The China City Development: A Wise & Through Review of Impacts Needed
by Alan Sorensen
There’s been a lot of local buzz about a mega development planned in District 9.
China City of America has announced plans to develop a large mixed-use development consisting of a college with student housing along with cultural and recreational facilities in the Town of Thompson.
The current proposed action - which is a scaled down version of a much larger proposal presented earlier in the year that spanned included lands in Thompson and Mamakating – would now be situated entirely within the Town of Thompson.
At this initial stage of the project, both from a planning perspective and in the interests of my constituents in the district, I firmly believe that there needs to be a through environmental review process established from the get go by the various regulatory agencies whose mission is to ensure that potentially significant environmental impacts are addressed and mitigated.
In the next few years, the Town of Thompson will (hopefully) be in a new phase of economic redevelopment and expansion which will include several major projects which will need to go through proper review and vetting.
At this point in time, it’s important to establish precedent for thoughtful and through review of such projects in our town to ensure that our quality of life and the environment is positively, not negatively affected by such growth.
Based on my extensive experience as a planner, on the face of the proposal, the scale of the current proposed action and its geographic location off of Wild Turnpike presents a series of potentially significant environmental impacts (e.g. traffic, water resources, community character, visual resources, etc.) that need to be carefully considered and analyzed.
The purpose of the New York State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) Act to ensure such potentially significant environmental impacts are mitigated to the greatest extent practicable – either through on and off-site infrastructure improvements and/or modification of the applicant’s development plans.
When appropriately availed upon in terms of developments like China City, the SEQR process affords both local governments and the public with the opportunity to have their concerns addressed and the developer a degree of certainty in the project approval process.
During Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) phase of this process, alternatives can and are often proposed and considered in the development. This can result in the possibility to achieve a revised development plan, which also benefits the community and the applicant much more.
At this very initial stage, the proposed China City of America development should be subject to such an Environmental Impact Statement following a Public Scoping Session to invite public comment on the proposed development.
We are entering a new era in the Town of Thompson and Sullivan County. The China City of America development is different than the redevelopment plans for some of the former resorts and casino destination proposals in the County, whose sites already have the needed infrastructure to support the development.
In this case, a large-scale development is being proposed in a remote location off of Wild Turnpike with none of the road, water, sewage, electric etc. in place to support such a large development
Here’s another point to consider: The decision on who the Lead Agency is in the process becomes paramount, since it the Lead Agency who gets to decide IF there will be a Public Scoping Session and WHAT are the potentially significant environmental impacts that need to be addressed in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.
For this project, a co-lead Agency by the Town of Thompson Planning Board and NYSDEC would be a wise choice.
By having these two governmental bodies leading the process, it will ensure the public participates to the fullest extent necessary, that potentially environmental and other significant impacts are being addressed and that no important issues are ignored or not addressed in an adequate manner.
The proposed China City development is an interesting proposal that can add hundreds of jobs, increase tax revenues, and bring large numbers of tourists to our area. It can also serve as the impetus for other major developments in our county.
Let’s start this exciting new era of development and expansion by making sure that the character of our community that makes this place a great area to live, work and raise a family is not disrupted, but enhanced by such growth.
Utilizing the extensive planning tools and methods available and allowing public input right from the start is a great beginning to an age of redevelopment in the Town of Thompson.
New Ethics Laws a Good Start Toward Good Governance in Sullivan County
by Alan Sorensen
Recently, five citizens of Sullivan County were appointed as the new members of a reconstituted Sullivan County Ethics Board.
This new board is the result of a hard, long battle to change the ethical standards applied to government officials in the county and will provide better guidance to future generations of politicians in our area. I have worked hard from the onset of my first term in office to bring about such ethical reforms and I am proud to now write about this important accomplishment.
After a hard fought battle and failed attempts to jumpstart the process, this present legislature appointed a committee of judges and citizens to review and recommend changes in the ethics laws that were on the books. After hard work and debate, they made several key recommendations that were adopted by the County Legislature.
The result: The new Board of Ethics will have the responsibility of investigating allegations of unethical behavior or malfeasance and will have the power to administer oaths and request production of records in their investigation. Also adopted was a list of governmental positions subject to the new law and prohibitions against a list of officials from participating in bidding of surplus county property and the annual county tax foreclosure auction.
The implementation of the new Ethics Law is just the beginning of a continuing process to ensure that our county officials and employees maintain proper behavior and use of power. The adoption of the new law has raised the sensitivities of those now in power to conflicts of interest and ethical violations.
One of the first courses of business following the adoption of the Ethics Local Law will also be training for all County Employees and Public Officials.
All politicians make certain sacrifices when they are elected. We are expected to behave properly and avoid conflicts of interests in the way we vote and carry out our duties. We are held to a higher standard. It’s part of the job, period.
For me, the benefit of public service is contributing to my community for the benefit of all without any expectation of personal reward. That basic tenet of public service is in and of itself very rewarding and satisfying.
I may not always make the right decision as County Legislator, but my decisions are always grounded in the desire to do what is best for the community.
The newly passed Ethics Law and the work of the newly appointed Ethics Board will provide a sort of moral compass for many politicians - and maybe a hot potato for few others.
If the potato is too hot, one can always pursue other interests - public service is not for all. Our new Ethics Board will be there to carry out the good fight for such good ethical behavior in our local county government.
Since January, 2008, I have been representing the 9th Legislative District, fighting for open government, fiscally responsible spending, and addressing the needs of my constituents and the business community.
My goal is to keep you informed of my efforts on behalf of the residents of my district and Sullivan County. This website is dedicated to keeping the people of District 9 and Sullivan County informed of the latest issues being debated and developments arising from actions taken by the County Legislature.
I hope to publish on this website my opinion of the critical issues surrounding our community and to keep you posted of news, events, and other important information about Sullivan County government and community.
Thank you for your continued support!-Alan
The County Legislative meets at the County Government Center in Monticello every third Thursday of the month.
Regularly scheduled County Legislative committee meetings take place on the First and Second Thursdays of the month in the County Legislative Chambers. The meetings begin at 9:00 am.
County of Sullivan Website: http://www.co.sullivan.ny.us/
Town of Thompson Website: http://www.townofthompson.com/
Village of Monticello Website: http://www.villageofmonticello.com/
New York State Website: http://www.state.ny.us/
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