Tuxedo Reserve....What's the Rush? | October 7, 2008

As most people know by now, The Related Companies, developers of the 1200 unit Tuxedo Reserve project, have submitted an amendment to their Special Permit, which contains MAJOR changes to the plan. If approved, these changes will alter both the scope of the project as well as life as we have all come to know it in the Town of Tuxedo. What people may not be aware of, however, is the extent to which the applicant is attempting to rush the new plan through the review process. While it took the Town nearly 10 years to review and approve the original plan, the applicant now expects the Planning Board to issue an approval for the new plan in less than 45 days.

At the September 22 Town Board meeting representatives for the developer presented the Board with an entirely new Master Plan for the project. There are countless reasons for residents to be concerned about many of the proposed changes, some of which are briefly outlined below:

  1. In the new plan, many of the homes have been converted from single-family houses to multifamily residences. This change will lower the overall worth of the homes and thus reduce the tax base for the project.

  2. The developer seeks to increase the amount of retail space in the area known as “The Commons” by 10 times the previously approved amount. . In fact, when looking at the new plan, one can easily see that the proposal is for an entirely new “downtown” area. While the developer states that the increase in retail space is necessary to support the increase in population, this is not necessarily true. What will happen to the present Downtown Tuxedo when a new downtown area is introduced? The developer suggests that the two retail areas will be synergistic rather than competitive, but they are not at all specific about the types of businesses they hope to introduce. When approving the initial plan, the previous Town Board made the revitalization of Downtown Tuxedo a cornerstone of their approval, denying the applicant’s original request for a large amount of retail space. Now that the Board has completely turned over, the applicant appears to be attempting to reverse this decision by reintroducing the increased amount of retail space in their amended plan.

  3. The original plan had all of the “designated active adult units” situated in one area of the development. In the revised plan however, these apartments and condos have been spread throughout the development and many of them have been relocated to the commons area and placed above retail space, thus creating a much more urban environment in this area.

  4. The new plan shows development around Mountain Lake, which is an area that was supposed to remain green and undeveloped according to the original plan. The Applicant is now referring to this area of land as “highly developable” and are proposing to build several three-story homes in this area. Despite the fact that the proposed homes will be in close proximity to the lake, the Applicant has stated that they are not planning any additional environmental impact studies before proceeding.

  5. The Applicant has presented the Town with a body of standards to regulate this Project, which will be known as the “Smart Code”. These standards, including zoning, architectural and landscaping components would be unique to each neighborhood within the project and would over-ride the existing Town Code. In other words, the Applicant is seeking to set their own standards and rules by which their project will be constructed (thus avoiding the need for variances.)

There are several other important issues with the proposed revision including (but not limited to) run-off from pesticides into the aquifer, (the developer claims that by eliminating lawns in the Commons area they are eliminating the need for pesticides) and the repositioning of an emergency access road on South Gate Road. (In their new Master Plan, the Town has indicated that they would like to pave this road over, making it a permanent entrance to the development and a “link” between Maple Brook and Downtown Tuxedo.)

With all these major changes being proposed, it is crucial that the various Boards take the time to not only review the details of the “new” project but also to consider the long term impacts these changes will have on the community. The Applicant, however, sees things differently. While, the amendment was officially referred to the Town Planning Board by the Town Board on September 8, 2008 that Board has not yet begun their review. On September 30, 2008 at the TAC meeting, representatives for the developer stated that they expected to see an affirmative report from the Planning Board no later than 45 days after the amendment had been referred. While they are agreeable to arranging public workshops with this Board for the purpose of detailed review, they suggested that the public presentation on September 22 should be considered a workshop and that additional workshops should be scheduled at a rate of 2 per week moving forward.

This sense of urgency from the Applicant begs the question….WHAT IS THE RUSH???? The Town has already embraced Tuxedo Reserve. Doesn’t it make sense that they should carefully review every aspect of the new plan in order to ensure that it becomes the best possible development it can be???? Especially considering the proposed Smart Code, which will override the Town Code in many areas, shouldn’t the Boards be taking their time to carefully review these new standards????? Is 45 days enough time to adequately review something that took the previous Boards 10 years to review and approve?

Resident involvement is crucial to this process. Please take a moment to review both the presentation made by the developer to Town Board on September 22, along with their Master Plan Book (page 14 outlines some of the difference between the old and new plans) and then consider these important questions.

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