SOMERS, N.Y. - Unhappy Heritage Hills homeowners sought last week to lessen the impact of what they expect to be a year “living in a construction zone.”
Some dozen speakers depicted that proposed construction—a swimming pool, cabana building, two tennis courts and parking area at the Somers Pointe Country Club—as a potential source of damage to the 40-year-old residential development. Their concerns ranged from soil erosion and storm water runoff to truck traffic and their associated wear and tear on community-maintained roads.
The residents spoke, some more than once, at a standing-room-only public hearing called by the Planning Board on April 13 to consider the privately owned club’s site plan for the envisioned recreational facilities.
Residents are “about to spend one year living in a construction zone,” said Patricia Ploss, president of the Heritage Hills Society.
“We want to be sure this project has as minimal an impact on their lives as possible,” Ploss said.
She described the Society as “responsible for the overall management of the Heritage Hills community.”
Ploss spent 25 years as Bedford’s director of finance before moving with her husband to Heritage Hills in 2001. Last week, she again zeroed in on numbers—in this case, clock numbers—in addressing the board.
Development plans call for a 12-hour, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., workday, she said, in violation of town code, which permits only a 7 a.m.-to-6 p.m. construction window. For her part, Ploss said, she would prefer that this new construction observe the same hours that workmen followed in originally building Heritage Hills, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Saying she had been told the new swimming pool would close at 6 p.m., Ploss told the board, “I’d like to see that in writing, as well as the hours of operation for the tennis courts.”
As the residents’ leadoff speaker, she also set the table, in effect, for others who followed, touching briefly on concerns they would subsequently cite with respect to environmental issues, traffic and finances.
Bruce Prince, a member of the Heritage Hills Society board, discussed not only the dust and erosion issues, raised by transferring thousands of yards of soil and other materials, but also the pavement-pounding he said those trucks must inevitably administer. “We’re going to have a lot of trucks moving over our roads,” he said, “with emphasis on our roads.”
Prince asked that the town require a bond sufficient to cover any damage that might occur.
Society Secretary Terry Clifford called for two bonds, including one for $2 million to guarantee repairs and replacements for a mile and a half of roads over which trucks would travel. She asked for a second bond, the amount unspecified, to guarantee the construction’s completion.
Bringing an audible reaction from the full house, Ed Goldfarb described what he called a similar land-clearing project on Long Island that unleashed “thousands upon thousands of rats.”
“The builder had to employ dozens of teams of exterminators to solve the problem,” said Goldfarb, a Society board member and president of Condo 16. “Our question to this builder is: Do you know what’s living under this soil? And if you don’t, please find out and get rid of it.”
While the Wednesday evening hearing almost exclusively attracted Heritage Hills residents, all project critics, at least one speaker, Richard Youtz of North Salem, saw potential in the proposed expansion for a positive outcome.
A current member of the golf club, he predicted the completed project would bring more people to the town.
“It will increase the profile of Somers as a place to shop,” he said. “I am certainly sympathetic to the things I’ve heard tonight and certainly hope that the club and Heritage Hills will work together in good faith to solve these problems. Because, if they do, what you will have here is a true gem of a golf club, which will be a benefit to Heritage Hills and Somers.”
But Jack Mattes, first vice president of the Heritage Hills Society, said he has already witnessed something other than good-faith cooperation. And he predicted a darker outcome for the project, based on the pool’s estimated million-dollar construction cost and a membership limit of 106 people.
Mattes said that Ploss and other Society board members had tried to visit the proposed construction site “so that they might better understand the details of the application,” but the group was removed by security, Mattes told the board. “Rather than acting as good neighbors,” he said, “Somers Pointe showed its disdain for the residents.”
Mattes also asserted that the pool’s initial price tag and annual operating cost made it unlikely to become a profitable venture. As a result, he suggested, the club at some point could fashion an economics-based appeal to the town Zoning Board, seeking approval of an alternative use for the property. Unlike most speakers, who asked principally for limits and safeguards during the anticipated construction and in its aftermath, Mattes urged the Planning Board to reject Somers Pointe’s application outright.
The board closed the hearing without a decision and set a 10-day period for written comment.