Thursday, November 13, 2008

Save the Pinnacle

Below is the original SAVE PINNACLE LETTERS thread.
Please post any further comments below.

Dear All who have a Bolton Landing/Diamond Point mailing address,

On November 20th, 6pm, the Bolton Landing Planning Board will hold a public hearing regarding the development of the Pinnacle.

The owner, Ernie Oberer, has proposed placing 3 houses on top of the mountain with a mile long access road that will cut through some of the steepest terrain on the Edgecomb Pond side of the mountain.

Please, as soon as possible (TONIGHT), write a letter to the Bolton Planning Board and let them know you how you feel.

Email letter to: Attention: Planning Board
Mail your letters to:

Town of Bolton Planning Board
4949 Lake Shore Dr.
Bolton Landing, NY 12814

The Boards members need to read your letters days in advance of the meeting. Please send immediately and please forward this to anyone one you think would care to preserve a town treasure!

Thank You!
Dave Cummings
Please call if you have questions

Yeah, I heard about this through Chris Navitsky. Dave - if you know any potential LEGAL weaknesses in his plan, any points we could hit upon in our letters, could you brief us. I know I'll be writing about borderline development in a sensitive watershed, the aesthetics of ridgeline development on a lake which - until know - has been largely protected from such blight, and the rights of existing property owners. But the truth is, I don't know the legal impediments they face. Are they asking for a variance? If so, they rely largely on the board's discretion. However, if they are simply asking for a standard approval of the right to build within the town's zoning codes, the board does not have much latitude: they could be sued for failng to uphold their own zoning codes. Let us know what you know. Thanks Dave.


Great Dave.

Chris Navitsky’s new email is vs. keeper1…..



Good question. The meeting is for final approval of the lot subdivision and house approval. Legally he has the proper acreage to divide the parcels and adequate road frontage, so no nothing legal, yet, to stand by.
But the meetings underlying subtext is; does the public want the massive road and another nail in the coffin of "scenic uplands."

My hunch is he'll want to be able to sell 2 of the 3 lots as "approved subdivisions" and get enough money to build the road and a house for himself up top.
While "approved subdivisions" does not mean "approved homes" or "approved road," it is a more sweetened offer for potential buyers.
Rolf Ronning is doing the same thing in Saddlebrook.

If we can stop the development at this point, Mr. Oberer (owner) will not have incurred massive investment losses. Nothing he couldn't re-coup by selling the property to the Land Conservancy.

I feel most developers sink so much money into projects before approval, they become desperate and hire the best representation, all the while draining the energy of those opposed.
If we stood to profit ($) from the Pinnacle being left undeveloped, chances are we would fight with everything we've collectively got....and win.

If anyone else has information on legal standings, please let us know.


'm on the ZBA, used to be on the PB. Have no right to see the plans, so can only speculate.

I resoundingly agree with the complaint that the process is nearly a "done deal" before the Public may comment. The reason for this is fear of "too much pestering." But now's your time to pester, so step up!
I've written the PB and suggest you do so. Mary's issues really deserve to be underlined. Anyone know anything about the impact of so much clearing? Anyone know anything about run-off patterns from that mountain as they impact our reservoir on Edgecomb Pond Road?
Dave, as a neighbor, can you see the actual plans? How many acres of clearing are proposed? How much impervious surface to be created? What are the grades of the slopes involved? Is the engineer one who tends to be righteous with the numbers, or one happy to calculate "disturbance" only as post-construction impervious?
Dave is right that as proposed, no variances are required or it would have gone to the ZBA (unless it appeared when I was absent last spring).
I question if there is room up there without variances for the large homes preferred by rich people these days to be built around the 140'-diameter turnaround REQUIRED as the terminus of any "driveway" over 200 feet in length. Anyone know? Current practice requires only that a "building site" which meets setbacks be identified on the proposed map. That can be (and often is) a 20'x40' box. Then the variance requests start.
If it is reasonable to expect variances will be required, the situation changes from "property rights" to "I don't have the right, but want to show there won't be any harm if I'm allowed to do this."
Is it ledgerock up there? If so, is the PB doing a subdivision on paper that doesn't work on the land, and if so, a great deal of public controversy could trigger further review of environmental impacts BEFORE granting this stage of approval. Or even get it turned down.
Also, they must have plans for on-site septic disposal. Anyone know what they are? Any "intermittent watercourses" that exist but so frequently are ommitted from maps might be good to bring to the PB's attention now.
Thanks Dave and Mary and all. Do write. Even a short, "Is this to be the future of Bolton?" or "Three houses for a mile of clearing on a mountainside is a bad trade for the town" will be noticed, and bolster the resolve of any board members who have concerns.
Public input is problematic, so be polite, be sensitive to property rights, point out that alternatives exist, and your undying gratitude that someone is willing to do this unfun job.
Meredith McComb

