Water worries raised over Black Creek Run development plans

— From Rosetti Acquisitions submittal to the town of Guilderland

Only about half of the roughly 41-acre property for Black Creek Run would be developed with clustered housing units; the other half — including a retention basin at upper right — would be conveyed to the town of Guilderland.

GUILDERLAND — After nearly two decades in limbo, the Black Creek Run Country Hamlet — a proposal for a 46-unit development — is entering the final stages of the town’s review process.

The same concerns the town board raised in 2009 — stormwater runoff into the Black Creek and thereby into the reservoir that supplies most of Guilderland’s drinking water — are being raised again.

On Sept. 19, the Guilderland Town Board heard an overview of the Rossetti Acquisitions project from Nicholas Costa, owner of Advanced Engineering & Surveying, as well as concerns from two neighboring property owners.

The board set a public hearing on the proposal for Nov. 9 at Guilderland Town Hall.

Responsible control of water was a dominant theme of the town board’s discussion.

Guilderland resident Sue Green said the Bozenkill meets the Black Creek right behind her house where she has lived for half a century. “I’ve watched it; I’ve protected it. But most of all, I’ve watched it change dramatically over the last couple of years,” said Green.

The Bozenkill and Black Creek feed into the Watervliet Reservoir, located in western Guilderland but owned by Watervliet.

National Grid, Green said, has come to her house to take down seven mature trees “along the Black Creek because it has been so eroded.” The company wanted to prevent the trees with eroded root systems from falling on power lines, she said.

“The Black Creek has taken out two dams up above our house,” Green said, noting that the dams had been there for 70 years.

Green said she speaks routinely with the city of Watervliet to tell officials, for example, when dead deer are lying in the creek or when trees have fallen, blocking the flow of water.

Green cited a law stating that post-construction water runoff can be no greater than runoff before construction started. 

Her questions for the town board were: Who is accountable for that and what happens if there’s a change? Who does the remediation?

Green believes the engineers “are not accounting for the reality of the true rainfall.” She called the planned retention pool for the proposed development, which is to be four to six feet deep,
“absolutely a joke.”

“We have puddles on our property from rain that are … much deeper than that,” she said. “So I’m tremendously concerned.”

Green also recalled how fish “were going through my bottom field and that’s because the Bozenkill can be so strong. It came right up through our field, through a culvert and across the street and then emptied into the reservoir.”

While that happened “a long time ago,” Green said, “now it’s an occurrence that happens all the time. And this year specifically has been outrageous.”

Green concluded by telling the board, “I need you to do your homework.”


Retention basin

An earlier version of the project called Dutchmen Acres — the development is across School Road from Guilderland High School, which has the Flying Dutchman as a mascot — lay dormant from 2009 to 2015 when the current configuration was presented to the town’s planning board.

As early as 2009, the town board raised concerns that site runoff into the Black Creek would be contaminated. 

 Rosetti, which acquired the land at 6250 Depot Road in 2014 for $306,000, proposed Country Hamlet zoning to allow far more housing units, in a clustered formation, than the Rural Agriculture 3 zoning. The Guilderland Town Board is lead agency for all Country Hamlet project applications.

The town board did approve a zoning change for the parcel from RA3 to country hamlet in November 2015; however, “no Local Law was adopted by the Town Board, or filed with the Department of State as part of the change in zone,” according to a memo from the town’s planner, so the board will “most likely” have to repeat the process. The current board heard the first presentation on the project in March 2022, after which the planning board reviewed it.

Costa told the town board on Sept. 19 that the approximately 41 acres would include eight twin townhouses, 24 single-family homes, and 14 senior apartments. Roughly half the acreage, about 20 to 21 acres, will be conveyed to the town, Costa said.

“Quite a bit of the parcel, because it’s a Country Hamlet, will be left undeveloped and those undeveloped portions of the parcel will be conveyed over to the town,” he said. A retention basin, which Costa referred to as “the stormwater management facility” had been moved from where it was originally planned; the basin, too, will be conveyed to the town.

