Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Will the TOSC land swap conditions be met?

Posted By on Wed, Apr 6, 2016 at 5:01 PM

click to enlarge This area around Mount Muscoco is one tract the city would received from The Broadmoor in exchange for Strawberry Fields open space. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • This area around Mount Muscoco is one tract the city would received from The Broadmoor in exchange for Strawberry Fields open space.

Just in from Susan Davies, executive director of the Trails and Open Space Coalition, which has said it will support the city's proposed land swap with The Broadmoor under certain conditions.

"We have not said we’re supporting it," Davies says, "We’ve said we could support it if these conditions are met."

The conditions, as spelled out in a resolution posed on the group's website:

Conservation: A Conservation Easement will be placed on the 189.5 acres known as Strawberry Hill, to guarantee that the property be protected and preserved for perpetuity. As part of the Conservation Easement process, a baseline inventory will be conducted to identify the existing conditions and conservation values of the property. The Conservation easement will define compatible sustainable uses for the “building envelope” that do not impact the conservation values of the property and respect the viewshed surrounding the property. The Broadmoor has agreed to a conservation easement. Details of the development plans for Strawberry Hills will be presented at the public meeting on March 30.
Access: Strawberry Hill will remain open for public use. Non-motorized use includes hiking, bicycling and horseback riding. The Broadmoor, working with City Parks, will conduct a public planning process to determine where new sustainable trails are to be built on Strawberry Hill that have a neutral or positive impact on the conservation values of the property, and implement the trails plan. The Broadmoor has agreed to guarantee public access.
Public process/transparency: Land appraisals for all the parcels included in the proposal will be completed. The Broadmoor will complete a preliminary site plan for the entire property including the restricted area of Strawberry Hill. Terms of a conservation easement and deed restrictions will be outlined in writing. All of these documents as well as any new information, will be made available to the public with adequate time for public review and comment. Upon fulfillment of those requirements, City Council will hold a public hearing on the proposal. If Council approves the exchange in concept, the Council will allow the exchange to progress, but withhold final approval pending receipt of final contracts and documents to include a conservation easement outlining stewardship and a final site plan. City Council will then hold a second public hearing prior to the final approval. Public comment will be taken and made available for public review throughout the process. 

So, regarding the conditions, Davies says the group is still waiting for more details about the "building envelope" of The Broadmoor's plans for the nine acres in the midst of Strawberry Fields open space. The resort wants to build stables and a picnic pavilion. So far, no details have been provided. Some report that a city parks official has said those details won't be forthcoming until after the City Council votes on May 10. That means a portion of the first condition likely won't be met.

As for the second point, access, one might argue there's no way to know whether that will be met until after the deal is approved and plans proceed.

As for the third point, transparency, Davies is already indicating flexibility in that requirement. Read our report here about the city's denying the public access to the land appraisals on the city property and those parcels offered to the city by The Broadmoor.

"I don’t think the actual appraisal piece was as important," Davies says. "We’re interested in the public process and protection of the land."

If the city doesn't provide more information, and if The Broadmoor's detailed plans for the property aren't provided to the public in advance of a Council vote, then will TOSC oppose the deal?

Davies: "Let’s see what we learn at the Parks Board meeting. If we don’t get anything new, I will be surprised if my board urged me to convince Council this is a deal we want to support."

The Parks Advisory Board meets at 7:30 a.m. on Thursday, April 14, at 1401 Recreation Way.

As for Skorman's departure from TOSC's advisory panel, Davies called it "sad" and "heartbreaking."

"Richard said some things that were not too flattering to TOSC," she says. "I wrote him a message and asked him if he really felt that way — and I checked with our president — if he really feels that way, it’s probably inappropriate for him to be on our advisory council."

She says she told Skorman, "I would ask you to consider resigning."

"But you know," she adds, "I feel I gave him an opportunity to back down a little, and he made it fairly public [that he disagreed with TOSC's position on the land swap], and it was embarrassing for us organizationally."

In response to a question from the Independent, Davies says The Broadmoor did not lobby TOSC to take the position it did, but she adds, "When we came out that we were not going to take an opposing position, at that point The Broadmoor reached out and thanked us for taking a thoughtful approach."

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