FEIS Chapter III - Comments and Responses


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Mahamudra Buddhist Hermitage FEIS, Chapter III - Comments and Responses, WSP SELLS

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FEIS Chapter III - Comments and Responses

  1. 1. III. COMMENTS AND RESPONSESINTRODUCTIONThis section of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) addresses the commentsreceived on the October 2006 Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). Commentsinclude those presented at the DEIS public hearing held at 7 p.m. on Thursday, November30, 2006, at The Town of Wawarsing Town Hall in Ellenville, New York, and writtencomments submitted to the Town of Wawarsing Planning Board during DEIS public reviewperiod held from October 31, 2006, to December 26, 2006.The following table presents a list of individuals and agencies that submitted writtencomments during the DEIS public review period; comments received verbally at the DEISpublic hearing are also included. Table III-1: Written Comments Received on the DEIS Letter Author Author Affiliation Date of Letter 1. Davidson, Chuck None. Oct. 26, 2006 2. Cragsmoor Fire District Same. Nov. 15, 2006 Board of Commissioners 3. Lesikin, Joan Member, Cragsmoor Association. Nov. 22, 2006 4. McCombs, Harry Cragsmoor resident. Nov. 25, 2006 5. McCombs, June Cragsmoor resident. Nov. 25, 2006 6. McCombs, Scott Cragsmoor resident. Nov. 25, 2006 7. Beinkafner, Katherine Mid-Hudson Geosciences Nov. 27, 2006 8. Seeland, Irene Cragsmoor resident. Nov. 27, 2006 9. Markunas, Kenneth NYS Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Nov. 29, 2006 Preservation, Historic Sites Restoration Coordinator. 10. Porter, David Consultant to Cragsmoor Association to Nov. 29, 2006 review DEIS traffic analysis. 11. Damsky, Russell & Monica Cragsmoor residents. Dec. 4, 2006 12. Wiebe, Dianne Cragsmoor resident. Dec. 4, 2006 13. Horn, Ted Cragsmoor resident. Dec. 19, 2006 14. Harris, Wendy Cragsmoor resident, professional Dec. 20, 2006 archeologist. 15. Lanc, John Lanc & Tully Engineering, Town Engineer. Dec. 20, 2006 16. Matz, Sally Cragsmoor Historical Society, President. Dec. 21, 2006 17. Rogers, Linda Cragsmoor resident. Dec. 21, 2006 18. Slade, Jeffrey The Cragsmoor Conservancy, President. Dec. 21, 2006 19. Wagner, Heidi The Nature Conservancy, Sam’s Point Dec. 21, 2006 Preserve Manager. Cragsmoor resident. 20. Clouser, David David Clouser & Associates, engineering Dec. 22, 2006 consultant to Cragsmoor Association. 21. Franke, Jakob; Meyer, Members of Long Path South committee of Dec. 22, 2006 Eric; Hangland, Gary; New York/New Jersey Trail Conference. Spector, Malcolm; Garrison, Andy 22. Brown, Wayne Cragsmoor resident. Dec. 24, 2006MAHAMUDRA BUDDHIST HERMITAGE FEIS III-1April 2008
  2. 2. Table III-1: Written Comments Received on the DEIS (Continued) 23. Lesikin, Joan Cragsmoor resident. Dec. 24, 2006 24. Rubin, Paul HydroQuest, consultant to Dec. 24, 2006 Cragsmoor Association. 25. Bierschenk, Joanne & Cragsmoor residents. Dec. 25, 2006 Richard 26. Williams, William Cragsmoor resident. Dec. 25, 2006 27. Barbour, James Ecological consultant hired by Received by Cragsmoor Association and Wawarsing Building Nature Conservancy. Dept. Dec. 26, 2006 28. Beinkafner, Katherine Mid-Hudson Geosciences Dec. 26, 2006 29. Benton, Blake Cragsmoor resident. Received by Wawarsing Building Dept. Dec. 26, 2006 30. Broderson, Cynthia Cragsmoor resident. Dec. 26, 2006 31. Gale, Tom Cragsmoor resident. Dec. 26, 2006 32. Gordon, David Attorney for Cragsmoor Dec. 26, 2006 Association 33. Matz, Sally Cragsmoor Historical Society, Dec. 26, 2006 President. 34. McAlpin, Mary Kroul Cragsmoor resident. Dec. 26, 2006 35. Williams, Dolores Cragsmoor resident. Dec. 26, 2006 36. Mackey, Douglas NYS Office of Parks, Recreation & Dec. 28, 2006 Historic Preservation, Historic Preservation Program Analyst - Archeology. 37. Swentusky, Jane NYS Dept. of Environmental Jan. 23, 2007 Conservation. 38. Crist, Rebecca NYS Dept. of Environmental Feb. 2, 2007 Conservation.Note: In addition to the above comments, a review letter based upon a GML 239-m referral wasreceived on December 27, 2006, from the Ulster County Planning Board. This letter, and theApplicant’s responses to it, are attached as Appendix M to this FEIS.MAHAMUDRA BUDDHIST HERMITAGE FEIS III-2April 2008
  3. 3. Table III-2: Commenters at the Public Hearing Speaker Affiliation 1. McKenney, Jim President, Cragsmoor Association 2. Gordon, David Attorney for Cragsmoor Association 3. Beinkafner, Katherine Mid-Hudson Geosciences (Cragsmoor Association consultant). 4. Barbour, James Ecologist representing Cragsmoor Association 5. Sherman, Henry Cragsmoor resident 6. Wagner, Heidi Preserve manager for Sam’s Point Preserve, Cragsmoor resident 7. Grace, Karen Cragsmoor resident 8. Matz, Sally President, Cragsmoor Historical Society 9. Radl, Maureen VP, Cragsmoor Historical Society, VP, Friends of the Shawangunks 10. Grace, William Cragsmoor resident 11. Nolan, Dick Cragsmoor resident 12. Lesikin, Joan Cragsmoor resident 13. Benton, Blake Cragsmoor resident 14. Wiebe, Dianne Cragsmoor resident 15. Hoff, Barbara Cragsmoor resident 16. Muller, Lucy Cragsmoor resident 17. Ditar, Ruth Cragsmoor resident 18. Peters, Dick Cragsmoor resident 19. Sergenic, Phil Cragsmoor resident 20. Muldoon, Kathleen Cragsmoor resident 21. Grace, Karen Cragsmoor resident 22. Rogers, Linda Cragsmoor resident 23. Meily, Walter Cragsmoor resident 24. Kraft, Jeff Cragsmoor resident 25. Dunn, Irene Cragsmoor resident 26. Beinkafner, Katherine Mid-Hudson Geosciences (consultant to Cragsmoor Association). 27. Blake Benton Cragsmoor residentThe following section summarizes and responds to the comments; copies of all commentsreceived, including transcripts from the public hearing, can be found in Appendix A(Comments Received on the DEIS). A summary of the comments made in each of theabove referenced comment letters and public testimony is presented and a response toeach comment listed is provided. The commenter’s name is listed after each comment.The responses to comments are organized as follows: A. General Comments B. Executive Summary C. Description of the Proposed Action D. Land Use and Zoning E. Community Character/Visual Resources F. Flora and Fauna G. Topography, Steep Slopes, Soils and Sanitary Sewage Disposal H. Hydrogeology, Groundwater Resources and Water Supply I. Surface Water and Wetland Resources J. Stormwater Management K. Traffic L. Community Facilities M. Socioeconomic/Fiscal Impacts N. Cultural Resources (historical and archeological)MAHAMUDRA BUDDHIST HERMITAGE FEIS III-3April 2008
  4. 4. O. Noise P. Analysis of Alternatives Q. Unavoidable ImpactsA. General CommentsNOTE: This section addresses general comments, and, accordingly, the responsesare set forth in somewhat general terms. More specific comments on the same topicsare responded to with corresponding specificity in later sections of the FEIS (see titlesset forth above).A.1 Comment: What Cragsmoor is, is because of what Cragsmoor isn’t. It isn’t foul water and earth quality that can’t support its pristine habitat. It isn’t an imbalance of people to environment. It isn’t a place of stress. (Chuck Davidson, memo dated October 26, 2006).A.1 Response: The Mahamudra Buddhist Hermitage would not result in an imbalance of people to environment, nor would it be a place of stress. The goal of the Hermitage is to provide a place for retreatants to immerse themselves in quiet, contemplative practices and teaching. Because the Hermitage’s sole purpose is the development of inner awareness, the activities that will occur on-site will focus completely on the inner, personal interactions within oneself during meditation. The activities on the site will not involve celebratory, external, interaction with large audiences, or any of the noise associated with such activities. The existing natural environment is a major element of the atmosphere required for the Hermitage, and preserving the quality of that environment – in terms of water, soil and wildlife – is a central element of its mission.A.2 Comment: Please have both SHPO and the Preservation League of New York State review the final DEIS (Joan Lesikin, member of Cragsmoor Association, memo dated November 27, 2006).A.2 Response: Both agencies had the opportunity to review the DEIS. The Applicant received comments from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, of which SHPO is a part. Responses to these comments are contained in Section E, Community Character/Visual Resources, and Section N, Cultural Resources (historical and archeological).A.3 Comment: Has any thought been given as to the impact on the environment of the surrounding area (Harry McCombs, Cragsmoor resident, memo dated November 25, 2006)?A.3 Response: As per the Scoping Document, the following potential environmental impacts to the surrounding area were evaluated in the DEIS: land use and zoning; community character/visual resources; flora and fauna; topography, steep slopes, soils and sanitary sewage disposal; hydrogeology, groundwater resources and water supply; surface water and wetland resources; stormwater management; traffic; community facilities; socioeconomic/fiscal impacts; cultural resources (historical and archeological); and noise. The DEIS concluded that potential adverse impacts of theMAHAMUDRA BUDDHIST HERMITAGE FEIS III-4April 2008
  5. 5. project include a small increase in local traffic, incremental increases in demand on community services, a slight increase in demand for utilities, an increase in impervious surfaces, some possible disturbance of wildlife habitats, a small decrease to the Town of Wawarsing’s potential tax base and minor visual impacts. The DEIS concluded that these potential adverse impacts can be appropriately mitigated through a range of measures, as more fully explained within the document.A.4 Comment: What will happen to the value of our property (Harry McCombs, Cragsmoor resident, memo dated November 25, 2006)?A.4 Response: The proposed project will be a very quiet land use that has very limited visibility from the road. Its development will prevent the site from being subdivided and cleared for a number of residential lots. The modifications to the project, which have reduced its size, visibility and occupancy, will further limit the impacts. Because of the nature of the proposed project, it should not result in any visible impact or significant adverse environmental impacts that would negatively affect property values in the surrounding area. In fact the quiet use of the retreat facilities and the preservation of landscape buffers and restrictions on future development would protect the neighborhood from an as-of-right residential subdivision, thus preserving and enhancing property values. Given the proposed quiet use of the land, the use’s prevention of future subdivision and the lack of visible impacts or other significant adverse environmental impacts, property values in the surrounding area should be preserved. Furthermore, the certainty provided by the Applicant’s proposed restrictions on future development, in the form of a permanent buffer around approximately 77 percent of the property perimeter, including all portions bordering public roads, will provide additional protection of property values in the vicinity of the project site. This proposed restriction is discussed in greater detail in Response A.10, below.A.5 Comment: Has any thought been given as to the impact on the environment of the surrounding area (June McCombs, Cragsmoor resident, memo dated November 25, 2006)?A.5 Response: See response for A.3.A.6 Comment: What will happen to the value of our property (June McCombs, Cragsmoor resident, memo dated November 25, 2006)?A.6 Response: See response for A.4.A.7 Comment: Has any thought been given as to the impact on the environment of the surrounding area (Scott McCombs, Cragsmoor resident, memo dated November 25, 2006)?A.7 Response: See response for A.3.A.8 Comment: What will happen to the value of our property (Scott McCombs, Cragsmoor resident, memo dated November 25, 2006)?MAHAMUDRA BUDDHIST HERMITAGE FEIS III-5April 2008
