By Judy Garrison

A standing room only crowd filled the Town Hall for the April 2nd Planning Board Public Hearing (all 7 members plus Kristin Janke Schneider, county planner, present.) Chair, Frank Winkler, laid out the ground rules which included 3 minutes for each speaker to voice their concerns, issues or support. He encouraged the submission of written comments.

Kristin enunciated the purpose of the hearing. She  asked the applicants, who would speak before the public comment period, to give new information and answer questions only, so that the 11 people signed in would have time to speak.

The architect for O’Connor, Lee Marigliano of Delta Engineers, circulated renderings of the updated site plan reflecting minor revisions, and explained how they went to the long form SEQRA on the flood plain development impact. Alton Knapp, certified flood plain manager, said that he completed the one additional cross-section requested, and it should be available for public review at the clerk’s office.

Enthusiastic support for the medical center was voiced by Judy Morse and Suzanne Gladstone. Others, such as Mary Davis, of the Triangle, while expressing approval for a Bassett Healthcare medical office in the hamlet and commending their team for excellent presentations, had concerns that the orientation of the building and parking lot toward the adjacent neighbor “contradicts the overriding element of a building’s presence on a street and seems to create unnecessary additional sidewalks and ramps conveying patients from the parking lot to the side entrance.”

JoAnn Boerner, who lives directly across from the site (she was excused from her note-taking role for this evening), raised many questions about the choice of this site (her husband donated his 3 minutes to her), including the history (1996) of 2 feet of floodwater. She also cited the unsuitability of erecting a modular in the midst of a historic district, wondered why no questionnaire was circulated to residents to ascertain need, raised liability concerns in the event of serious flooding, and objected to the placement of the driveway. In reading from a written memo which she requested be added to the minutes, she made repeated reference to the hamlet’s zoning laws, maintaining that items required on the check list for the application for site plan approval, such as proposed grading and drainage, among others, were missing.

Marcello Reale, owner of property bordering the site on the north, voiced concerns about the lack of transparency of the project during its early stages, and fears that water flow that could affect his property hadn’t been addressed. He strongly asserted his belief that an environmental impact study should be necessary. (Later in the hearing the county planner gave her explanation for why such a study hadn’t been triggered.)

Jim Andrews, there for the Cemetery and the Andes Society for History and Culture, mentioned that part of the old high school had been on this site. He expressed the AHSC Board’s confidence that O’Connor will take good care of the property.

Martha Sunkenberg of Bassett Health Center Operations explained how the Department of Health requirements, such as those for 5 foot wide hallways and handicapped accessible rest rooms, effectively ruled out the existing buildings they had looked at. She also asserted that Bassett had done a needs assessment, and would have a long term lease, in keeping with their commitment into the future. In answer to a question about hours of operation, she said it was possible that the 8 am to 5 pm hours could be extended to 6 or 7 pm, based on patient need.

Ron Guichard spoke to say he hoped local contractors would be used. Michael Howard, manager of facilities, said the building would be purchased from G&I Homes in Oneonta; Delta Engineers of Delhi was doing design; Delaware Bulldozing of Bloomville the excavation. Moreover, they would contract an electrician and a plumber from Delhi, landscapers from Bovina, and planned to hire 6-8 full time people, giving full benefits.

Kirstin explained that an environmental impact statement was not required because nothing so far had triggered it; all the expressed concerns could be mitigated.

The Board expects to make a determination at their May 14th meeting, after consulting with Soil & Water and the Department of Public Works, considering comments from the public, and receiving input subsequent to a full county planning board review.

The project personnel hope to build in July and open the clinic in September.~