Approximately 60 people turned out Wednesday night to voice their concerns and make suggestions for the public scoping document for the proposed Pulpit Rock Inn development on West Street Extension.
Town of Warwick Planning Board Chairman Ben Astorino explained to the group at the start of the meeting that this is the first step in a long process before the board would make any decision on the proposed 62-room hotel and six cottages on the nine-acre site of the iconic Pulpit Rock, at the corner of West Street Extension and County Route 1.
The purpose of this meeting was to gather the public’s input on what should be included in the scoping document for the project, which will outline the areas proposed for study in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). The owner of the property, Stephen Kitar, submitted a draft scoping document, which is available on the town’s website and at the Albert Wisner Public Library. There are eight sections included in that draft scoping document that will be studied including: land, surface water resources, ground water resources, plants and animals, agricultural resources, aesthetic resources, historical/archaeological resources and traffic/transportation.
Why not PDR?
Some speakers suggested the town should purchase the property as part of its purchase of development right program, which has preserved approximately 5,000 acres of open space since its inception more than 20 years ago.
“Warwick is an unusual community,” said resident Geoffrey Howard, explaining that more than 20 years ago PDR was approved by voters in the town. “People voted to raise their taxes to preserve farmland and open space.”
Eventually that fund ran out of money and again, Warwick voted to raise taxes to continue that project “because the desire to keep what we have was so strong,” he added. “A perfect use for PDR, community development funds, would be the purchase of this property.”
Purchase of development rights is a voluntary program between the town and a property owner.
Mary Bono, a six-year resident, said that the best part of her closing process when she moved here was “the money we put into our preservation fund.”
Safety is an issue
Several residents also brought up the safety of the local school children as an issue to study on the scoping document.
Kevin Delaney, a 15-year resident of Warwick, said there are no sidewalks between Pond Hill and County Route 1, causing safety and security issues.
A parent who lives on West Street, said the Warwick Valley Central School District changed the bus routes in the area this year to keep the students from crossing West Street. The district has deemed it too dangerous for children to cross the street, he noted, adding that students are traveling longer distances on the buses to they arrive on the same side of the street on which they live. Adding the traffic from this project would increase the risk of accidents on the road.
“This is a legacy issue, not a zoning issue,” said Dan Mack. “This is not a technical issue, but a spiritual issue.”
Adam Powers owns multiple businesses in the village of Warwick, including Fetch and Village Billiards. As a business owner, Powers said he was excited to hear there might be a hotel in Warwick. It would be great for business, he said.
“Then I heard where it was going to be,” said Powers. “I just don’t see it here.”
Another resident asked what happens if the rooms don’t rent. Would section 8 housing come in?
Of course, there were many residents who talked about the historic significance of the property.
“Be mindful of our history, our long-term history,” said John Stage. “It is quite essential.”
Richard Hill, the town’s official historian, called the site prehistoric. He urged the planning board to keep the property in its current state.
“We will be judged not only on what we’ve created,” said Hull, “but on what we have refused to destroy.”
Pat Foxx agreed.
“This is so permanent. Once you destroy it, it is destroyed forever,” said Foxx, acknowledging the Canadian philosopher Joni Mitchell. “Don’t take paradise and put up a parking lot.”
The town planner Ted Fink noted that there would be a minimum of three public hearings throughout the planning process at a later time. The public’s suggestions at Wednesday’s meeting will be included in the board’s final scoping document, which will then be used to create the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.
The town planning board will continue to accept written comments from the public on what should be included in the scoping document until Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020, at 4 p.m. Those comments should be sent to the Town of Warwick Planning Board, 132 Kings Highway, Warwick NY 10990.