  6. 6. A.8 Response: See response for A.4.A.9 Comment: The DEIS states that there will be no fragmentation. This ten-year, 4- phase development of buildings, roads, water drainage, sewers, parking, etc. will result in ripping apart the landscape. There will be fragmentation (Linda Rogers, Cragsmoor resident, memo dated December 21, 2006).A.9 Response: The project has been planned to have a measured development pace consistent with the low-impact nature of the proposed use, which will minimize construction-related impacts. The internal road, with attendant utilities, is scheduled for completion as part of Phase I, to avoid any necessity of repeated disturbance of that area. No blasting is expected to occur during any phase of construction, and the project will not require relocation of any existing projects or facilities. The project layout has been designed to minimize construction in areas of steeper slopes, meaning that significant areas will not be re-graded. While approximately 33.5% of the project site with the modified layout will be re-graded and temporarily exposed during construction of the project, the phased process will assure a slow pace of disturbance, limiting areas disturbed at one time. In addition, site plan modifications since completion of the DEIS will reduce final build-out in terms of occupancy, number of buildings, total square footage and parking. These changes will generate decreases in water usage, septic capacity, electrical loads, disturbed areas, parking and landscaping. As discussed in Chapter IV.C (Flora and Fauna) of the DEIS, fragmentation can be described in two fashions: forest and habitat fragmentation. Forest fragmentation results from the practice of opening up closed forest canopy, allowing edge-oriented species to penetrate into areas of the forest that they could not reach before. Habitat fragmentation is the separation and isolation of habitats and wildlife populations by placing impenetrable barriers between habitats that prevent mixing of formerly connected or adjacent wildlife populations. The site planning for the proposed project has created a layout that will minimize the clearing of forested areas and the creation of barriers for wildlife migration. Furthermore, the proposed modifications to the proposed site plan have reduced the amount of disturbance on the site. During construction, special measures will be taken so that construction limits are clearly defined to prevent disruption of areas that were to remain undisturbed (See Response G.8). The DEIS stated that there may be temporary disruption of wildlife migration corridors during construction; however, long-term, they should remain intact. The phasing of the project, as described in Response J.3, will minimize these temporary disruptions, thus minimizing fragmentation impacts. Phase I, which is further divided into several separate sub-phases, involves the construction of the main roads, utilities and infrastructure and the Milarepa Center. The sub-phases were established so that less than 5 acres are disturbed at any one time. The initial two sub-phases involve the road construction from Cragsmoor Road to the Milarepa Center site, leaving the section north of there to Old Inn Road undisturbed. The third sub-phase is the construction of the Milarepa Center buildings, with the final sub- phase being the completion of the road construction to Old Inn Road. This will allowMAHAMUDRA BUDDHIST HERMITAGE FEIS III-6April 2008
  7. 7. any temporary habitat disruptions caused by the initial road installation to reestablish while the building construction takes place, which in turn will help mitigate any impacts caused by the construction of the balance of the road. Since Phase I includes all of the work that transverses the site from Cragsmoor Road to Old Inn Road, upon completion, any temporary disruptions of wildlife migration will cease to exist. Future phases involve construction of individual building complexes within contained areas. Due to the limited development area of each site, during the construction of any of these future phases, disruption to wildlife migration is not anticipated. See Response J.3 for a detailed discussion of phasing, and alternate phasing. While the time for completion of the project in its entirety may vary somewhat, the minimum anticipated time for such completion is estimated to be approximately 7 years. Even at this maximum building pace, construction periods of 12-18 months would be followed by quiet periods between phases with no construction activity, and it is not anticipated that there will be significant fragmentation impacts, as discussed herein. It is also possible that the time period for completion of the project may extend to a longer period of time, such as the ten year period of time suggested by the commenter, by virtue of longer periods of time between phases. The total length of actual construction activity would be expected to remain constant under any of the potential scenarios for phasing and total project completion. The longer periods between one or more phases will not generate any additional adverse impacts.A.10 Comment: Additional consideration should be given to a well-defined, 360-degree “buffer zone” – a Conservation Easement guaranteed, in perpetuity, never to incur future fragmentation or further development (Linda Rogers, Cragsmoor resident, memo dated December 21, 2006).A.10 Response: As discussed in Chapter II, the Applicant is proposing greenspace buffers along approximately 77 percent of the site boundary, as follows: A buffer approximately 100 feet deep is proposed along the entire frontage of the property along Cragsmoor Road, and the entire frontage along Old Inn Road. A buffer approximately 200 feet deep is proposed along the southern and western boundaries of the property. A buffer continues at a depth of 100 feet along the northwest boundary of the property. These buffers are substantially deeper than the applicable 50-foot yard requirement in the R/C-3A zoning district. The proposed buffer area is depicted in Figure II-4. The purpose of the buffer area is to provide landscaped buffer areas which generally limit placement of facilities above ground level within the buffer area and provide reasonable amounts of natural screening along areas viewed from public and private roadways. In total, the proposed buffers would cover an area of 26.6 acres, or 29 percent of the site. Dharmakaya would have certain limited reserved rights within the buffer areas, including the right to place walking and meditation trails and religious statuary; to selectively prune vegetation; and to remove dead or diseased trees. Dharmakaya would also, upon approval by the Planning Board and in the manner shown on approved site plans, be allowed to place structures and facilities within the buffer areas, including access drives, entrance lighting and directional signage; water andMAHAMUDRA BUDDHIST HERMITAGE FEIS III-7April 2008
  8. 8. stormwater facilities; septic and other underground utilities; and such other structures and facilities as the Planning Board may deem appropriate in support of the use of the property and consistent with the function of the buffer areas. The buffer areas would be noted on any approved site plans, with appropriate notes to implement the restrictions as approved by the Planning Board. In addition, the Applicant would file appropriate covenants and restrictions to implement the buffer restrictions and reserved rights as set forth in the approval resolution, in a form approved by the Planning Board Attorney, additionally naming the Town of Wawarsing as a benefited party with ability to enforce the provisions of the covenants and restrictions. Additionally, the Applicant will offer to the Town of Wawarsing a Conservation Easement, in form approved by the Town Attorney, setting forth the same substantive restrictions and reserved rights as in the covenants and restrictions, and granting the Town the ability to enforce the Conservation Easement. Both the covenants and restrictions and, if accepted by the Town, the Conservation Easement, would be recorded no later than simultaneously with the issuance of the first Certificate of Occupancy for a building within the project.A.11 Comment: The Planning Board can require Dharmakaya to enter into a conservation easement with the Cragsmoor Conservancy or another suitable not- for-profit entity to limit both the current use of the property and any further development. Such a conservation easement could limit the size and location of buildings, require specific landscaping, prevent the use of undeveloped land and so on. Any community concern about the size, impact or future use of the project could be met through this conservation easement device (Jeffrey Slade, The Cragsmoor Conservancy, President, memo dated December 21, 2006).A.11 Response: See Response A.10. The Applicant is proposing to create buffers around 77 percent of its perimeter, covering approximately 29 percent of its land. Dharmakaya believes that its proposal to create these buffers is not necessary to mitigate adverse impacts, but is consented to by Dharmakaya as a neighborly gesture in a mutual effort to preserve privacy, quiet, and the nature of the community.A.12 Comment: Due to sensitivity of the site, we urge the Planning Board to consider requiring a conservation easement on the undeveloped portion of the property, to assure that the undeveloped land be protected in perpetuity (Heidi Wagner, The Nature Conservancy, Preserve Manager for Sam’s Point Preserve, Cragsmoor resident, memo dated December 21, 2006).A.12 Response: See Responses A.10 and A.11.A.13 Comment: The figures identified in the DEIS as Site Plan, Schematic Landscaping Plan, Buffer Area Plan, as well as other mapping within the DEIS, are represented at a scale of 1 inch= 300 feet, which is a scale typically used for very general mapping of large areas, without any significant design detail. For a project of this scale and scope, the DEIS mapping typically has a maximum scale of 1 inch= 100 feet. This larger scale mapping format would allow a proper review of site design elementsMAHAMUDRA BUDDHIST HERMITAGE FEIS III-8April 2008
