100 Ideas for New Paltz

6. protect wetlands in the village

Posted in environment, planning and construction, stormwater, wallkill river, zoning by Jason West on June 12, 2009

Protect the environment and reduce flooding by passing a wetlands and watercoures protection law. Much of the work on this legislation has already been done.

In 2005 I revised the wetlands law passed by the Town to fit the needs of the Village – notably strengthening the enforcement provisions by eliminating the option to pay a fee in order to mitigate damage to wetlands.  I brought that law to the Village Board, where Michael Zierler suggested that we set up a task force to review the law and see if it met the village’s needs and if, in fact, we needed a law at all.  That task force – made up of myself, Colin Apse of the Nature Conservancy, Rachel Lagodka of the Environmental Commission and Laura Heady of the Hudson River Estuary Program – unanimously recommended that a local law was our best option for protecting wetlands.

Simply put, the law requires that anyone who wants to build near a wetland has to have that wetland checked out first — if there is no harm in building whatever is in question, then the project goes through the normal process.  If there would be harm to the project, the project has to be redesigned to avoid that harm, or the person in question can’t build what they want.

In order to find where there may be wetlands, we hired Hudsonia, Ltd to perform two wetland habitat assessments – one for the proposed Millbrook Greenway area, and one for the village as a whole.  Hudsonia’s maps showed several areas of the village where there were potentially important wetlands complexes — on the Woodland Pond/Stoneliegh Woods properties, along the Wallkill River, especially the Harcourt Wildlife Sanctuary and around the Rail Trail south of Water Street and others.

Due to criticism that the law could be difficult to understand procedurally, I created a simple flow chart to guide prospective builders through the process.

Finally, in order to make sure there were no unnecessary hoops for builders, I wrote a seperate Wetlands Protection Overlay District law that made sure that the wetlands law itself only applied to specific properties.  Those properties were the ones that had potential wetland, streams, river or buffer area somewhere on the property, according to Hudsonia.


2 Responses

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  1. Rachel Lagodka said, on April 12, 2011 at 11:42 am

    The one comment I keep hearing about a wetlands law is “law suit.” I would be interested in any feasible form of stringent local municipal protection of wetlands as the DEC recommends, the sooner the better. The implementation of a “critical environmental area” designation might be more expedient.

  2. kt said, on April 13, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    there’s plenty of municipalities in the region that have passed wetlands protections law. we should take a look and see how many lawsuits have resulted.

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