The Environmental Conservation Commission (ECC) is a seven-member volunteer body functioning under the auspices of the Gardiner Planning Board and Town Board.
Typically, when an application for a large scale development requires review of its impact on the ecology, the Planning Board refers the application to the ECC. Smaller subdivisions also require review when they are in a critical environmental area.
Most recently there have been three major projects of concern to the Planning Board and the ECC. On Shaft Road is a proposed 10 house subdivision of slightly less than 90 acres with part of the lot line on South Mountain Road. There is a large wetland at the center of the property that is the focus of concern. Of course, its proximity to the Shawangunk Ridge is also a concern to the ECC.
The second project is the proposed “glamping” (glamour camping) project referred to as Heartwood. This 141-acre project is being considered a lodging facility and is based on the banks of the Shawangunk Kill which is a designated protected water body under Gardiner’s Comprehensive Master Plan.
The third project under review by the ECC is the proposed 53+ unit apartment or condominium development on 113 acres on Route 208. Called “Green 208,” this property also contains designated wetlands and borders the Plattekill. The developer has presented his application as an open space development and has suggested using permeable surfaces for roads, and a somewhat new construction material called cross laminated timber.
All three projects are being presented as supportive of land and environmental conservation efforts, but the burden remains on the community and the town to ensure that the spirt of the law as well as the letter of the law are followed. In addition to town code, there are multiple stakeholders that engage in the permitting process. The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) may review wetlands designation and stream protections as well as other environmental concerns. The Army Core of Engineers (ACOE) provides the protection of a federal designation for some wetland areas as well. The New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) requires differing levels of investigation based on the level of potential environmental impacts, and the Ulster County Board of Health (BOH) has a required permitting process.
With these layers of protection, it may seem very difficult for anyone to disrupt the ecological balance, but in practice there is an ongoing process that must occur to ensure that both the short -term and long-term effects of development are thoughtfully considered.
The phrase “It takes a village” refers to caring for our children. Caring for our mother earth also takes a village, or town, to ensure that we all take care of the thing that sustains our existence; water, air, earth—the environment. You can reach the ECC at the town hall, through townofgardiner.org, or myself, the Chairperson (email@example.com).