  9. 9. (David Clouser, David Clouser & Associates, engineering consultant to Cragsmoor Association, memo dated December 22, 2006).A.13 Response: Appendix F of the DEIS contained 1inch=80 feet scale drawings of the proposed site plan, which is less than the maximum scale of 1 inch=100 feet that was requested. These plans were included in the copies of the DEIS that were distributed to all involved or interested agencies. This included copies that were available for review at the Town Hall and the libraries. Updated plans, showing the revised site layout at a 1”=80’ scale have been included as Appendix B of the FEIS. In addition, proposed landscaping plans at 1”= 40’ scale for the Construction Phase I Milarepa Center (as were previously submitted for site plan/special permit review) are included in Appendix B. These plans have been revised since the original submission to indicate to scale plant sizes at initial planting and at seven year growth. The scale provides clear view of the site design elements including the proposed plant materials in the landscape buffer between the Milarepa Center and Old Inn Road.A.14 Comment: The Erosion and Sediment Control Plans were not available on the DEIS website, thereby preventing review by the public of this important and required element of the site’s environmental protective measures. This omission might be considered a serious flaw in the project’s SEQRA review process, where public review and participation are fundamental tenets of this procedure (David Clouser, David Clouser & Associates, engineering consultant to Cragsmoor Association, memo dated December 22, 2006).A.14 Response: These plans were available from other sources during the DEIS review process. Hard copies of the full DEIS and the maps were available at the Town Hall and the libraries and were sent to all involved and interested agencies, including the Cragsmoor Association, the commenter’s client. The Notice of Completion on the Web site included a list of these locations where these hard copies were available. The revised plans that are part of the FEIS will be posted on the Web site.A.15 Comment: As one who spent most of his working life as a plumber on construction projects, I knew immediately the impact of this extensive project. It would mean the destruction of the fragile ecosystem and the way of life that Cragsmoor residents have maintained over generations (Wayne Brown, Cragsmoor resident, memo dated December 24, 2006).A.15 Response: The DEIS concluded that the proposed project would not result in any significant adverse environmental impacts that cannot be mitigated. See Responses A.3 and A9. Regarding the project’s impacts on habitats, the modifications made to the original site plan will substantially reduce the area of disturbance on the site. The initial site plan described in the DEIS resulted in a total site disturbance of 35.61 acres, or 39.32 percent of the project site. Due to the Applicant’s reduction in the size and number of proposed buildings and in parking spaces, this total site disturbance will be reduced to 30.38 acres, or 33.5 percent of the total project site. Site disturbance is discussed in greater detail in Response A.32, below. The decrease in the project’sMAHAMUDRA BUDDHIST HERMITAGE FEIS III-9April 2008
  10. 10. anticipated disturbance to the site will preserve more than five additional acres of the total project site. In addition, the Applicant’s proposed restrictions on future development, in the form of a permanent buffer around the property perimeter, will preserve approximately 26.6 acres, or about 29 percent of the 91-acre project site. This buffer is discussed in greater detail in Responses A.10 and A.11.A.16 Comment: The projected buildings are massive compared to the scale of present buildings in Cragsmoor. Since a retreat center is in the business of growth, I don’t think restricting size now will prevent future growth. What limits can the township impose that will stick (Joan Lesikin, Cragsmoor resident, memo dated December 24, 2006)?A.16 Response: While the buildings are larger than the existing buildings in Cragsmoor, they are also on a much larger property, and much further set back from the outer boundaries of the property. Furthermore, all proposed buildings have been sited so as not to create undue disturbance to the existing landscape. For example, the Milarepa Center has been designed to “step down” the natural terrain and therefore be substantially obscured from views from Old Inn Road. The project’s minimal impacts on views are fully discussed in Section E of this chapter. In addition, as detailed above, the Applicant is proposing a permanent buffer of approximately 100 to 200 feet around approximately 77 percent of the property perimeter, which will provide additional setbacks and screening of the proposed buildings from surrounding areas. See Responses A.10 and A.11. The DEIS has addressed the proposed total ultimate size of the project for purposes of the special permit application. The Town will enforce these maximums in its special permit. The special permit will not allow any development in excess of the limits studied in the EIS process. The Town also has an additional review authority, in that the Applicant is only seeking site plan approval for the first phase of the project. The Town will enforce compliance with the conditions of the special permit and site plan through its Building Inspector. The site plan approval processes will also be public review processes. It is not anticipated that any additional SEQRA review will be required at the time of additional site plan approvals, because the SEQRA impacts of the whole project were already addressed in this EIS process. Dharmakaya is not in the business of growth, but is a not-for-profit religious undertaking to provide worship and meditation in a quiet environment.A.17 Comment: The DEIS presented and discussed at the last meeting this month was irredeemably flawed. The DEIS is diametrically opposed to the opinions of the experts hired by the Cragsmoor Association and as such we are requesting that the Board hire experts that will receive their funding from the Planning Board and be responsible solely to the Board to prepare another DEIS. The Dharmakaya should supply funding to the Board (Joanne and Richard Bierschenk, Cragsmoor residents, memo dated December 25, 2006).A.17 Response: The Town of Wawarsing Planning Board has hired several experts to review the DEIS, and their comments form part of the record and are responded to in the FEIS. Specifically, the Planning Board hired the planning firm of Frederick P. Clark Associates to review the DEIS for initial acceptance. It also hiredMAHAMUDRA BUDDHIST HERMITAGE FEIS III-10April 2008
  11. 11. hydrogeologist Malcolm Pirnie, Inc. to evaluate the Applicant’s hydrogeological studies. The Town’s engineering firm, Lanc & Tully, also reviewed the DEIS. These experts are responsible solely to the Board. The Planning Board has required that the Applicant fund an escrow account which is used by the Planning Board, at its discretion, to pay expenses of the review, including the cost of these experts hired by the Planning Board, even though the experts are responsible solely to the Board.A.18 Comment: One cannot place any confidence in the work of the so-called experts who were totally debunked, for example by Spider Barbour’s assessment of their inclusion in the DEIS of rare plants found solely in Australia. We would love to see their credentials. In fact, the Board should ask for, and scrutinize that information (Joanne and Richard Bierschenk, Cragsmoor residents, memo dated December 25, 2006).A.18 Response: The project team for the Mahamudra Hermitage DEIS consists of a number of established professional consulting firms with expertise in the area of environmental analysis. The following is a list of all preparers of the DEIS, as well as a summary of qualifications for each contributor: Cuddy & Feder LLP (Attorney) Responsible for overall document review. Cuddy & Feder LLP is a law firm with a land use practice representing a diverse client base, including local, regional, national and multi-national clients with sites located throughout the Hudson Valley, the metropolitan New York area and Connecticut. The firm’s practice areas include zoning, land use, environmental and municipal law before state, county and municipal boards. The firm has acted as counsel in connection with the development of waterfront sites; large residential communities; retail; commercial, office and industrial buildings; shopping centers; apartment buildings; museums and institutional developments such as nursing homes schools, assisted-living facilities and continuing-care retirement communities. Cuddy & Feder has also acted as special counsel to municipalities in the review of complex zoning and planning matters, and the drafting of zoning and planning regulations. BFJ Planning (Planner) Responsible for document assembly. Contributed to the following sections: Executive Summary, Project Description, Land Use and Zoning, Community Facilities, Socioeconomic/Fiscal Impacts, Noise, Analysis of Alternatives, Unavoidable Impacts and Other SEQR Environmental Impacts. Founded in 1980, BFJ Planning is a multi-disciplinary consulting firm offering services in planning and zoning, environmental analysis, transportation, urban design, site planning and real estate analysis. For over 25 years, the firm has provided clients with high-quality planning and design solutions to a range of complex problems. BFJ’s work is distinguished by a high degree of principal participation in the technical work of each project, exceptional capabilities in graphic design and presentation and a strong commitment to participatoryMAHAMUDRA BUDDHIST HERMITAGE FEIS III-11April 2008