We will be reviewing the Zoning Code and determining where the areas of non-compliance are. I would be glad to forward this information to any that are interested. I hope that many can express their views on this project and let the Town of Bolton Planning Board know the public interest in this matter. The Board expects our office to comment (and some of them just cannot wait to we speak!!!!) but our experience is the more public involvement, the more they are prone to scruntinize the project. It appears there may be a majority against the proposal but they may need encouragement.
Please feel free to contact our office for any information. Thanks -
Chris Navitsky, PE
P.O. Box 591

Lake George, NY 12845
(518) 668-5913
Fax (518) 668-5915
Member of Waterkeeper Alliance

The meeting is for the potential final aaproval of the subdivision. IF the plan is approved, the applicant will need to come back for a stormwater management review for the road design which will again need a public hearing.
Dave is right regarding the process. The Town of Bolton Planning Board decided to see if the proposal would fly before requiring the applicant to spend the money for engineering on the stormwater design for the road which will be a critical element and cause most of the environmental damage from the project. The individual house sites will be reviewed at a further time in the future.
Chris Navitsky, PE
P.O. Box 591
Lake George, NY 12845
(518) 668-5913
Fax (518) 668-5915
Member of Waterkeeper Alliance

you need to get to the fire commissioners and ask them what kind of fire protection they can provide for houses like that. They cant getup there. Its been contentious about places like that because the minimum width for a fire truck is much greater than these developers want to go for.

how any one can approve or consider a development which does not allow for fire protection is poor planning.


in the past, there have been issues concerning the width of the roads/driveways and the requirements of the fire department to not only get in, but be able to turn around, and access water for proper fire protection.

some subdivisions go in with the road being classified as a driveway, when in fact, they are truly roads. dirty trick, if you ask me.

a certain %grade (steepness) is stipulated for a road versus a driveway, and width is considered also. is this only do-able if they call it a driveway?

Now what defines a road, which must be wider and has less steeper allowances? Is this a road or a driveway? what can the fire department get the "Tax Payer Assets: Firetrucks" into without causing damage to our trucks?

the fire department has to have a say in what they will be willing to commit into a project. If they cant get in, i cant see how it can pass.

they may not be able to build the "road" that is required, and try and play the "driveway" game cause that is all they want to pay for, or can afford.


While the decision before the Planning Board concerns only the subdivision of the lot itself, I would suggest that the application is best challenged when the board is forced to consider the “proposed action” in its entirety. There is a legal basis for this. The NYS Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) recognizes that by excluding subsequent phases or associated project components from environmental review the project may be more acceptable to the reviewing agencies and the public. Doing so is called “segmentation” – and according to SEQRA it’s not all that legal.

Now the more important question, is this project subject to SEQRA? The answer is, maybe. A public hearing is just that, it’s an opportunity for the public to be heard as a matter of public record. Therefore, it’s an opportunity to demand that the Planning Board do its due diligence when making a determination regarding SEQRA. There are three determinations the Planning Board can make: Type I, the action is subject to environmental review; Type II, the action is not subject to environmental review; and finally, Unlisted, which is an action that does not meet Type I thresholds but some may still require an environmental review.

It’s unlikely that the project would be considered a Type I action, but in my opinion it’s surely an Unlisted action. While some might argue that this is only a Type II action, Section 617.5(b)(1) states that no project can have a “significant adverse impact on the environment” on the following relevant resources: the creation of a material conflict with a community's current plans or goals as officially approved or adopted (i.e., a town’s comprehensive plan); the impairment of the character or quality of important “aesthetic resources” or of “existing community or neighborhood character.” For the purpose of determining whether an action may have any such consequences, the board “must consider reasonably related long-term, short-term, direct, indirect and cumulative impacts” of the proposed action as outlined “in any long-range plan of which the action under consideration is a part.”

The point of all this is that the Planning Board shouldn’t make any decision until all subsequent phases of proposed action are platted and have undergone a thorough environmental review. The argument is that the development of the Pinnacle would have a significant impact on the scenic, cultural, and environmental resources as identified in the Comprehensive Plan. Furthermore, such resources would likely be more protected by the soon-to-be adopted zoning updates.

Aside from SEQRA, I would consider sending a copy of the application to the APA with a written letter of concern, ask that all wetlands on the site be delineated (wetlands near the summit could be an acre or more – the DEC Region 5 Wetland Biologist might be helpful), and ensure that all proposed lots meet the town’s basic subdivision requirements (the plans I looked at had lots that were less than 25 acres, and two (2) of the lots didn’t have the fifty (50) foot of road frontage that is required in LC-25). In addition, I’m sure that there are numerous stormwater/erosion and septic concerns that could raised as well (I’ll leave that up to the P.E.). Finally, coordinate your efforts with your local non-profits! It’s important to acknowledge that there is certainly enough acreage for Mr. Oberer to develop some portions of his property and that this should not be an exercise in NIMBYism. However, given the site’s environmental characteristics and importance to the community’s character, the highly visible summit should be off limits and preserved in perpetuity.

