Nov 23, 2012 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
The Town Planning Board’s October declaration that the proposed Victory Sports Medicine “Victory Campus” will have no significant adverse environmental impacts on Skaneateles was incorrect and must be reevaluated and revised according to correspondence sent to the Town Planning Board by two separate groups. Both groups, neither coordinating with the other, cited concerns over apparent inconsistencies in the VSM plans, especially proposed water usage, and stated that various project approvals in 2012 were based on outdated information which no longer accurately reflects the development specifications.
The first of the two letters, dated Nov. 6, from Village Director of Municipal Operations Bob Lotkowictz to planning board Chair Mark Tucker, states that the village board of trustees and the village municipal board both are concerned about the VSM project and its associated water usage, the projected numbers of which have changed dramatically between 2011 and 2012.
The second of the two letters, dated Nov. 16, to the entire planning board from attorney Thomas J. Fucillo, acting on behalf of the Citizens to Preserve the Character of Skaneateles, also cites concerns about VSM water usage – and specifically references Lotkowictz’s letter – as well as concerns over traffic, parking, lighting, water quality and archeological impacts, all of which the group contends have not been sufficiently examined to satisfy the planning board’s negative environmental impact declaration concerning the VSM development.
“The Lotkowictz Letter constitutes newly discovered information or information not previously considered by the planning board as lead agency, which clearly demonstrates that the project will have a significant adverse environmental impact. Therefore, the negative declaration issued by the planning board pursuant to the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) must be rescinded,” Fucillo wrote. “A positive declaration should be issued by the planning board and a Draft Environmental Impact Statement prepared by VSM.”
This request, if agreed to by the planning board, would create more work, greater costs and more delays for the already four-year-old VSM development project.
The VSM “Victory Campus” development project, as described in the most current project narrative, will be set on 99.5 acres of land off Route 20 less than a mile east of the village. It will include a 61,000 square foot medical and research facility; a 171,000 square foot indoor recreational, athletic and rehabilitation facility; and a dozen outdoor multi-use and baseball/softball fields, four of which will be artificial turf and the rest natural grass.
The project is scheduled to be built in two phases, with the medical building and four adjacent multi-use fields to be completed in phase 1, and the remaining eight outdoor fields to the south of the medical building to be done in phase two. The intended uses for both the indoor and outdoor athletic facilities are stated to be for team practices, games, tournaments, coaching clinics, injury prevention programs and wellness and exercise programs. They will be utilized by the VSM medical practice, as well as by youth, high school, college and professional athletes and teams, and local community members.
Victory Sports requested an extension of Town Water District No. 1 (later changed to Water District No. 2) to its proposed land development location in August 2011. A water district report by RZ Engineering, commission by Victory Sports Enterprises, stated the proposed development would include a 5,000 square-foot medical office and a 10,000 square-foot indoor athletic field building, with an anticipated water demand of 6,800 gallons per day (gpd) and a peak water demand of 20 gallons per minute (gpm). Designed fire flow capacity would be 3,600 gpm.
The village board approved the extension at its Dec. 8 meeting, seeing no adverse impacts to the village water system, but with the condition that VSM create its own fire protection system since the village water system could not supply the stated fire flow capacity needed for the development.
The town board hired two companies – Plumley Engineering and C&S Companies – to examine the water usage issue as it related to extending the water district. Both companies, in reports dated March 30, 2012 and Apr. 2, 2012, respectively, declared the proposed water usage for a total 15,000 square-foot facility would not have an adverse impact on the water system, although, in the words of the Plumley report, “it does exasperate an already stressed water system with regard to fire protection.”
Both companies recommended that VSM create its own fire prevention system for the development with a “separate and distinct” water source from the water district extension, since the village water system could not handle the fire flow as proposed.
The town board, based on the engineers’ reviews, approved the water district extension request for a 15,000-square-foot facility on April 5, 2012, with the requirements that VSM’s water draw not exceed 807 gpm in order to maintain normal system pressure, and that VSM have its own fire suppression system.
The Town Planning Board voted for a negative SEQR declaration for the VSM project on Oct. 16, 2012, declaring the project would have zero to minimal environmental impact on the land and surrounding community.
The SEQR form states that the proposed Victory Campus project would have medical/athletic facilities totaling 140,000 square feet – an increase from the 15,000 total square-feet as previously stated to the village town officials – but its expected water usage remained at 6,800 gallons per day.
Lotkowictz’s Nov. 6 letter stated that when village officials declared in early 2012 that the proposed VSM water usage would not significantly impact the village water system, they made that decision based on VSM’s October 2011 engineering study that stated the district extension would serve a total 15,000 square-foot facility at a maximum demand of 20 gpm. Since then, however, the planning board approved the project SEQR and the town board approved an extension of the town water district to the proposed VSM site, and both of those actions reveal different water usage numbers than what was reported to the village, Lotkowictz wrote.
The SEQR paperwork states the VSM project consists of a 140,000 square-foot medical/athletic facility, which is “significantly larger than what was described in the RZ Engineering report,” Lotkowictz wrote. “Based on my preliminary calculations, the larger facilities would use 26,000 gpd at a demand rate of 144 gpm.” Such a rate would “severely affect” water pressure for residents in the Coach Road subdivision as well as residents along East Lake Road, he wrote.
Lotkowitcz told the Skaneateles Press that he based his numbers on the formulas used by the town and VSM engineers, which were stated in the RZ Engineering report.
Also of concern to the village is that the town’s water district extension approval stated that the VSM complex could use up to 807 gpm, which is “significantly more” than the 20 gpm previously stated in the RZ Engineering report, Lotkowictz wrote.