  12. 12. planning. The firm has taken a leading role in providing environmental review services in New York City and New York State. Chas. H. Sells, Inc. (Engineer and Traffic Consultant) Contributed to the following sections: Topography, Steep Slopes, Soils and Sanitary Sewage Disposal; Hydrogeology, Groundwater Resources and Water Supply; Surface Water and Wetland Resources; Stormwater Management; and Traffic. Recognized by the Engineering News Record as “One of the Nation’s Top 500 Firms” in the transportation industry, Chas. H. Sells, Inc. specializes in bridge design and inspection, transportation engineering, civil engineering, surveying/GPS and comprehensive mapping services. With more than 82 years of experience and a large staff of engineers, surveyors and photogrammetrists in nine office locations, the firm is dedicated to providing innovative, quality- driven and cost efficient services to exceed its client’s needs. Chas Sells’ continual reassignment by numerous agencies and municipalities is testament to the firm’s commitment brought forth by encompassing the very best resources to every endeavor it undertakes. Cerniglia Architecture and Planning, P.C. (Architect) Contributed to the Community Character/Visual Resources section. Cerniglia Architecture and Planning, P.C. provides architectural design and site planning services to both the public and private sector. Its diversified client and project portfolio includes municipal governments, institutions, corporations, the development community and private individuals. The firm has endeavored to achieve a tradition of excellence in architecture through the strict enforcement of high, companywide standards of professionalism and service. As a general-practice architecture, planning, design and interiors firm, Cerniglia Architecture and Planning is licensed in New York and Connecticut. Its range of architectural services include, but are not limited to, comprehensive programming, space analysis, conceptual, schematic and final design, construction cost analysis, presentation drawings, construction documents and specifications, bidding administration, contract negotiations and construction administration. Site planning services include land use analysis, zoning analysis, environmental evaluation, master planning, site design, re-zoning procedures, municipal approvals and ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) facility surveys. Leggette, Brashears & Graham, Inc. (Environmental Consultant) Contributed to the Hydrogeology, Groundwater Resources and Water Supply section. Leggette, Brashears & Graham (LBG) was the nations first firm to provide specialized consulting services in the field of groundwater geology. The firm has been in business for 64 years, longer than any other firm committed to the original core specialty of hydrogeology. LBG has maintained state-of-the-art expertise in the areas of groundwater movement, utilization, modeling,MAHAMUDRA BUDDHIST HERMITAGE FEIS III-12April 2008
  13. 13. contamination and remediation. Technical personnel receive extensive field training in all aspects of hydrogeologic and soils investigations, as well as in remedial engineering functions. Each project is completed under the direct supervision of a principal of the firm. The activities of the firm involve providing investigation, design, management and advisory services to public and private organizations, both foreign and domestic, on problems that lie within the specialized fields of hydrogeology and environmental engineering. The firm undertakes only the type of work for which it is qualified and for which there is a genuine need for environmental engineering and/or groundwater specialists. LBG has been providing public and industrial water-supply consulting since 1944. Assignments have included municipal and community well-field development, design, testing, maintenance and expansion. The firm has extensive experience with water-supply development in both bedrock and sand and gravel aquifers. LBG has developed numerous supplies in bedrock and sand and gravel in New England and southern New York. For most of the water-supply development projects, LBG has been involved in all aspects of the work, from performing initial hydrogeologic studies and exploratory drilling to well design, construction oversight, well testing and permitting. Many of the well sites have required wetland studies. The more recent projects have required compliance with the Surface Water Treatment Rule regulations. Within New York State, LBG has extensive experience in water supply analysis, and has conducted groundwater assessment for numerous municipalities in Dutchess, Westchester, Rockland and Orange Counties. The firm’s long record of work with water-supply development, contamination problems and computer modeling throughout the Northeast establishes LBG as a firm uniquely qualified to prepare all aspects of water-supply studies. Ecological Solutions, Inc. (Environmental Consultant) Contributed to the Flora and Fauna section. Ecological Solutions staff has more than 18 years experience completing natural resource inventories. The firm has analyzed the life history requirements of several endangered plant and animal species, including Blanding’s turtle, bog turtle, bald eagle, Indiana bat and Karner blue butterfly. This analysis allows the firm’s staff to determine the extent of rare, threatened or endangered species and the potential impacts presented to a project. Ecological Solutions’ vegetation and wildlife surveys: o Determine the density, frequency and dominance of plant communities through aerial photography and on-site field reconnaissance o Conduct surveys of endangered, threatened and rare wildlife populations; o Determine the presence of specific fish and wildlife species on individual sites or areas.MAHAMUDRA BUDDHIST HERMITAGE FEIS III-13April 2008
  14. 14. o Design and supervise ongoing monitoring programs to assess status and impacts to ecological communities. Kathy Michell (Biologist, Environmental Consultant) Evaluated the site for potential for timber rattlesnake habitat. Kathy Michell is a New York State-certified biologist, and holds a Class 1, Federal Migratory Bird License, a License to Collect or Possess Animals and is a NYSDEC wildlife rehabilitator. Ms. Michell is one of three people certified by Region 3 of NYSDEC for the assessment of timber rattlesnake habitat. Tim Miller Associates, Inc. (Environmental Consultant) Contributed to the Cultural Resources (historical and archeological) section. Tim Miller Associates, Inc. provides land planning and environmental services to developers, corporations, municipalities and community planning associations. These include services in the areas of municipal planning, zoning and community development, development feasibility studies, environmental impact statements, wetland delineation and analysis, groundwater and geotechnical sciences, air quality, noise and traffic studies, phase 1 and 2 environmental audits and site assessments, stage 1 archeology studies, landscape design and related advisory services. Tim Miller Associates has active projects throughout the greater New York metropolitan area, including New Jersey; Connecticut; New York City; and Westchester, Putnam, Orange, Rockland, Dutchess, Ulster and Sullivan Counties. The firm’s in-house staff offers a depth and breadth of experience rarely found in small- to mid-size consulting offices. In-house capabilities include transportation planning, traffic, environmental and community planning, economics, water resources, biology and natural sciences, environmental impact assessment, hydrogeology, hazardous waste investigations, asbestos services, landscape design and wetland delineation. CITY/SCAPE: Cultural Resource Consultants (Environmental Consultants) Contributed to the Cultural Resources (historical and archeological) section. CITY/SCAPE provides a variety of services to organizations requiring cultural and environmental analyses; open space planning; and presentation surveys of historic sites, including landscapes and architectural elements, lectures, interpretive programs and exhibitions.A.19 Comment: The Planning Board should be aware that although the Dharmakaya claims that theirs will be a religious endeavor, there will be a great deal of tax-free money generated as income to the organization. Will the Dharmakaya offer its conference facilities to other corporations for meeting purposes? It would certainly be a grave injustice to the Town of Wawarsing residents to pay extra taxes to support the expense caused by the Dharmakaya community while they are earning hundreds of thousands of dollars and are not supporting the community (William Williams, Cragsmoor resident, memo dated December 25, 2006).MAHAMUDRA BUDDHIST HERMITAGE FEIS III-14April 2008
  15. 15. A.19 Response: Dharmakaya has no plans to offer any of the Hermitage facilities to outside organizations or to corporations for meeting purposes. All facilities at Dharmakaya will be focused on the space and infrastructure for Buddhist teachings and programs, especially the core three-year meditation retreat. As a non-profit organization, Dharmakaya’s activities (and those of its affiliate organization, the United Trungram Buddhist Fellowship (UTBF) are made possible through the support of its members and private donations. This is not dissimilar to other religious groups and churches, which take collections or rely on donations for part of their support. The Hermitage is not expected to achieve a “profit,” as all program income will be used to pay operating expenses. Income above and beyond operating expenses is not expected.A.20 Comment: Planning boards and town boards sometimes are not aware that the services of consultants to the town can be charged to developers. This is a provision of state law. It’s a good idea to have the town hire more experts because a poorly designed project or a project whose impacts are inadequately and inaccurately described and assessed is bound to cost the town eventually, in remediation of damage, increased services and legal defense (James Barbour, ecological consultant hired by Cragsmoor Association and Nature Conservancy, memo received December 26, 2006).A.20 Response: See Response A.17.A.21 Comment: Why did the Planning Board allow the Applicant to decimate the content of the scoping document? And why did the Applicant elect to ignore the public request for hydrogeologic information (Katherine Beinkafner, Mid-Hudson Geosciences (consultant to Cragsmoor Association), memo dated December 26, 2006)?A.21 Response: Actually, the Planning Board expanded the scoping document from the initial submission to include additional requirements. Nor has the Applicant ignored the public request for hydrogeologic information. The study done for the DEIS was very robust, and performed by a recognized consulting firm, Leggette, Brashears & Graham, Inc., who in its 64 years of business has competed over 6,000 groundwater projects for more than 4,000 clients. The firm has received numerous awards from both engineering associations and private entities for its work, and is recognized in the engineering community as an expert in the field of groundwater and environmental services. (See Response A.18). The Town hired an independent consultant, Malcolm, Pirnie, Inc., to review all the hydrogeological reports generated under the DEIS review process. The review comment letter from Malcolm Pirnie, and the response of Leggette, Brashears & Graham, Inc. are both included in Appendix D of the FEIS.A.22 Comment: I have personally investigated many of the cited Centers for Buddhist Worship cited in the DEIS (the Karme Choling Retreat Center; the Shambhala Mountain Center; the Zen Mountain Center), and found another common thread throughout – the impact of these centers on the surrounding communities was and continues to be that of devastating consequences. For example, the DEIS cited theMAHAMUDRA BUDDHIST HERMITAGE FEIS III-15April 2008
