Clearspeak: Wanton destruction

Community Columnist

— “Appalling.” That’s how Town Historian Sara Chevako characterizes developer David Muraco’s proposal to demolish the historic farmhouse on the Enders property.

“Appalling” is exactly the right word.

Appalling as well is Muraco’s Environmental Impact Statement that clumsily tries to rationalize the wanton destruction of what Ms. Chevako aptly describes as “a well-preserved monument” of this community’s “historical fabric.”

As a veteran zoning lawyer, I’ve long been skeptical of environmental impact statements. An EIS, after all, is paid for by the developer and inevitably advocates what’s good for his bottom line, not necessarily what’s good for the environment.

My all-time favorite EIS was prepared by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in support of an H-bomb test over a Pacific atoll. The EIS stated the environmental impact of the test as follows: “Detonation of a hydrogen bomb over the atoll will wipe the atoll off the face of the earth.” A federal court then held that the EIS adequately stated the environmental impact of the test – and that was that. Adios atoll.

The Muraco EIS reminds me of the H-bomb EIS. It too blandly states that the “proposed action” would wipe an irreplaceable resource off the face of the earth: Muraco’s “preferred alternative,” the EIS tells us, would result in the “razing of the farmhouse.” All that would remain of a 180-year-old building is “a grass lawn.”

And what would be the sole benefit flowing from this destruction? The Muraco EIS defines the benefit as follows: “razing the 180 year old house, barn and shed would relieve the owner of the costly burden of repairing and maintaining the aging structures.”

How nice for Muraco.

Under the applicable law, this act of vandalism to line the pockets of an irresponsible developer should not occur.

The federal environmental impact statute under which the H-bomb EIS was considered does not mandate that adverse impacts revealed in the EIS be avoided or minimized. But the state statue under which the Muraco EIS must be considered does.

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