Letter Says ‘Planning Board’s Failure To Act’ Caused Suez Monetary Harm
By Tina Traster
Suez Water New York Inc. has withdrawn its application to build a parking lot and storage building at 162 Old Mill Road, following a protracted battle with community members who opposed development close to Lake DeForest reservoir.
In a statement, Suez’s spokesman Bill Madden said, “We recently withdrew our site plan application to build a parking lot and storage building at our new headquarters at 162 Old Mill Road. We look forward to meeting the needs of our customers from this location for the next 30 years. We are studying options for our location at 360 West Nyack Road.”
Suez’s vehicles are still parked at 360 West Nyack Road, a five-acre commercial site that has been under contract for purchase for more than a year. The contract is contingent on Suez vacating the property and relocating their trucks, according to a source.
In a letter to Clarkstown’s Planning Board, Suez wrote “After multiple continuations and adjournments with no next hearing date scheduled, along with diligent efforts by SUEZ to have the matter added to the Planning Board’s agendas, the Planning Board failed to adequately hear and address SUEZ’s application.”
Asked what Suez plans to do next, its spokesman said, “The statement represents our full response to questions related to the site application.”
It is unclear as to whether Suez plans to take legal action but the letter to the Planning Board indicates the possibility of further action.
But in its letter, Suez wrote, “The Planning Board’s failure to act and perpetual delay on this application has caused SUEZ monetary harm. In addition, the Planning Board’s arbitrary and capricious handling of this matter unfairly denied SUEZ its right to due process to have its application heard, timely processed and acted upon – rights afforded to other Planning Board applicants, but not SUEZ.”
Suez has moved its administration functions to 162 Old Mill Road, which it is leasing from Tilcon, for construction staff, management and customer service employees. Suez had wanted to add a 60,000-square-foot storage yard with a 10,400 square-foot building that would have been used to park its fleet of vehicles and store materials needed to maintain its water system including pipes, hydrants, valves, etc.
The proposed plan on 26 acres would have created 48 new parking spaces for a total of 141 in the parking lots to the east and south of the existing building. Nearly 7 acres, or 305,000 square-feet of land-disturbance, primarily paving and the building of the new structure mandated the installation of an extensive storm-water management system. The site lies within a few hundred feet of Lake DeForest. The plan called for the removal of more than 270 mature trees.
In January, for the second time in a row, the Clarkstown Planning Board deadlocked on a three-three vote on whether Suez’s application to expand its new facility on the former Tilcon site in West Nyack deserved additional environmental scrutiny. The issue at heart was whether Suez’s proposal should be subjected to SEQR review. Board Chairman Gilbert Heim, who is president of Rockland County Central Labor Union, AFL-CIO, was absent from both votes.
Community members and water activists had called for a SEQR (New York State’s Environmental Quality Review Act) process because they believe the project proposed potential danger to Lake DeForest and the watershed. A SEQR review would have delved deeper into the study of potential environmental impact and could derive at alternative solutions that could mitigate harm. Specifically, community members wanted a second look at proposals for storm water management, a permeable surface for the parking lot, better landscape screening, siting of the parking lot.
“I am cautiously optimistic about this latest development but do hope this is a permanent withdrawal to do the work they originally planned to do along the waterfront,” said Lynn Munroe, a resident who led the fight against Suez’s application.