  16. 16. Karme Choling Retreat Center as a project of similar nature to the proposed Hermitage in Cragsmoor – this center started out as a small weekend retreat and is now one of the largest centers of its kind and supports a local factory that manufactures articles related to Buddhist practices (Blake Benton, Cragsmoor resident, memo received December 26, 2006).A.22 Response: People in Dharmakaya’s organization have approximately 30 years of knowledge about these other centers, and we know of no such “devastating consequences.” Based on this experience, it is the Applicant’s opinion that all Buddhist centers mentioned are good neighbors and have a harmonious and positive relationship with their local communities. Karme Choling does not have a factory but a small cottage business that makes meditation cushions, to support its programs. Nevertheless, the examples of Buddhist centers provided in the Appendix A of the DEIS were selected for the fact that places of Buddhist worship have been successfully integrated into other communities, not as direct comparisons to the projected size, scale and use of the proposed Hermitage. One important difference is that the proposed Hermitage will be exclusively used for worship and meditation, study and retreat, with the most serious students participating in the traditional three-year retreat. Retreats of such intensity and duration are not offered at any other center in the U.S. of which we are aware. Mahamudra Hermitage will be a worship and retreat center, perhaps more similar to a small religious community, while the other centers named function as program centers, which may offer a wide range of activities. Also, see Response A.16.A.23 Comment: We read in the DEIS that Rinpoche, the spiritual leader of the Dharmakaya, is regarded as one of the top Lamas of Tibetan Buddhism. Isn’t it therefore natural to assume he and his followers will attract this type of future growth cited above in our comparatively small community? I ask, what will the town Board do to prevent this development in our community (Blake Benton, Cragsmoor resident, memo received December 26, 2006)?A.23 Response: The principal function of the proposed Hermitage will be for meditation and study for serious Buddhist practitioners, with the most serious students participating in the traditional three-year retreat. Casual use of the Hermitage facilities by drop in visitors will not be allowed and is inconsistent with its quiet retreat use. See Responses A.4, A.16 and A.22.A.24 Comment: I don’t believe the people behind the Center care a hoot for their neighbors. This is all about their own selfish ambition to turn a dollar under the guise of a spiritual retreat. We will be yet another casualty at the price of what? Some sort of spiritual gentrification (Cynthia Broderson, Cragsmoor resident, memo dated December 26, 2006)?A.24 Response: Throughout the planning process for the Hermitage, Dharmakaya has conducted outreach efforts in the Cragsmoor community, and the Applicant’s spiritual leader, Rinpoche, has traveled to the area to discuss the project with residents and conduct teachings and meditation sessions for the community. Regarding any intention of Dharmakaya to earn a profit through the Hermitage, please refer to Response A.19. In the fall of 2003, before Dharmakaya bought theMAHAMUDRA BUDDHIST HERMITAGE FEIS III-16April 2008
  17. 17. land, its representatives asked to meet with the Cragsmoor community and did so in the Stone Church. At that time, Dharmakaya laid out plans for a community of approximately 100 full-time residents on the site, focused on short- and long-term meditation practices, with six to eight larger teachings each year (each a single-day event with no additional overnight guests). The Applicant also discussed the various buildings types that would be needed to make the facility work. Since then, Dharmakaya has had meetings with the community each year: one large community meeting, multiple meetings with abutters of the land (in addition to offering teachings/meditation sessions each June at the home of a neighboring land owner for anyone who wanted to come) and a meeting with various representatives of the Cragsmoor community groups in the spring of 2007. The Applicant has consistently stated its goals to neighbors and intends to continue to be a good neighbor by preserving the intent of the community – an atmosphere of quiet retreat.A.25 Comment: It would be better if you would look to preserve and protect what lies in your own backyard, namely Cragsmoor! (Cynthia Broderson, Cragsmoor resident, memo dated December 26, 2006).A.25 Response: The proposed Hermitage would preserve far more land and result in significantly less development impact than would a conventional residential subdivision allowed under the site’s current zoning. In addition, the proposed project would generate less traffic and demand for utilities and community services than such a subdivision.A.26 Comment: I recommend that Mahamudra include in the Final EIS a statement of intent to pursue the program consistently presented to the township and the Cragsmoor community and only that program (Tom Gale, Cragsmoor resident, memo dated December 26, 2006).A.26 Response: The Applicant intends to pursue only the program as consistently presented, which is set forth in this EIS. See Responses A.16 and A.22.A.27 Comment: Further, I recommend that Mahamudra provide a statement in the Final EIS offering discussion intended to lead to granting conservation easements on selected areas of the site in furtherance of joint Mahamudra, township and community recognition of intent to harmonize Hermitage activities and environmental amenities (Tom Gale, Cragsmoor resident, memo dated December 26, 2006).A.27 Response: The Applicant has proposed to create a 100- to 200-foot permanent buffer around approximately 77 percent of the perimeter of the project site, covering approximately 29 percent of the property. For detailed discussion of this plan, see Responses A.10 and A.11.A.28 Comment: The conclusions in the Environmental Impact Statement about the impacts on biological resources are at least in the preliminary draft we put together worthless. Too little information is provided to support any conclusions regardingMAHAMUDRA BUDDHIST HERMITAGE FEIS III-17April 2008
  18. 18. impacts to the project (David Gordon, attorney for Cragsmoor Association, at public hearing November 30, 2006).A.28 Response: As discussed above, the DEIS was accepted as complete on October 25, 2006. This acceptance came after a full review of the draft DEIS by Frederick P. Clark Associates, and resultant modifications to the draft by the Applicant. The information in the DEIS regarding Flora and Fauna (biological resources) was studied by an expert in the field, Michael Nowicki, of Ecological Solutions, Inc. (see Response A.18). Mr. Nowicki has more than 19 years of experience in the field of natural resources investigations. The Natural Resources Survey completed for the site took a hard look for species of special concern, threatened and endangered species that occur in New York State as listed by the NYSDEC during the appropriate seasons. Common species were also catalogued on the site. Breeding birds, herptiles, plants and other vegetation were also observed and documented on the site. All of the species observed on the site were identified and included in the Natural Resources Survey. In addition, as part of the FEIS and in response to comments raised, the Applicant had the site assessed for rattlesnake habitat by Kathy Michell, who is licensed by NYSDEC in this field. The NYSDEC also has a copy of the DEIS for review and offered no comments on the Natural Resources Survey. Also, additional field surveys were conducted by Mr. Nowicki, on July 24, 2007, and August 8, 2007. During these additional field surveys, no additional species of special concern or threatened, endangered or rare species were observedA.29 Comment: With respect to the SEQR timeline, the one thing that wasn’t put up was a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement. Every one of the impacts I’ve cited would be sufficient to require a SEIS to be certain that you are viewing the significance of this site (David Gordon, attorney for Cragsmoor Association, at public hearing November 30, 2006). [Note: the impacts referred to by the commenter relate to the project’s compliance with Town zoning, community character, traffic, wildlife and habitats, viewsheds, hydrogeology, analysis of alternatives and the potential for future project growth. The full text of the comments is found in Appendix A of this FEIS.]A.29 Response: See Responses A.17 and A.28. A supplemental EIS is not required. The DEIS adequately and fairly evaluated all potential impacts. Comments raised by the public are appropriately addressed in this FEIS.A.30 Comment: You don’t have the road frontage. The road facilities. You don’t have the water means. My question to you is do you want to ruin that community with corporate America? It is time for our Board to stand up and say no (Henry Sherman, Cragsmoor resident, at public hearing November 30, 2006).A.30 Response: As shown in Table IV.A-1, on page IV.A-14 of the DEIS, the project site has 1,949 feet of road frontage, more than 10 times the minimum 175-foot frontage required by the Wawarsing Zoning Code. Cragsmoor Road is a County highway, and road improvements including shoulder widening and drainage improvements will be completed as part of the project. In addition, the site plan proposes an internal road network that will adequately address the needs of the site’s occupants, and that will be privately maintained at no cost to the Town.MAHAMUDRA BUDDHIST HERMITAGE FEIS III-18April 2008
