Bellvale Water District expansion opens up more debate on sprawl

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:16

    Warwick-The question: should the 25 residents of the Bellvale Water District agree to expand and include 60 new homes in their district? The bigger question: Should 60 more homes even be considered in this farm hamlet of about 100 residences? The Planning Board will address the latter question, with much input from the public to be sure. The Town Board has been looking for a solution to the water district's problems of dissolved uranium. With two new developments being considered by the Planning Board near Bellvale Boulevard, the board suggested that the new homes become part of the district, sharing the cost of the upgrades and bringing new wells and ample water to this little district. Nearby residents voiced concern that surrounding wells might be impacted by nearly quadrupling the district's size. "It has been rainy this year," said one man who expressed concern with the water supply. "What is the guarantee that this won't affect other properties? If people with perfectly good wells are hurt by this, I want to see someone who benefits make compensation." That sentiment was common among those who came out to address the Town Board last week. Supervisor Michael Sweeton said that tests on two wells that sit on the property being considered by the Planning Board have excellent yields and showed no draw down on surrounding wells, including those belonging to the Village of Warwick. Sweeton said that adding water from the two new wells could alleviate the higher dissolved uranium levels found in the existing wells in the Bellvale district. This is not the only alternative. The town looked into a filtration system but it was very costly, Sweeton said. The new wells are on the BCM site, one of two proposed developments including the Gables on Route 17A in Bellvale. The water will be pumped to storage on the Gable site, where it would be blended with the existing district wells. "The result for the existing district will be essentially a replacement of a 40-year-old system with quality water and previously nonexistent storage capacity with the cost shared among 55 plus new homes," said Sweeton. "This is a win-win for everybody." The capital cost to each homeowner, if the new homeowners are included in the district, would be $300 tops, according to Sweeton, who pledged not to abandon the existing wells as long as the uranium levels did not escalate. Allison Jayne, a resident of Bellvale, asked the bigger question, though. She characterized Bellvale as a small farming community, with a small town flavor, and not ready to take on another 60 homes. "Bellvale only has 80 to 100 homes," she said. "We are now going to put 80 more homes? At what point do we look at the quality of life and say ‘no.'" Sprawl has been at the forefront of discussions within the town—and throughout the county — for many years. How to keep open space has been the work of several officials, including Councilman Leonard DeBuck, a sod farmer from Pine Island who was instrumental in getting the Purchase of Development Rights policy adopted in the town. Reworking of the town's Comprehensive Plan and rewriting the town's zoning last year also put an emphasis on maintaining rural character throughout the town and locating more dense development near the hamlets and three villages within the town. That's not how some of the residents of tiny Bellvale see it. "We're losing the value of where we live," said Jayne. "This land was not buildable years ago. We have a small, little farming hamlet with bumps in the road. At what point are we allowed to say we can't take on 80 new homes in the Hamlet of Bellvale?"