“The approval and use of 807 gpm by this project would be devastating to the village and town at all locations in the system,” Lotkowictz wrote. “This use (807 gpm) is equivalent to the current max demand of the entire village and town water systems combined.”
Because of the inconsistency in the water usage numbers for the VSM project, the village requested the Town Planning Board to reconsider its SEQR determination since as approved it would have an adverse impact on water pressure, flow and availability in the village and town. Village officials also requested an updated engineering report on the proposed VSM water use for a reevaluation of its previous approval of the water district extension.
The difference in the water usage numbers between what was approved and where the VSM project currently is “doesn’t make sense,” Lotkowictz told the Skaneateles Press. “The maximum draw as approved is impossible for the village to provide.”
He said VSM must revise its plans to reduce and mitigate its intended water usage, possibly by adding additional infrastructure to the project. “It could be a costly endeavor,” he said.
Mayor Marty Hubbard said village officials are not taking sides on the contentious issue of the VSM development, nor are they seeking to make any sort of political statement with Lotkowictz’s letter. They are looking solely at the water usage issue in their capacity as the administrators of a public utility, he said.
“It’s just a case of trying to make a point,” Hubbard told the Skaneateles Press. “We were given the RZ Engineering report and [now] it’s obviously something considerably different. All we’re saying is we’re not going to be tied into that approval. We absolutely have got to revisit the question.”
Hubbard said the village board will revisit its previous approval of the water district extension after they receive the updated engineering report and water usage numbers. If the numbers are “considerably more” than the previously-approved 20 gpm, the village board will most likely seek an outside, third-party expert opinion on the possible impact to the water system and act based on that opinion, he said.
Citizen group issues
The attorney for the concerned residents’ group The Citizens to Preserve the Character of Skaneateles also sent a letter to the planning board recently laying out the CPCS’s concerns about inconsistencies in the VSM project plans, and demanded a rescission of the board’s negative SEQR declaration and the need for a positive declaration.
In his Nov. 16 letter, CPCS attorney Thomas Fucillo referenced the water usage concerns of the village as conveyed by Lotkowictz’s letter, and stated that the town board’s approval of the water district extension was based on erroneous data and the “only lawful way” for the planning board to rectify the mistake is to rescind the negative SEQR declaration.
Fucillo said the village’s letter contains new information and changes in the proposed project, and, under New York state SEQRA regulations, a lead agency must rescind a negative declaration under such circumstances.
Fucillo likewise argued in his letter that the anticipated traffic impacts of the VSM project also were based on erroneous information when considered by the planning board for the SEQR.
Victory Sports officials commissioned GTS Consulting of Chittenango to complete a traffic study for the proposed development, which GTS did in March 2009. That study, which declared there would be no adverse traffic impact to the community, was based on the original Nov. 2008 proposed site plan of a 75,000 square-foot medical office building and a secondary 70,000 square-foot indoor athletic facility, which also was deemed to account for traffic from “an array of outdoor athletic facilities.”
Fucillo took exception to the fact that the planning board’s negative SEQR declaration “relied exclusively on a traffic study that was more than three-and-a-half years old.” The board’s vote was also based on dimensions for an indoor athletic facility that was less than half the size of the currently-planned indoor facility, and that the 2009 traffic study mischaracterized the land use category for the VSM project as a medical office building plus recreational community use center, rather than as a regional sports facility, which is more accurate, Fucillo wrote.
He added that the 2009 traffic study also “never considered” the possibility of the VSM campus hosting athletic tournaments, which the latest project narrative states it will.
Fucillo’s letter also stated that the planning board did not sufficiently assess the environmental impacts of the proposed athletic field lighting; the possibility of water pollution into Shotwell Brook, which is a tributary of Skaneateles Lake and crosses the VSM site; or the archeological impact of the development.
Fucillo wrote that the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, in June 2011, recommended that a Phase 1 archeological survey of the VSM land be completed to determine the presence of archeologically significant sites, but VSM never completed such a survey. This is not a “legally sufficient” examination of the issue to declare a negative SEQR declaration, Fucillo wrote.
Planning board reaction
Town Planning Board Chair Mark Tucker told the Skaneateles Press he has received and reviewed both the Lotkowictz and Fucillo letters, and said the issues will be addressed at the Nov. 27 special meeting of the planning board.
That meeting, to be held at 7:30 p.m. in the Skaneateles High School auditorium, was announced Nov. 21 after the planning board canceled its previously-scheduled Nov. 27 public hearing on the VSM development.
The special meeting is open to the public, but it will not be a public hearing at which interested parties are allowed to speak for or against the VSM project application, Tucker said.
Tucker said that not only will the planning board members and the VSM representatives be at the meeting, but he also has invited representatives of the town and village boards to be present to discuss their concerns.
Town Supervisor Terri Roney declined to comment on whether the town board would revisit its previous approval of the water district extension for the VSM project, but said the board is currently discussing which members, if any, will attend the Nov. 27 planning board special meeting.
The planning board’s meeting change was made because its public hearing on VSM cannot be held until the Town Zoning Board of Appeals decides on the VSM variance request for athletic field lighting, which it has not yet completed. The next ZBA meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 4, and the VSM project lighting variance request is expected to be discussed.
When asked if the planning board will reschedule its public hearing on the VSM project as soon as the ZBA makes its decision on the variance request, Tucker said that was not necessarily the case. He said the planning board will probably have more issues to address on the project before it can get to that step in the process.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.