Present: Ric Coombe, Greg Vurckio, Bud Gladstone, Bill Federice, David Kuckle, Steve Walker,
Others: Jeff Baker, Tim Cox, Bruce Dolph, Nick Carbone, Jason Merwin, Thomas Holt, Michelle Yost, Cher Woehl
1. Call to Order: Ric Coombe called the meeting to order at 6:19 pm.
2. February 21, 2022, Meeting Minutes Approval: Motion to approve minutes made by Greg Vurckio, seconded by Steve Walker. Motion carried.
3. Elections: Jeff provided an update on the elections, sharing that he has received majority of election ballots. He anticipates receiving the remainder by the due date. Ric commented CWT will be able to reorganize and appoint any new executive committee positions at the April meeting.
4. Catskill Center Correspondence re: NYC Watershed Land Acquisition Program:
Ric opened the discussion on the letter sent from the Catskill Center to Dr. Mary Basset, Commissioner NYS Department of Health regarding the NYC Watershed Land Acquisition Program. Ric’s primary message was that CWT needs to present a unified front , working together, in addressing these challenges. He shared that it is critical that CWT is part of the process, although he voiced the concern that there doesn’t appear to be a process in place. He asked members if they (1) were comfortable with the process that is currently occurring; (2) do they feel there is enough meetings with all stakeholders involved in discussing the challenges; and (3) do they feel they are part of the current process? With those questions posed to the members, Ric opened the floor for discussion.
Members provided the following comments and concerns:
- Jeff felt that there needs to be more clarity and openness in the process. He also agreed that there needs to be a push for more stakeholder meetings, including meetings to define/share what the process is going to be. Jeff thought the letter in general was a good one, with nothing included that could be deemed too offensive or negative.
- David spoke to the stakeholders meeting, stating that he understood it is a meeting where everyone is around the table discussing various issues and items. He asked Jeff when the last time a stakeholder meeting like this was held. Jeff indicated that there has not been an “in-person” stakeholder meeting for some time however there was a ZOOM meeting last fall. In- person meetings became restrictive due to the COVID requirements. Ric shared that in the last stakeholder meetings, discussions did not get into the detail levels that they need to be.
- Thomas had some concerns with the letter. He felt the Catskill Center was not acting as a stakeholder but as an “arm of DEP”, forcing landowners to sell without regard to market values. He gave some scenarios which could allow for bending of rules thus enabling DEP to obtain the land they want without allowing for easements on the properties. Thomas’ main concern was that this letter portrays the Catskill Center as an agent for DEP. Jeff responded to Thomas’ concerns clarifying that Catskill Center is not really acting as an agent for DEP. They are a full stakeholder and participate in discussions as such. They are an agent to DEP on SAP, but Jeff felt this did not impact their position on this overall issue. Jeff further stated that Catskill Center does want a successful SAP which they believe is better than the Land Acquisition Program. Jeff reiterated that Catskill Center has an independent voice on the watershed and is a reliable partner. Jeff informed Thomas that the SAP acquisition issues he raised are currently being addressed.
- Thomas asked how we can allow SAP to go forward with these issues still not addressed, stating that they can’t even be resolved at the county level (using Scholarie as the example). Jeff assured Thomas that before SAP is expanded we will want to address and resolve the easement/utilities issues.
- David shared that there is support for the Delaware proposal as it addresses the easement/utilities issues. Nick commented that this is one of the major concerns Delaware has and wants to resolve. He also shared that a Delaware want towns to have the choice of opting in or out of the program. This is a major concern that Delaware is trying to address.
- Michelle asked Jeff if discussions have occurred on the conservation easement issues. Jeff replied that discussions are in process, and they are attempting to clarify language. Thomas indicated that as the Supervisor for the Town of Windham he would assume he would be asked to be involved in these discussions. He has not been asked to participate and questioned who participates in the discussions. Jeff reiterated that he is involved currently working on the language and will share with members when completed.
- Michelle commented that there is a need to define the critical areas of the program. Jeff concurred affirming that parameters for SAP need to be defined including providing better definitions of the guidelines and rules of the program. This information is critical when working with the towns on opting into the program.
- Bruce voiced a concern regarding towns being asked to change their zoning regulations. He questioned if a town refuses to modify their zoning regulations, then their only option is to sell sub-divided small parcels, and this is not a good road to go down. Jeff clarified that the purpose of the sub-division language is to allow the City to buy land along the streams, thereby ‘creating’ a lot on land that cannot be used for anything else. Allowing this to happen provides for easements and allows for access to the buffers. Jeff also reiterated that this language is a tool and not mandatory for development. Bruce asked if we allow for changes in the zoning regulations for the City then shouldn’t others be allowed to do the same thing? Jeff said no. However, if a town wanted to open this option up for other conservation type organizations they could. Jeff explained that there is legal authority for the City that allows them to obtain land to protect their water supply, and this would fall within that authority. Ric commented that this is yet another example as to why CWT needs to be involved in the process.
- A question regarding large land acquisitions was raised, and Jeff explained that it would be unrealistic for towns to think that we will go into next phase with zero land acquisitions, especially if we move forward with a SAP-like program.
- Bud conveyed that he is not comfortable with SAP. He indicated that if any streamside land is going to be purchased, there needs to be a structure and agreement in place that stipulates there must be a swap with land that is not at streamside. He felt that with every parcel purchase in the township there needs to be a release of something else/other land. Ric replied that per the National Academy of Sciences, trading is crucial. It makes more sense to swap lands. Ric again stated that we need to provide the city examples of land swaps so that they have a better understanding of this concept and how it works.
- In response to Bruce’s comment that land swaps are not going to happen unless we get out of easements, Ric again said that CWT needs to come forward with reasonable examples, not just concepts. These examples need to be shared with all individuals/organizations that have an interest so that they can begin understanding the issues and help to move the issue resolution process forward. These examples need to demonstrate why and how we get out of easements.
- In closing, Ric assured everyone that CWT does have a place at the Stakeholder meeting table. The problem is that there are not enough meetings. He said we need to get the message to the stakeholders that CWT expects more, wants more and will be more involved in these meetings.
- Ric asked Jeff to draft a letter to DEC, DOH and DEP sharing our concerns about the process going forward and would like to see more meetings to further discussions.
a. FAD Deliverables – nothing to report
b. Streamside Acquisition – nothing additional to report
c. Flood Commissions Reports – nothing to report
d. CWC Report – Jason reported on the following:
- CWC is still trying to work with the city for short-term and long-term solutions for the septic hauling issue. The amount of septic hauling allowed is being reduced drastically from 70,000-26,000 gallons a week. Currently, the city is taking in approximately 40,000 gallons a week, which is a little over half of the allowable amount. Jason said they are working on the short-term solution, hoping that CWT can assist with developing a long-term solution. Jeff asked Jason to provide CWT with what they want, what CWT can do to help. Ric asked for a motion to authorize Jeff to get involved in on behalf of CWT. Steve Walker made the motion, Bud Federice seconded. Motion was carried.
- The CWC annual board meeting is scheduled for April 5 and shared there are three (3) board seats up for election.
6. Warrant(s) and Treasurer’s Report:
Bud reported that as of February 28, 2022 ,
the checking account has $3,918.55 and
the savings account has $139,928.08.
Motion was made by David Kuckle to accept the Treasurer’s report, seconded by Bill Federice. Report accepted.
Bud presented warrant #91 in the amount of $407.00 for payment of February legal fees.
Greg Vurckio made a motion to pay this warrant, seconded by Steve Walker. Motion carried.
7. Adjourn: Meeting was adjourned by Ric Coombe at 7:22 pm.