CLWA participates at public hearings and submits written comments to the respective town planning boards when we have concerns about proposed developments that have potential negative environmental impacts to the lake.
In the case of the proposed Scenic Ridge Rise subdivision (formerly named Spring Hill), CLWA had substantial concerns and provided verbal and written comments regarding the Draft Environmental Impact Statement to the Gorham Planning Board on February 21, 2022 and again on June 21, 2023.
CLWA’s letter submitted on June 21, 2023:
To: Town of Gorham Planning Board Chair, Thomas Harvey
From: Canandaigua Lake Watershed Association
Re: Canandaigua Lake Watershed Association comments for proposed lot 113.00-1-48.200 by Douglas Eldred (Scenic Ridge Rise)
Date: 20 June 2023
The Canandaigua Lake Watershed Association supports responsible development but opposes development which negatively affects the water quality of Canandaigua Lake. We have the following concerns with this application we believe the Planning Board should require the applicant to address.
- Open Space: The Town requires open space of 30% in a conservation subdivision that not include setbacks, roads, wetlands or any stormwater management facility including detention or retention basins, ditches, swales or drainage ditches. The application claims to provide 23 acres of open space, more than the required 30% open space. However, in reviewing the subdivision layout we can see only about 4.6 acres compatible with the zoning ordinance definition of Permanent Open Space (section 31.2.2) as “land dedicated to the Town of Gorham or set aside by easement or other manner in a form acceptable to the Town of Gorham for use as a park, wildlife preserve, forest area or other use deemed acceptable by the Town of Gorham.
We suggest the Planning Board determine what other areas of the site plan actually meet the requirements of the town’s Zoning Codes open space requirement and that the applicant be required to provide a plan with open space meeting the definition of the town’s regulations.
- The hard-packed surfaces on the walking paths along the buffer between this development and adjacent properties is as likely to provide a track for kids on dirt bikes as a peaceful walking path. Buffers are intended to provide separation between development and adjacent houses or farmland The potential for abuse of this buffer from these pathways to the detriment of adjacent land use is substantial.
We suggest the planning Board direct the applicant to provide walking paths away from the buffer between this development and adjacent properties.
- Drainage Swales: When swales are a part of the development’s stormwater management facility and it is essential to ensure that those swales will continue to function when the development is constructed and inhabited. Putting ownership of the swales in the homeowner’s association, without requiring some boundary delineation or barrier between house lots and the swales, does not solve the problem of residents planting in the swales, dumping debris in the swales or otherwise interfering with their ability to transport stormwater during a storm event.
We suggest the Planning Board require delineation of the property lines on the lots and provide a barrier between the lots and the drainage structures. We also suggest the Planning Board control the timing of construction to ensure drainage facilities, including drainage swales located adjacent to residential lots, are constructed, stabilized and planted before land is disturbed for the construction of residences or other infrastructure.
- Safety on Rt 364: The applicant has proposed a sidewalk along the west side of Rt. 364 to provide easy access for future residents of the development to Ontario Beach Park. While we realize that automobile access to the park is often impractical because of insufficient parking at the park, a sidewalk along the west side of Rt 364 would seriously interfere with houses on that side of the road, which were built very close to the road many years ago, and it would interfere with the way bicycles use the road by moving to the shoulder to avoid fast-moving traffic. In addition, paving the shoulder of a road and calling it a sidewalk does not provide a safe buffer between fast-moving traffic and pedestrians a sidewalk should provide.
We propose the Planning Board require the applicant to provide an option for pedestrian access to the Park that does not put pedestrians as close to traffic on Rt 364 or interfere with the access to houses on the west side of the road or with bicycle use of the shoulder. An access management plan should provide for sidewalks and pedestrian mobility as well as for automobile movement. We suggest the Planning Board require the applicant to provide an alternative access plan for pedestrians that doesn’t require walking on Rt 364.
- Road Design: The proposed road on this site runs perpendicular to Rt 364 and the lakeshore straight up the slope. The extensive impervious surface of this road and impervious roadside ditches, will funnel substantial amounts of stormwater down the subdivision road and onto Rt 364 and into the lake or across Rt 364 into the houses on the west side of Rt 364. These houses were constructed very close to the road many years ago.
We believe the Planning Board should carefully consider how to mitigate potential damage to the lake and Ontario Beach Park from runoff from this site during large storm events and also consider the potential liability to the Town when it accepts ownership of the subdivision road if substantial runoff damages property on the shore to the west. We encourage the Planning Board to direct the applicant to provide an optional layout where substantial stretches of the road run parallel to the slope and to Rt 364 to allow better interception of stormwater that can be expected from the impervious surface of the road and any development that empties onto the road.
- Trees: Although some of the existing woodland on the site is being preserved, the density of development is likely to completely remove trees from the rest of the site.
We propose the Planning Board require existing trees that should be saved be tagged by an arborist and be preserved on the site during construction and that a planting plan for development ensure that, as houses are built, adequate landscaping is restored to help stabilize erodible soils and protect the viewshed of the site from the lake and its west shore.
Retaining site plan review as houses and accessory development occurs would mitigate the risk that appropriate landscaping will be left out of future development, and will ensure that development coverage limits are respected as the site is developed. We encourage the planning Board to retain site plan review for development of each lot on the site.
We are disappointed that, as the Town of Gorham updates its Comprehensive Plan, it has not reconsidered the very dense zoning along the east side of Route 364 or done an analysis of the potential for a full build-out of this area at currently zoned density to cause serious issues for the lake. Zoning this area rural residential, meant to provide a transitional area for low-density residential development between dense development adjacent to the lakeshore and farmland, would have gone some distance in allowing mitigation of deleterious effects of development on the lake while still allowing property owners to develop their land and provide for additional residential development in the town. This density of development on the property between this site and Turner Road could even more severely exacerbate stormwater and traffic issues. Such segmented environmental review provides little understanding of the overall impacts of this level of development on the lake.
In addition, the Town has not been successful in taking steps to adapt its stormwater management provisions in recognition of the increased intensity of storm events. Canandaigua Lake is a major driver for the local economy and lakeside housing is a very substantial part of the tax base for the town. Both deserve more consideration.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this application.
President, Board of Directors
CC: Town of Gorham Supervisor
CLWA Strategic Initiatives Committee Members
East Lake View Homeowners’ Association