Residents raise questions about water, sewage and the environment, By Edie Johnson CHESTER Nearly 100 people piled into the auditorium at Chester Academy a week ago Wednesday to hear about the proposed Chester Golf development and to express their concerns about how it will affect water, sewage treatment, the environment and their rural way of life. Plans call for 227 single-family homes on 398.4 acres between Bull Mill, Gibson Hill and LaRoe roads in the Town of Chester. A golf course included in the original plan submitted nearly 10 years ago has since been abandoned. Planning board Chair Don Serotta said the board preferred the full cluster plan, one of two proposed designs, because it preserves 57 to 64 percent of the site’s open space. A second design combines a cluster plan with two-acre zoning. Serotta tried to reassure the public, saying the project still has a long way to go and many approvals to seek. The design includes an extensive trail system that may link the Highland Trail, Goosepond State Park and the Appalachian Trail. While portions of the trail system would be available for use by outsiders, the internal sections may be restricted to residents of the community. An overlay district will restrict development on the ridge. Kings Tract resident Don Devine said two water tanks to be located in the ridge-protected area contradict the town’s code, where “elevations above 600 feet are to be protected as important visual resources.” Chester Golf residents will be served by public water and sewer, and possibly by a public stormwater system. Developer Steve Sherman may retain ownership of the water system. Resident Greg Feigelson asked that a section of houses bordering his property be moved because there was not an adequate buffer. And putting residential two-acre lots immediately adjacent to existing three-acre lots would, he said, affect “the intrinsic natural rural quality” of the area. Feigelson said the draft environmental impact statement was light on details. It does not say how the development’s two giant wells would affect the aquifer, with 101,000 gallons expected to be drawn from it every day, he said. And the traffic study, which he said showed no vehicles leaving or entering Able Noble Drive, “defies common sense.” Others complained that much of the traffic study was done when LaRoe Road was actually closed. Feigelson said the developer “glossed over” lighting. He said the lights should be LED and downlit to preserve the rural atmosphere at night. Tracy Schuh of the Preservation Collective presented the board with a 17-page letter with legal opinions that show how far the board can go in reigning in a plan perceived as too expansive. “This design is inconsistent with both the town and county master plans,” she said. Chief among her concerns is the failure of the hydrogeology study to show how well the water source will recharge. The problem, she said, “starts with the yield plan that doesn’t show what the land can sustain.” Michael Sussman, who lives near the main entrance of the proposed development, said 227 lots “is more than the total number of building permits issued in Chester between 2002 and 2009.” “This number of units would saturate the market,” Sussman said. “There is no need and no demand for it.” He asked why so many units were permitted when the developer’s own draft impact statement shows that a conventional design would allow only 141 units. “This is a perversion of the intent of clustering,” a design alternative he said he helped write for Chester’s zoning regulations. Sussman said the noise, dust and disruption from three years of construction are described in the impact study are “short-term.” “This would actually impact a good portion of a child’s formative years, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., six days a week,” he said. He said school taxes will rise because the Monroe-Woodbury School District will not be able to handle so many new students. Jay Westerveld of Sugar Loaf warned that Chester could be at risk for a lawsuit for not following proper procedures on the cricket frog study. One section of the draft impact statement listed a snake never seen north of North Carolina. “The bad news only gets worse where you see turtles listed under amphibians,” he said. “If you have any kids in middle school, run that by them.” What’s at stake Plans call for 227 single-family house in the town of Chester but located within the Monroe-Woodbury School District boundary.
The next step Developer Steve Sherman was represented by Steve Lopez of environmental consulting firm Tim Miller and Associates at last week’s hearing. Chester will wait for the developer’s response to the public’s comments as he writes his final environmental impact statement. Planning Board Chairman Don Serotta said he will keep the opportunity open for written comments by the public until Dec. 15. The draft impact statement and housing layout can be seen at the town’s Web site at www.thetownofchester.org.