If anyone has any question regarding SEQRA, please feel free to contact me at anytime. I would also be glad to provide some GIS support and help review the town’s, NYS, and APA land use regulations apropos this application.

Take care,


So it sounds like at this point, our letters would be bolstered by mentioning the proposals relationship to the town comprehensive plan (i.e. non-conforming) and a suggestion that the developer seek to build on the lower elevation portions of his property while preserving the Pinnacle, concerns about SEQRA designation and piecemeal versus wholesale project review, and with specific regard to the proposal concerns about stormwater management, septic containment, emergency vehicle access, and impact on the viewshed. Sound about right?

Can I just say thank you very much to the knowledgeable people who have put their two cents into this discussion?? I'm very encouraged by the depth of knowledge that is being assembled in opposition to destruction of the Pinnacle.

Dave - Were you planning to get on that letter to APA? Is there someone at Lake George Land Conservancy who can speak on behalf of this parcel?


Mary -
I would copy any letter to the APA - Put it to the attention of Brian Grisi - The APA will not be invovled too much on this project since Bolton had a locally approved land use plan - But they do keep their eyes on the Town of Bolton because of their tract record - But in general, the APA does not weigh in on the subdivision or planning issues as much as the zoning variances.
Regarding the Land Conservancy, I cannot speak for them but their history is to not speak at public meetings and take advocacy stances.
If you need to review the Comprehensive Plan, I can get a copy to you -
Chris Navitsky, PE
P.O. Box 591
Lake George, NY 12845
(518) 668-5913
Fax (518) 668-5915
Member of Waterkeeper Alliance

Keep up the good work, Dave. Hope this turns out for the better. Let me know if there's anything more I can do than email the board.

Keep me on, and thank you for your activity, Dave. If the Town Fathers/Mothers don't hear that people have concerns, they are of course going to respond to the most vocal supplicants, and this is a project worthy of community awareness.
If anyone is interested in being in a thread that is concerned with the current massive, substantive, re-write of Bolton's zoning ordinance, send a request to be included to Proposed are substantial density increases, lowering the LG setback in the Huddle, defining "disturbance" to permit taking the trees, increasing sign size that needs no review by 250%, and much more.
These are great times, and great times for stepping up to the responsiblity of taking care of this planet, this town, this lake, this community so that it can be as vibrant and happy 200 years further down the line.
Meredith McComb


Dave said...

Boze, It would be great if you could carry the professional planning torch for us. You are the most well versed and wont be trip up by any questions.

I've been in contact with the DEC to determine if the wetlands atop the PInnacle are in fact designated wetlands. This, of course, is were the proposed leach fields are to be placed.

I will try and post a copy of the proposed plan soon. Technology stands in the way along with access.

Fire department has previously opposed the road. They are reluctant to take positions however. Initially the turns in road design were too tight for some of our department trucks.
Ernie and Co. have since taken a full invintory of the fleet, contacted the manufactures, and re-design the road accordingly.

The plans also indicate a water storage tank on the top of the mountain in the event of a fire.
I'll sleep better?

The road has already been determined a "driveway," allowing grades up to 15%. In case your wondering, the very top of Mohican hill rd. is 15%. I measured yesterday.

Chris, Could you determine the volume of water the road would displace with one inch of rain?

And finally, Would anyone be willing to write an "Open Letter" to Ernie Oberer? Something we all could sign?
I would but we dont talk much these days and he may crumble before reading.

Thanks all and I hope this new format works.

Dave C.

Anonymous said...

Dave, thanks for sending me the blog - great work. As to wetlands near the top, I photographed a small pond (about 1/4 acre) this past Sept. I've sent copies to Dave and Chris but will be happy to supply copies to anyone else who might think it useful. We are the adjacent landowners to the North so pardon our NIMBYism. The 160 plus acres just to the North are protected by a LGLT easement and we have been advocates for protecting the remaining piece. As to content of letters I agree that at this stage the PB should be provided with as much input as possible (deluged) from resident's viewing concerns about the viewshed, watershed, environ,ental damage and need to protect this vital ridge from development. It is the second highest point of land in Bolton (secont to Cat Mtn.) and the only high peak in BL that drains directly into the lake (some via small streams that feed Finke Brook),

Tanya Tolchin said...

Hi Dave,

Thanks for creating this blog site. I have been in touch with most of the folks with postings here, but for those I have not met, I am Tanya Tolchin, my father Jerry posted earlier. We are long time summer residents of Potter Hill Road and adjacent property owners.

Dave, I am wondering if you have a list of people who you know are going to speak at the hearing. If not, I think we should try to create a list and make sure we have the largest group we can. I will not be able to get to Bolton for the hearing, but I can make calls encouraging people to turn out. Also how is the sign posting going?


Dave said...

I dont have a list of people who will attend the meeting but the yard signs have been catching peoples eyes.
I'm hoping to be able to order 10 more by request (staples turn around time)!
My guess is the meeting will be well attended.