  19. 19. Regarding water issues, see Response A.21 and Section H. The proposed use has little in common with a corporate campus. There will be far less traffic than on an office site. The buildings on the site are not adaptable to corporate office structures. The interests of the project sponsors are religious, not “corporate.”A.31 Comment: Due to the sensitivity of the site and the concern of residents in Cragsmoor about the potential for additional development on the site, we urge the Planning Board to consider requiring a conservation easement on the undeveloped portion of the property to assure that undeveloped land be protected in perpetuity (Heidi Wagner, preserve manager for Sam’s Point Preserve, Cragsmoor resident, at public hearing November 30, 2006).A.31 Response: See Response A.10 and A.11 for a full discussion of the Applicant’s proposal for a buffer around the property perimeter, which is discussed at various points throughout the FEIS.A.32 Comment: This plan has only outlined a construction sequence for Phase I, which is proposed to be just under 12 acres. Soil disturbance must be limited to 5 acres or less at any one time during the construction phase. A phasing plan, with detailed construction sequence for each phase at full build-out, must be included on the site plan and must limit areas of disturbance to 5 acres or less. These phases must be clearly delineated on the site plan (Janet Swentusky, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, memo dated January 23, 2007).A.32 Response: The Applicant acknowledges the obligation to limit disturbance to 5 acres or less at any one time during the construction phase. Site plan approval is only being sought for Phase I at this time. Each phase subsequent to the first shall be required to obtain Planning Board site plan review and approval prior to construction. Detailed construction sequencing will be developed for the particular phase under review at the time of site plan approval. All construction sequencing and soil disturbance will be done in accordance with NYSDEC Phase II Stormwater Regulations. As described in Response J.3, Phase I will be broken down into sub- phases to assure that the amount of disturbance is less than 5 acres. During this Phase, a maximum of 4.3 acres will be disturbed in any one sub-phase. Subsequent phases will involve the construction of the individual building complexes or combinations of buildings. As described in Response J.3, only Phase IV will exceed 5 acres (8.0 acres). However, work during that phase will be broken down into sub- phases so as to assure that disturbance is limited to less than 5 acres at any one time See Tables III.A-1 and III.A-2, below, for a revised summary of site disturbance to reflect the modified site plan.MAHAMUDRA BUDDHIST HERMITAGE FEIS III-19April 2008
  20. 20. Table III.A-1: Area of Disturbance Breakdown AREA OF DISTURBANCE PERCENT (%) OF TOTAL PARCEL USE (Acres) AREABuildings/Landscaped 9.89 10.92%AreasRoads 7.54 8.33%Parking 1.75 1.93%Septic Systems * 2.64 2.92%Drainage Facilities 8.56 9.45%Total 30.38 33.54% • There is an additional 1.46 acres or 1.61% of the site that is designated as SSDS expansion areas that would remain undeveloped unless the area is needed for expansion. There may be some variation in the area of disturbance due to the SSDSs, based on final design and permitting. However, large variations are not expected. Any additional area of disturbance will be in the SSDS areas shown in the modified site plan and is not expected to create any additional environmental impacts. Table III.A-2: Disturbance by Cover Types AREA OF DISTURBANCE PERCENT (%) OF TOTAL PARCELNO. COVER TYPE (Acres) AREA 1 Wetland/Watercourse 0.00 0.00% 2 Mature Forest 16.82 18.57% 3 Young Woods 9.35 10.32% 4 Upland Meadow 4.21 4.65% TOTAL 30.38 33.54%A.33 Comment: I recommend the creation of conservation easements on all lands which will not be used in the project proposal (Maureen Radl, VP Cragsmoor Historical Society, VP Friends of the Shawangunks, at public hearing November 30, 2006).A.33 Response: See Responses A.10 and A.11.A.34 Comment: I can’t figure out in all of this that who is the legal entity that somebody would go after when and if they don’t do what they are supposed to do (Dick Nolan, Cragsmoor resident, at public hearing November 30, 2006).A.34 Response: The project Applicant, Dharmakaya, Inc. is a not-for-profit organization registered in the State of New York and an affiliate of the United Trungram Buddhist Fellowship (UTBF), a nonprofit organization established in 1992. In the United States, Dharmakaya fills the role of all dharma teaching activities for UTBF and oversees meditation groups in New York City, Boston and Seattle. Contact information for Dharmakaya is found on its Web site, http://www.dharmakaya.org. As noted in Response A.16 above, the Town will enforce compliance with the conditions of the special permit and site plan, through its Building Inspector,MAHAMUDRA BUDDHIST HERMITAGE FEIS III-20April 2008
  21. 21. reserving to the Town all additional authority of a Town under New York State Law to enforce its zoning and planning laws.A.35 Comment: The Board should consider an escrow account for the mending and complete repair of the terrain for each phase of the project, should the Applicant ever abandon any part of it, at least there would be finances to repair the ground (Linda Rogers, Cragsmoor resident, at public hearing November 30, 2006).A.35 Response: The Applicant will abide by all Town requirements concerning this issue, and will not be treated any differently than any other applicant for site plan approval. Additionally, applicable stormwater regulations limit the amount of land that can be exposed at one time. The Town will require sedimentation and erosion control measures, and landscaping bonds relating to certain improvements.A.36 Comment: I would like to inquire as to whether this Planning Board has found this to be an overwhelming project and has employed outside, independent consultants focused entirely and only on this DEIS as provided by SEQR. This project is of monumental size and although I realize many New York State agencies have been requested to comment, I ask if you clearly understand (Linda Rogers, Cragsmoor resident, at public hearing November 30, 2006).A.36 Response: See Response A.17.A.37 Comment: Cragsmoor residents are already speaking with independent and skilled consultants, and I believe it appropriate to ask this Planning Board to require the Applicant to pay these professional fees. The proposed cost is beyond the ability of Cragsmoor residents and the figures rise daily (Linda Rogers, Cragsmoor resident, at public hearing November 30, 2006.A.37 Response: As discussed above and in Response A.17, the Applicant is providing funding, through a lawfully established escrow account, for the experts hired by the Planning Board to review the DEIS, as required by the Town. The Applicant is not required to fund the professional fees of consultants hired by project opponents.B. Executive SummaryNo comments received.C. Description of the Proposed ActionC.1 Comment: Please upgrade Old Inn Road (off of Cragsmoor Road) to accommodate two-way fire apparatus and please keep road maintained during course of construction (Cragsmoor Fire District Board of Commissioners, memo dated November 15, 2006).C.1 Response: Old Inn Road is a privately owned road. Other commenters, including owners of properties with rights to use Old Inn Road, have expressed concernsMAHAMUDRA BUDDHIST HERMITAGE FEIS III-21April 2008
  22. 22. about preserving the quiet nature of the road, and avoiding “over-improvement” that would change its character (see Comment and Response N.23 and N.24, for example). Based on meetings with the fire district, as represented by Commissioner Jack Kissel, the fire district has indicated that Old Inn Road will not need to be widened from its current width. They indicated that pull-off areas need to be provided along the road’s length so vehicles during any emergency would be able to pass. Upon further field investigation and discussion with the Old Inn Road Neighborhood Association, the applicant is proposing that the existing driveways at each residential driveway entrance accommodate this requirement. It is important to note that Old Inn Road will function only as a secondary emergency entrance back- up to the primary Cragsmoor Road Hermitage entrance. Further, it should be noted that all construction will be mobilized and serviced from Cragsmoor Road only. Hence, Old Inn Road will not experience any construction traffic during the course of the project’s construction and will not require any maintenance associated with such use.C.2 Comment: The request by the Fire District to widen Old Inn Road is unreasonable and excessive. The road is currently quite adequate for large vehicles and will not be a primary access road for the Dharmakaya Center (Irene Seeland, Cragsmoor resident, memo dated November 27, 2006).C.2 Response: See Response C.1.C.3 Comment: The scale of the proposed project, both its size (Disneyesque) and timeframe for its execution, is unacceptable. We strongly believe that a 70,000+ sq. ft. construction project smack in the middle of the hamlet will irreparably detract from the bucolic charm that has been intrinsic to Cragsmoor since its establishment (Russell and Monica Damsky, memo dated December 6, 2006).C.3 Response: As has been noted in previous responses (see A.1 and A.4, for example), the Dharmakaya project was designed to be a place of quiet meditation and repose. While the buildings are larger than others in Cragsmoor, the site is also far larger than other sites in Cragsmoor. The buildings suit the function of the center of worship. However, they are not visually intrusive, and have deep setbacks from the property line. They are designed to be visually attractive when seen. Even in the initial proposal (as evaluated in the DEIS), the project had deep setbacks and proposed a less intensive development scenario than the clearing and development necessary for single-family development permitted as-of-right. Deep buffer/landscaped areas along Cragsmoor Road screened the site from viewing by passers-by and nearby residents. Moreover, in response to public comments on the DEIS, the Applicant has made numerous substantive modifications to the project. As described in Chapter II of this FEIS, overall, the site plan changes result in a reduction in final build-out in terms of occupancy, number of buildings, total square footage and parking. These modifications would generate decreases in water usage, septic capacity, electrical loads, disturbed areas, parking and landscaping. The alterations also include the relocation of certain buildings, which would significantly improve views from neighboring properties. The changes include a reduction in the footprint of theMAHAMUDRA BUDDHIST HERMITAGE FEIS III-22April 2008
