The Town of Milo Planning Board held a lengthy session on June 8 to discuss a major development on Sisson Road that has been the subject of controversy for several months, since property owners Linwood and Cindy Hough applied to divide 50 acres of property on Sisson Road into 11 building parcels.
A group of opponents to the subdivision are concerned with stormwater management and a conflict of land-use as stated in the newly adopted Milo Comprehensive Plan, which was approved in September 2009.
A public hearing has been scheduled by the Milo Town Board for June 21 at 7 p.m. on a proposed one year moratorium on major subdivisions in the town. The intent of the moratorium is to get zoning laws into place that will take into consideration the vision of the comprehensive plan.
There is discussion about whether the Sisson Road development will be covered under the moratorium. Opponents say the project is not far enough along to be exempt.
Milo Planning Board Chairman Carroll Graves said in a phone call after the meeting that the public hearing was closed at the May meeting. A few members of the public spoke at that meeting. He said Hough had been given stipulations to be addressed. As far as he knows, Graves said, the project will be considered in the works and not be included in the moratorium.
Another hot topic is if there is a conflict of interest.
Milo Building and Zoning Officer Dan King confirmed in a telephone conversation on Friday that Cindy Hough is his aunt (his mother’s sister). King said Town Supervisor John Socha and other board members are aware of the relationship. He stated that any of Hough’s personal projects have been dealt with by someone else.
King also said his son ran a business for the Houghs and has now returned to the Hough building business. King stated he has submitted a letter to Socha, asking the board to have another inspector do the work on the project. “It’s a small town and you run into conflicts. I have talked with the board. The people in the Town of Milo have good people working for them,” He also said false questions have been raised, but didn’t elaborate.
In another twist, King’s wife, Sandra, serves on the Yates County Planning Board. At the May meeting of that board, King abstained from voting on the subdivision at that level.
The Milo planning board meeting began with challenges to the approval of minutes from the previous meeting in regard to the Hough project. Board member Julie Engel said the wording should be that the project will not be entirely compatible. She said the action will cause a change in density of land use.
Rob Schwarting, another member, said, “I made a motion for negative impact. We found five or six significant points of impact. That’s not what my resolution was intended.” He said the board was looking for stipulations to be met. He also said it was not compatible with the comprehensive plan.
Blaine White said, “I’m interested in development. What we have here is a major subdivision. I’m the new kid on the block and want to do what’s best for the community.”
The actual document containing the resolution on the project was received at 4 p.m. that day by e-mail to member of the planning board from Town Attorney Robert Foster. The meeting began at 6 p.m. as a workshop on zoning laws, giving members little time to look over the several pages included in the resolution.
Engel was the only member to vote against the resolution. She has several concerns about the project, explaining, “Right now the property is zoned agriculture/multiple residential. Under the new zoning it is hillside/agricultural.” She says she is committed to the vision of the comprehensive plan. “I know the agriculture committee worked hard to develop their vision for the future of agricultural lands and I respect the work they have done. I cannot ignore the future,” Engel said. She feels the project contradicts the plan.
Another major issue, according to Engel, was that the planning board waived requirements. The code says major subdivisions have to have sanitary sewers and public water connection. The code was waived in the resolution. There was discussion and concerns were raised, but Foster wrote it in according to Engel.
Opponents consider stormwater runoff as the major issue. They cite problems with another subdivision on State Route 54 that caused damage to lower lying properties.
Engineer Dick Osgood was asked by Hough to address some of the issues at the meeting. He said a perk test had been done and that storm water prevention will be addressed. “There are four types of soil on the property and I don’t see an issue with wastewater,”
Osgood said, adding, “I don’t envision a problem with potable water.”
The project calls for 11 driveways, requiring culverts and drainage requiring a Storm Water Pollution Protection Plan (SWPPP). The plan will undergo extensive review by a town engineer, DEC and Yates County Soil and Water.
Discussing the project later in the week, Schwarting, a former Yates County Planner and current Milo Planning Board member, said in the 1980’s the county had produced and distributed a document called, “Hamlets and Hedgerows,” that talked about the use of marginal lands as places to grow new houses. “In the last 30 years you now see the community trying to preserve open space and farm land. To our lake towns there is a scenic value we want to preserve, but we want to see new construction. In order to maintain tax base and preservation, the Town of Milo took upland ag land and tried to preserve it as ag land, view space, vineyards and fields on hillsides rather than hundreds of houses,” Schwarting says. The comprehensive plan calls for one house per 40 acres.
Schwarting would like to see clustering, which would put houses closer together in some ways. This would minimize driveways and disturbance. “If done correctly the builder can use higher density to make more money and the town would benefit from more construction and the region would benefit from open space,” Schwarting said.
Archer and Ellen Martin were among the dozen or so residents who thought they were attending a public hearing. Reached by phone, Ellen says Archer is a former chairman of the Chemung County Zoning Board of Appeals and he is appalled, “Zoning does not seem to have affect around here, there are exceptions. We live fairly close to the site and have had mud come down before. It seems strange if they are trying to avoid these things, they allow it,” Ellen said.
Martin noted that she could see the muddy water coming down from the hills into the lake now. “We are ‘new’ people. We have only been here 30 years. Many of our neighbors are second and third generation,” she said.
It could be several months before the final plan comes up for approval.