Thursday, February 24, 2011

Can The Ramapo River and Tuxedo, NY Live In Harmony?

By Virginia DiBianca

As of the 2010 census, the 46-square-mile town of Tuxedo in New York State has a population of 3,683 people residing in approximately 1,450 homes. The town, nestled in Orange County, was originally the exclusive mountain home of New York City socialites and millionaires who were known to buy land around their estates in Tuxedo Park to prevent development. Since 1989, a development plan by a New York-based real estate conglomerate has been hotly debated amongst town residents, planning board members and environmentalists struggling to maintain the integrity of the Ramapo River watershed basin and the surrounding Highlands area.

The real estate firm has proposed to build a suburban village called Tuxedo Reserve, which would nearly double the town’s population. The plan includes a traditional bandstand area and asserts it would help improve the downtown section of the town, which is bordered by the Tuxedo ski area, Sterling Forest State Park and Harriman State Park. In an effort to gain approval for the construction, the current proposed development calls for 1,195 homes in a variety of formats and 276,100 sq. ft. of non-residential development. This number has been downsized from the original proposal and includes a master plan for the gated community of Tuxedo. The real estate firm has also agreed to donate land and money towards walking trails and a new high school and library for the town.

There is severe opposition to the plan from the environmental groups in the Ramapo River Watershed Alliance. At a November 23, 2010 public meeting of the Rockland County Sewer District, the environmental impact was discussed regarding the developer’s plan to tie the proposed new housing to the Rockland county sewer system. Janet Burnet, Executive Director of the Ramapo River Inter-municipal Watershed Committee, presented a map showing how the watershed supplies drinking water to communities outside of Tuxedo, including towns in the northwest sections of Rockland County and bordering towns in New Jersey. Burnet argued that the proposed development would result in the disruption to the Ramapo River’s watershed. The addition of more homes, adding to the population, would put increased demands for water on the Ramapo watershed that cannot be satisfied, she said.

Since 2009, the monthly planning board meetings of Tuxedo included Tuxedo Reserve on their agenda. The Town Board ask the Related Companies, how to minimize drainage into Tuxedo Lake and to provide water quality testing and monitoring of Tuxedo Lake and Mountain Lake. In an email to the Trustees of the Village of Tuxedo Park dated December 15th, 2010, Dr. Alexander Gates, Executive Director from the Highlands Environmental Research Institute, wrote; “The bedrock geology of the Highlands plays a strong role in the quality and quantity of groundwater. With the combination of removing the humus (pollutant filter) layer of the soil which would occur during development and the unknown orientation and extensiveness of the fracture system of the underlying bedrock, there is a possibility that the groundwater supply in the Tuxedo Lake area could be compromised.”

At the town planning board meeting on November 9, 2010, the developer requested a six-month extension on making a presentation to the board on the resolution of the issues.

For further information:
Tuxedo Park FYI

Tuxedo Land Trust

New York Apartments, Pre-Construction Real Estate, Presale NY Condos

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