  23. 23. proposed Hermitage from 78,246 square feet to 67,557 square feet, a decrease of approximately 14 percent. As a result of this decrease in total footprint, total occupancy of the Hermitage, on a day-to-day basis, would be reduced from 107 people to 85 people, or approximately 21 percent. Finally, the changes would result in a net reduction of total parking spaces on the project site, of 33, from 112 spaces to 79, or approximately 29 percent. A rendering of the revised site plan is provided in Figure II-1, of this FEIS, and full-scale engineering drawings are provided in Appendix B. Refer to Chapter II for a detailed discussion of changes to the original site plan.C.4 Comment: The proposed time frame of up to 10 years for construction, which entails extensive blasting and other noise pollution connected with the massive clearing and construction processes, is a real long-term threat (Russell and Monica Damsky, memo dated December 6, 2006).C.4 Response: See Response A.9 for a description of the overall plan for development, and Response J.3 for a description of phasing and potential alternate phasing plans. No blasting is expected to occur during any phase of construction. While the time for completion of the project may vary somewhat, the minimum anticipated time for such completion is estimated to be approximately 7 years. Even at this maximum building pace, construction periods of 12-18 months would be followed by quiet periods between phases with no construction activity. The phased process will assure a slow pace of disturbance, limiting areas disturbed at one time. It is also possible that the time period for completion of the project may extend to a longer period of time, such as the 10 year period suggested by the commenter, by virtue of longer periods of time between phases. The total length of actual construction activity would be expected to remain constant under any of the potential scenarios for phasing and total project completion. The longer periods between one or more phases will not generate any additional adverse impacts. As noted, the extended period of a slower paced development is itself a method of limiting the intensity of construction-related impacts at any one time. Regarding noise, it is expected that site clearing and other construction of the proposed project may result in some short-term noise-related impacts, although the noise levels will diminish in intensity as site preparation, excavation work and foundation development are completed. To mitigate these impacts, the Applicant proposes to limit construction to the hours of 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Mondays through Fridays, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays; with no construction activities occurring on Sundays. This construction schedule is more stringent than that provided in the Town of Wawarsing Noise Ordinance. Because some short-term noise levels at adjacent property lines may, without mitigation, exceed levels permitted under the Town of Wawarsing Noise Control Law, the Applicant will use noise damping practices during construction to minimize the impact on surrounding properties, and all mechanical construction equipment will be maintained in good working order to minimize noise levels. See section O for further discussion of Noise impacts.C.5 Comment: Does the project need to be so large? If so, is this tiny hamlet an appropriate place to build it? What of the potentially long-term, irreversible negativeMAHAMUDRA BUDDHIST HERMITAGE FEIS III-23April 2008
  24. 24. impacts on residents living in such quarters to its location (Russell and Monica Damsky, memo dated December 6, 2006)?C.5 Response: Regarding the project’s size, see Response C.3. The Applicant believes that the present location is the appropriate place for its proposed project. Because of the quiet nature of the activities and the inherent respect for the setting by the owners and occupants of the Hermitage over time, the Applicant believes that the interests of the project proponents and the neighboring residents of Cragsmoor are entirely congruent. The Dharmakaya project proponents chose this site because of the qualities of the Cragsmoor hamlet, and believe that the Hermitage will enhance the character of the hamlet. The project proponents also believe that their project is more compatible with the neighborhood than a conventional subdivision development. Regarding potential negative impacts to surrounding residents, see Responses A.1, A.3, A.4, A.10, A.11, A.16 and A.24.C6 Comment: There is a real possibility of a large corporate campus, not just a retreat (Ted Horn, Cragsmoor resident, memo dated December 19, 2006).C.6 Response: First, corporate office complexes are not a permitted use in this zoning district. Second, it is the Applicant’s opinion that there is virtually no likelihood that this site would be deemed desirable as a corporate office or research and development site because of its remote location from highway access. Moreover, the layout and design of the buildings, including the meditation center, is inappropriate for corporate office purposes. The largest building on the site is now 16,500 square feet in size (reduced from 18,500 square feet in the DEIS). This is much smaller than the usual corporate office building. In general, developers of corporate office buildings in the greater New York City metropolitan area seek a building area of 20,000 to 30,000 square feet per floor, with buildings typically encompassing several floors. Therefore, none of the buildings on the project site would be readily adaptable for use as a corporate office. See Responses A.16 and A.30.C.7 Comment: We are concerned that the intensive use of the site mostly as the result of the construction of more than 75,000 square feet of space in seventeen buildings, with traffic brought by significant periodic visitation and significant water and septic use, will threaten the current balance of the area (Sally Matz, President of Cragsmoor Historical Society, memo dated December 21, 2006).C.7 Response: As discussed throughout this FEIS, Dharmakaya’s purpose is to provide a place for retreatants to immerse themselves in quiet contemplation and meditation, with the most serious students participating in the three-year retreat. See Response A22. The existing natural environment of Cragsmoor is a key factor in the atmosphere needed for the Hermitage, and preserving the quality of that environment is a major element of its mission. This proposed use is a much less intensive use than a conventional as-of-right residential subdivision, which would result in significantly more impacts relating to traffic, water and sewer use and community character. See Responses A.1., A.3, A.4, A.9 and A.16. In addition, the Applicant has substantially reduced the size and intensity of its proposed use. The total size of the proposed project is now 67,457 square feet, a reduction from theMAHAMUDRA BUDDHIST HERMITAGE FEIS III-24April 2008
  25. 25. initial size (as described in the DEIS) of 78,246 square feet. See Response C.3 and Chapter II for a full discussion of these site plan modifications.C.8 Comment: Are the three detention ponds and two water quality basins for use in case of fire, and, if so, are they constructed to contain appropriate water levels at all times, or are they constructed so that in dry/drought months the ponds will be vastly reduced or completely dry and useless to the Fire Department (Linda Rogers, Cragsmoor resident, memo dated December 21, 2006)?C.8 Response: The intent of the detention ponds are for stormwater mitigation and reduction of peak flows. They are not intended for use as fire ponds. A separate underground storage tank has been proposed to supply water for fire fighting. See Response A.32.C.9 Comment: The Applicant indicates the intention to celebrate eight individual holidays scattered throughout the year. It is important that the number never increase because of negative visual, traffic, sewerage and water-use impact (Linda Rogers, Cragsmoor resident, memo dated December 21, 2006).C.9 Response: The Applicant has agreed to limit the times of visitation to the eight times per year which are significant dates on the Buddhist calendar. It should be noted that the activities planned for these days are teaching activities. The activities will not be noisy or involve loud music or celebration through noise-making activity. While the number of people on the site would increase on these days by approximately 143 people, the total site population on these days would still be approximately 228 people, which is not an overly intense population for a 91-acre site. This population is less than the visitation experienced in the area for Cragsmoor Day or other celebrations at Sam’s Point and other scenic attractions. The Applicant does not believe that the environmental impacts on these visitation days are significant, considering the size of the site, the nature of the visitations, the accommodations on the site for parking and the nature of the area. Conditions relating to maximum population are expected to be among the conditions of the special permit and/or site plan approvals.C.10 Comment: As the Conservancy sees it, the Cragsmoor community is particularly concerned about the size of the project and the possibility of more development in the future, and the Conservancy shares these concerns. The development appears to be vastly larger and grander than necessary to support the current announced use. For example, the “teacher’s house,” which is said to be the home for just two persons, is almost 5,000 square feet in size. This would make it the grandest house in Cragsmoor by a huge margin- just for two people. This immense size is not only unnecessary but tends to support a suspicion that the occupancy of this building will grow exponentially in future years, belying any current statements about limited usage. And the same could be said about the other buildings (Jeffrey Slade, The Cragsmoor Conservancy, President, memo dated December 21, 2006).C.10 Response: First, it is noted that many of the buildings have been reduced in size, including an approximately 20 percent reduction in the size of the teachers house. More importantly, the Applicant has expressed its commitment to the program it hasMAHAMUDRA BUDDHIST HERMITAGE FEIS III-25April 2008
