town board are still reviewing which alternative is correct.  The Town Board is currently interviewing some specialist land use attorneys in order to choose one to help advise them.  In the meantime the town attorney, Warren Replansky, has told the Planning Board that he thinks it is a new application because it comes in under a new section of the zoning law, remember that zoning was just recently adopted in Pine Plains, rather than under the old subdivision law.

In addition the town planners, engineer and attorney(s) will need to advise the town board if the application even meets the criteria set up in the NND section of the zoning law for an NND.  If the town decides that they don’t want to rezone the property, Carvel would need to come back with an application to the Planning Board that meets the regular rural district zoning which would mean approximately 150 fewer housing units.

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Durst Presents NND to Joint Session of Planning and Town Board

March 6, 2012

The Town Board has scheduled a meeting for Carvel’s presentation of their New Neighborhood Development (NND) zone petition. That meeting will take place on:

Wednesday, March 14th at 7pm*
at the
Heart of Pine Plains Community Center
(2nd floor of the new library building)
7775 South Main Street (aka Route 82)
the entrance is at the rear of the building

This meeting will be a joint Town Board and Planning Board meeting and the public is encouraged to attend. Please note that this meeting is not a public hearing.

*And also note that this meeting will be preceded by a Planning Board meeting at the same location at 6pm.

In the coming weeks the town will be making a number of decisions including:

  • Does the Town Board want to entertain the proposal at all?  This will require amending the zoning law to allow increased density in the rural district.
  • If so, which board will be lead agency in the review?
  • Is this a new proposal that must start from scratch or a revision of the earlier one originally submitted in 2003?
  • Will the environmental review (SEQR) pick up where it left off prior to the zoning being adopted?

If the Town Board doesn’t want to entertain the proposal, the Durst Organization will need to file a new application that is in compliance with the rural district zoning.

We look forward to seeing as many of you as possible at this meeting.  It is important for the Town Board, the Planning Board, and the Carvel representatives to see that the public is still very involved.  The NND application can be read on-line on the Carvel Development Website.

Update on the Paraco application: before the zoning law was adopted, Paraco Gas had applied to install another large propane storage tank on their property on Route 199 on the western edge the village.  There was a lot of community opposition to that proposal and at the February 8th Planning Board meeting Paraco officially withdrew its application.

See you on March 14th.

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Durst requests joint meeting

January 24, 2012

The Durst Organization requested a joint meeting of the Town Board and Planning Board be scheduled for a detailed presentation of the NND application. In their January 19, 2012 meeting the Town Board tabled that request in order to have the time they need to get their own administration organized and running. They did not specify how quickly they will get back to the Durst Organization in order to schedule that meeting.

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News Flash: Carvel submits revised NND

December 26, 2011

On December 21, 2011 the Durst Organization submitted a formal application to the Pine Plains Town Board to rezone the Carvel Property according to the New Neighborhood Development (NND) section of the Pine Plains zoning law. The proposal is for 591 housing lots on 1,932 acres in Pine Plains. In addition the property also includes 444 acres in Milan, where 54 lots are planned; bringing the total proposal to 645 lots on 2,376 acres. Therefore this proposal is for an increase of 21 lots over the NND “Preapplication” version which was for 624 units. The increase results from the additional acreage Durst has purchased in the last few years on Mt. Ross Road in Pine Plains and his recent purchases of small lots in the old Carvel subdivision that he didn’t previously own. A description of the proposal and a map of the property are available on the Carvel Property website (http://www.carvelpropertydevelopment.com/). See map below.

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Town Consultants’ Memo on Carvel/Durst NND Pre-Application

March 30, 2010

As per the Town’s zoning regulations, the submission of a NND floating zone petition application requires that the applicant appear before the Town Board and Planning Board at a pre- application meeting. The purpose of the first meeting is to:

  • solicit preliminary non-binding comments of the Town Board and Planning Board with regard to the consistency of the NND proposal with the criteria set forth in §100-28.B;
  • identify any issues that would need to be addressed during the NND review process; and
  • review a sketch plan that conveys conceptually the use and site improvements being proposed.

Download the PDF

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Durst NND Pre-Application Update

March 19, 2010

The Town Board and Planning Board held a joint session this past Tuesday to submit comments to the Durst Corporation on their pre-application submission for a New Neighborhood Development designation under the newly adopted Zoning Regulations. The 18 different criteria for NND status were reviewed and commented on individually over the course of the meeting. Many important issues were raised so that the applicant can address them prior to submitting their final application.

Following the review of the individual criteria, the newly elected town board member Sandra David read her comments in full into the record, speaking more broadly to the issues at hand. Plainly stated, the purpose of the NND is to allow our community to negotiate with the developer and issue bonus units insofar as there are correlating community benefits. Her comments speak directly to the open question of whether or not the Durst Development will benefit our community or not. It is a must read. Please forward widely.

Sandra David’s comments on the Durst pre-application for an NND.

March 16, 2010 – My comments tonight will be to give a broad brush response to what Jennifer Van Tyle characterized as a broad brush approach to the pre-application.  Although, as a group I believe we will be reviewing the 18 criteria that we must consider before approving the NND, I would like to address the issues, on balance, that need to be considered when assessing the benefits to the Town of Pine Plains.  All  residents want what is BEST for the Town.  What that “BEST” is will be the debate during this process.

Read more

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Durst Begins New Neighborhood Development Process

January 30, 2010

The new proposal tries to maximize the number of units allow for under the New Neighborhood Development section of the Zoning Law. The new number is 572.Now that the zoning law has been enacted by the Pine Plains Town Board, the Durst Organization is beginning the application process for a New Neighborhood District zoning change.  Doing so entails some very slight revisions to the project layout from the second version of the project.  You can view the “pre-application” project material (including maps) on the town website at http://pineplains-ny.gov/content/Generic/View/8.  The maximum number of units allowed on the whole property would be 624 (572 in Pine Plains and 52 in Milan). Durst has decided to take the option of paying the affordable housing fee (in lieu of building the 42 affordable units) to a dedicated affordable housing fund that will be set up by the town.  The above numbers of units on the property include the “previously approved” subdivision lots in both Milan and Pine Plains, the maximum number of bonus units allowed for in the zoning and the base net yield of units as outlined in the NND section of the zoning law.  Some of the bonus units are at the discretion of the town board for various community and commercial benefits provided by the developer; so the actual final number is not yet determined. Read more

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