June 15, 2006
Dear Waywayanda Town Board,
Orange Environment, a 24-year old environmental organization working to preserve and protect Orange County, has fully reviewed the 2000 Master Plan, and was asked to speak before Waywayanda’s Master Plan committee in late July of 2005. OE has continued to follow the process and would like to comment on the Town of Waywayanda’s proposed Master Plan changes.
It was our understanding that the purpose and intent of entering into a moratorium period was to examine and strengthen certain aspects of the town’s Zoning Code. Most notably, a Cluster Law enacted in 2002 which provides a 100% housing density bonus to developers that provide central sewer and water and this newer cluster law allows for quarter acre lot subdivisions. During Waywayanda’s moratorium process a citizen survey was conducted with a high response that there is limiting water quantity and in other locations, water quality resources which have already been compromised. With the addition of higher densities due to this zone change and the need for package plants to support said densities, you are putting Waywayanda’s natural features and rural character at great risk. This AR zone Cluster Law, which makes up nearly 45% of Waywayanda land mass, needs to be eliminated and larger lots sizes need to be restored.
One of the recommendations that I made before your committee was to perform a similar water study like that of the Town of Goshen, to fully understand your water resource limitations and use that knowledge to perform a full build out study. This has clearly not been done and time and time again throughout the document, open ended wording used throughout the plan will continue Waywayanda on the same sprawl path with higher taxes, crowded schools and overextended community services. During the moratorium process, the below text from Waywayanda’s Draft Master Plan should have been examined, more clearly defined, and new companion zones made ready for adoption immediately following plan adoption. Instead, nothing has been clearly defined, the plan gives mixed growth messages, and does not grapple with the already existing high tax burdens for residents. If one conducted a full build out scenario, the below open ended wording could be eliminated:
“Development at higher densities than is specified in zoning should be allowed when amenities such as sidewalks and pocket parks are included in the site design” (Section 4.3 Recommendations).
“The development of “mother daughter” units should be encouraged, as long as the proper regulations and enforcement are in place” (Section 4.3 Recommendations).
“As development increases, the Town must decide what level of growth is acceptable without compromising what makes Waywayanda special” (Section 4.3 Recommendations).
“In areas not served by municipal sewer and water service, density should be at a level to accommodate on-site septic systems without danger of contamination or system failure. Groundwater resources in some areas of town have been problematic in the past; therefore, groundwater levels and quality should be assessed when determining development density” (Section 4.3 Recommendations).
“Generating more commercial and industrial uses-and thus tax revenues-can help to lessen this burden to residents by diversifying the tax base and generating non-residential ratable” (Section 6.3 Recommendations).
“The Town should require documentation of any environmental features that can impede proper operation of septic systems” (7.3.1 Protection of Natural Resources).
By leaving open ended, unstudied and undefined wording in the plan, the town board will have to grapple with these many difficult tasks over the next few years; in addition to trying to keep up with all the past and new development plans that will come before the town after the moratorium is lifted.
In order to preserve future water quality and quantity, Orange Environment also recommends a mandatory septic management pump for all septic homeowners every 3 years, and to create a well head protection ordinance for existing town or privately owned community wells to help preserve water quality from contamination and protect necessary recharge areas. Additionally, when listening to the previous Town Engineer and others on the Master Plan committee, it was clear that the town has existing burdens with regard to town owned and privately operated sewage package plants. Any new plants will continue to be a financial burden to the town with high prices to maintain and upgrade facilities and always with a possibility that a privately owned plant would have to be taken over by the town. Sewers are growth inducers and they degrade our natural resources. Any plans for new sewerage facilities need to be strongly discouraged!
Orange Environment is concerned that the reasons for entering into a moratorium have not been meant. Instead of putting together a document that examines a full build out scenario and its impacts on community services and our natural resource limitations, which do exist, this plan does not meet the important goals and objectives to make Waywayanda a more vibrant, livable and sustainable community. Please take time to reexamine the survey responses from township residents and try and truly address the many concerns that have been laid out before you. We have seen it before that poorly written, undefined planning documents have caused municipalities many legal and costly headaches. Take the time to sure up your Moratorium documents. Any sound planning initiative will protect residents for years to come!
Kathy Baker Skafidas