Heidi and Michael Moak, who live on Cerruti Road and own farmland next to the proposed development, had objected in 2015 to the proximity of the then-planned retention pond to their property.

At that time, the pond was to be cited immediately adjacent to the pastures and barn where the Moaks keep their horses.

“We’re concerned that for a large portion of the time it would be standing water and become a breeding ground for mosquitoes, which carry the West Nile virus and a host of other diseases,” Moak told The Enterprise in 2015. “The six-foot chain-link fence proposed is not particularly attractive.”

Moak said at that time, eight years ago, that he had no problems with the proposed development other than the proximity of the pond to his property.

The retention basin has since been repositioned and Costa told the town board on Sept 19, “the fencing all around the stormwater management facility was removed.”

The retention basin is now 150 feet from the adjacent parcel, Costa said.

He also said, in answer to questions from board members Jacob Crawfor and Christine Napierski, that water in the basin would probably “fluctuate between four and six feet.”

“It doesn’t just manage the stormwater from the new development,” Costa said. “It also picks up a lot of the water that formerly was going into the neighbor parcel and actually diverts it over and into that basin.”

Napierski asked about installing a fountain or other device “to keep the water moving so it’s not stagnant.”

“The way the groundwater flow is here is that everything is trying to get to the Black Creek,” Costa responded. “So there will be movement with the groundwater.”

He also said that the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation does not recommend a fountain for a stormwater-management facility. Once the development is built, it will be up to the town to manage the retention basin, Costa said.


Rain gardens required

The current plan also calls for rain gardens, which are saucer-like hollows in residents’ yards, where native species are planted to help contain rain runoff.

The current site plan approval form for Black Creek Run has a three-page list of suitable native plants including grasses, flowers, trees, and shrubs.

The list concludes with this caveat: “Plant no more than twenty percent from one family, no more than ten percent from one genus and no more than five percent form one species (including cultivars). This safeguards from disease or insects that can destroy every tree, like the emerald ash borer. Lessons learned the hard way.”

“The roof runoff from the new homes will be directed to the rain gardens, which are stormwater-management facilities that are required” by the state, Costa said, adding, “They would like to have the stormwater managed at the source, not at the end of pipe.”

Napierski raised concerns about how the maintenance of rain gardens would be enforced and asked if there would be “some kind of binding agreement.”

Supervisor Peter Barber — a lawyer, like Napierski — suggested putting it in a deed.

“Let’s say hypothetically that half of the residents there either don’t care or don’t bother to maintain it,” Barber asked of the rain gardens. “What impact does that have then on the stormwater basin?”

“We’ll, it would overflow,” Costa responded.

“How do we make people maintain their rain gardens?” asked Napierski.

“There would be an agreement between the town and the homeowner to maintain the stormwater facility,” said Costa.

“I don’t want to have my stormwater people or my zoning people having to go to every single house every year to make sure that the rain garden is being maintained,” said Barber.

Costa said he could supply the town with a sample stormwater maintenance agreement from the state’s stormwater design manual.

“I think we also still may want to put it in the deed itself so the property owner understands it,” said Barber, noting, when a property is sold, “The next person who comes along has no idea what you’re talking about.”


Hearing set

Similarly, Moak raised a concern that the engineers had a statement “towards the bottom that said essentially the developer had to acknowledge that the homes were going to be built near an operating farm and that they needed to realize that there could be odors or dust or so forth.”

Moak asked, “But where does that carry over to the homeowners who would then have a problem with that?”

Barber responded, “I think again that’s the sort of statement that needs to be put in the deed.”

“So who determines that that gets put in the deed?” asked Moak.

“We do,” said Barber of the town.

Moak noted he would be in South Africa during the date the board originally had in mind for the public hearing so the board ultimately accommodated him by setting the hearing for 7 p.m. on Nov. 9.

After that, Barber said, the board is likely to begin the State Environmental Quality Review of the project.

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