  26. 26. proposed and also expressed its willingness to have the maximum occupancy and use set forth as conditions in the special permit and site plan approvals. These commitments are reinforced by the fact that occupancy and use cannot exceed the parameters studied within this environmental impact statement. The Applicant is bound by its special permit application and the EIS. The Planning Board will only approve what is justified based upon the review. As a center of worship and quiet meditation, spacious facilities both within the common buildings and without – the natural beauty of a 91-acre woodland – are conducive to the very purpose of the project. A spacious and natural environment contributes to a spacious and loving state of mind during meditation. This is a center of worship, meditation and repose. Cramped facilities are not conducive to the very purpose of the project. It is inappropriate to oppose an acceptable use based on speculation about potential future violations, when there is no factual basis upon which to determine that any such violation will occur. The larger facilities about which fear has been expressed (e.g. “corporate campus,” “corporate America”) are not even permitted in the zoning district. As noted elsewhere in this FEIS, the conditions on maximum occupancy will be enforced by the Town. In addition, the public will have continued opportunities for input as the subsequent site plan applications are reviewed. No activities of any greater intensity or size than those approved in the present review process can be placed on the site without a further application process, which would entail revisiting the SEQRA process. Both these steps (site plan review and SEQRA) would involve a further public review process. See Responses A.10, A.16 and C.3. For a discussion of the need for the size and number of buildings as described in this FEIS, see Response C.27.C.11 Comment: There are concerns that the usage of the site will grow well beyond what is currently proposed, both through increased usage of the current buildings and perhaps through increased development on the site (Jeffrey Slade, President, The Cragsmoor Conservancy, memo dated December 21, 2006).C.11 Response: See Responses A.10, A.16 and C10.C.12 Comment: The only full scale drawings found in the binder were the Erosion and Sediment Control Plans. Very little information with regard to other associated necessary plan details has been provided. The currently submitted DEIS plans are too general and do not provide the minimum information necessary to allow a proper determination of the environmental impacts associated with this project (David Clouser, David Clouser & Associates, engineering consultant to Cragsmoor Association, memo dated December 22, 2006).C.12 Response: Appendix F of the DEIS that was distributed to all involved or interested agencies contained not only “Erosion and Sediment Control” plans, but also “Layout and Utility” and “Grading and Drainage” plans, each of which was prepared to a scale of 1 inch = 80 feet. These drawings were prepared at a scale that exceeds the one the commenter has requested of 1 inch = 100 feet. Additional copies of the DEIS were available for review at the Town Hall and the libraries. See Response A.14.MAHAMUDRA BUDDHIST HERMITAGE FEIS III-26April 2008
  27. 27. C.13 Comment: I dread the long-term project including the cutting down of 30 acres of forest in four phases of development over 10 years (Joan Lesikin, Cragsmoor resident, memo dated December 24, 2006).C.13 Response: The development of this project also involves the preservation of approximately 60 acres of open space, the imposition of restrictions preserving buffers around the perimeter and the allocation of this site to an extremely quiet use. See Responses A.1., A.9, A.10, A.11, A. 15, A.16, C.4 and C.10, among others.C.14 Comment: Cerniglia Architecture and Planning is recorded in the B scoping transcripts most emphatically correcting Lucy Dart saying there were no 17,000- square-foot buildings in the project. Apparently, the architecture firm is somehow unaware of the 18,500-square-foot building mentioned in project C correspondence (Joanne and Richard Bierschenk, Cragsmoor residents, memo dated December 25, 2006).C.14 Response: The comment in the November 30, 2005, public scoping session transcript, stating that there were no 17,000-square-foot buildings in the project, was made in error. However, that error was fully corrected in the DEIS, and there has been a full opportunity to comment on the size of the buildings. As noted elsewhere, this largest building on the site is set deep into the site, with ample setbacks and screening from views from other properties. As further noted, site plan modifications made in response to public concerns since completion of the DEIS will reduce the size of the Bodhisattva Dharma Center from 18,500 square feet to 16,500 square feet, a decrease of approximately 11%. Also please refer to Responses A.16 and C.3.C.15 Comment: Last December several petitions were submitted to the Planning Board signed by 92 town residents complaining about the sheer size of this project. Since then the plan as described in the DEIS is even larger (William Williams, Cragsmoor resident, memo dated December 25, 2006).C.15 Response: The original plan included fewer buildings (14) of much larger scale and size. The succeeding plan increased the number of buildings (18) in order to reduce the scale and size of many of these buildings to create building sizes and profiles which keep more in character with the scale and size of existing buildings within the Cragsmoor Historic District. Throughout this process, the project program, including the total square footage, has remained consistent with original proposals (in the approximate range of 75,000 to 78,000 square feet). Any marginal increase in this area is not the result of increasing the project in terms of programs offered or occupants served. Rather, in an effort to decrease building size and scales by creating more buildings, inefficiencies result and additional space is required to accommodate more individual spaces where such spaces were once shared in common in a larger building (these spaces include facilities for building services, storage spaces, mechanical spaces, circulation spaces, toilet and shower facilities, etc.). As has been noted in other sections of the FEIS Chapter III (see Response C.3 for example) the Applicant has proposed substantial reductions in the project size and scope as part of the FEIS in response to public comments.MAHAMUDRA BUDDHIST HERMITAGE FEIS III-27April 2008
  28. 28. C.16 Comment: Pre-construction activities can be devastating on flora and fauna. The DEIS claims there will be minimum clearing, preservation of habitat, phasing of construction, erosion control and water-saving techniques. Are these claims substantiated with facts and sound analysis (James Barbour, Ecological consultant hired by Cragsmoor Association and Nature Conservancy, memo received December 26, 2006)?C.16 Response: The DEIS contained information on each of the items listed in the comment. Furthermore, the Town of Wawarsing hired several experts to review the DEIS, and their comments form part of the record and are responded to in this FEIS (See Response A.17). The Planning Boards SEQRA Findings in this regard will be enforced by conditions of the special permit and site plan approval.C.17 Comment: The project is far too large and inappropriate for the site, and will have far too great an impact on the environment to allow for approval. The project will damage the quality of life and ecological resources of Cragsmoor in direct relation to its scale (David Gordon, attorney for Cragsmoor Association, memo dated December 26, 2006).C.17 Response: See Responses A.1, A.9, A.10, A.11, A.16 and C.3.C.18 Comment: There is no control over the likely expansion of the project far beyond the current excessive scope, exacerbating all of the prospective impact to the surrounding community (David Gordon, attorney for Cragsmoor Association, memo dated December 26, 2006).C.18 Response: See Responses A.10, A.11, A.16 and C.10.C.19 Comment: I request the Town of Wawarsing officials question how the Dharmakayas will address future expansion even though they stated in the DEIS that there will be no requirements for such. It is hard for me to believe that a World Center could be built at this time and know they will not have a need to expand in the future (Dolores Williams, Cragsmoor resident, memo dated December 26, 2006).C.19 Response: See Responses A.10, A.11, A.16 and C.10.C.20 Comment: I am truly afraid that a development on the scale of the Dharmakaya would overwhelm tiny Cragsmoor with its needs, and our lovely community would be unable to withstand the onslaught (Mary Kroul McAlpin, Cragsmoor resident, memo dated December 26, 2006).C.20 Response: See Responses A.1, A.9, A.10, A.11, A.16 and C.3.C.21 Comment: I’d just like to take a minute of your time to explain the general feelings of the Cragsmoor residents about this project. In short, it’s just too big and not in keeping with the residential and historical nature of our hamlet (Jim McKinney, Cragsmoor Association, President, at public hearing November 30, 2006).MAHAMUDRA BUDDHIST HERMITAGE FEIS III-28April 2008
  29. 29. C.21 Response: In response to public concerns about the potential impacts of the proposed buildings on the Cragsmoor Historic District, the Applicant has relocated the Teacher’s House to the southwest, further into the interior of the project site, from its currently proposed location just off of Old Inn Road. This relocation will ensure the preservation of the viewshed from Old Inn Road down the former golf course fairway, and the building will sit approximately 30 feet lower relative to Old Inn Road. In addition, the Teacher’s House will be moved approximately 225 feet to the southeast from the neighboring residence, eliminating the need for the curb cut off of Old Inn Road previously proposed to provide access the Teacher’s House;. While both the Teacher’s House and Guest Teacher’s House will remain within the Cragsmoor Historic District, the relocation of the Teacher’s House will ensure that neither structure will be visible from off-site. See Response C.3. As to other issues relating to size and potential future uses, see Responses A.9, A.10, A.11, A.16 and C.10.C.22 Comment: Imagine what a corporate campus sized facility at 78,000 square feet could become. It would swallow up all of Cragsmoor, 470 odd residents. Our concern is the potential to vastly overwhelm our small community with this huge facility which could serve a vast number of people. The facility needs to be smaller (Jim McKinney, Cragsmoor Association, President, Public Hearing November 30, 2006).C.22 Response: See Responses A.9, A.10, A.11, A.16, A.30, C.3, C.6 and C.10.C.23 Comment: There is no indication in the EIS of the potential for growth of this site (David Gordon, attorney for Cragsmoor Association, at public hearing November 30, 2006).C.23 Response: In keeping with the requirements of SEQRA, the DEIS was prepared to address the “whole action,” including the ultimate planned development for the site. The Applicant does not foresee any future growth of the site beyond the maximums studied in the DEIS. The Applicant further believes that the speculation that this site will become a “corporate office complex” or some other large-scale institutional use in the future is not based on factual evidence, market trends or zoning. Although there is no reasonable basis for forecasting further expansion or change in use, it is also true that even in the unlikely and unforeseen event that any change was proposed by anyone at any point in the future, it would be subject to a zoning review and a SEQRA review, with opportunity for public comment. See Responses A.10, A.11, A.16, A.30, C.6 and C.10.C.24 Comment: The proposed development is, we believe, a compatible use for the land in concept, but we are concerned that the intense use of the site, mostly as a result of traffic brought by significant periodic visitation and by significant water and septic requirements threatens that balance. The society asks the Board to protect the resources and community character by asking the Applicant to reduce the scale of the project as a matter of buildings, roadways, parking lots and landscape modifications desired are out of balance with the surrounding community (Sally Matz, President, Cragsmoor Historical Society, Public Hearing November 30, 2006).MAHAMUDRA BUDDHIST HERMITAGE FEIS III-29April 2008