GLENMONT — The Planning Board tabled a proposed substation in the southern portion of the Elsmere Fire District over the objections of Elsmere Fire Commissioner John Brennan on Tuesday, June 19.
While issues regarding the color of the proposed station and a potential sidewalk connection were essentially settled following its meeting on Tuesday, June 5, town planning staff said they were unable to continue reviewing the application as a revised stormwater management plan did not address pretreatment requirements that would change the design layout of proposed stormwater management areas.
Tim Hannigan, the lawyer representing the fire district (also a volunteer firefighter in the district), said that C.T. Male, the architectural firm hired by the district, had responded to town engineers regarding those requirements on June 11. According to Hannigan, MJ Engineering, the town-designated engineer, never replied.
Paul Guillet, a civil engineer at C.T. Male, said that his firm spoke to the town on several occasions and came to the conclusion that a conference call between C.T. Male, MJ Engineering and town engineers was desirable. “As of this afternoon, I was told that MJ was working on a response to our response,” he said. “Unfortunately, I have not seen that yet.”
Bethlehem Senior Planner Leslie Lombardo said MJ had drafted a response. “Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get it for today. But there is a response from MJ, and it will be ready tomorrow to be given to the applicant.”
Lombardo said, however, that she saw a draft version of that response and that it reiterated that a pretreatment requirement still needed to be satisfied.
“So, based on what we know, there’s not a resolution of the issue,” said Planning Board Chair John Smolinksy. “But comments are on their way and we’ll go from there.” He added that a conference call sounded like a good idea. “Hopefully that will resolve it,” he said.
Citing “expediency,” Hannigan pointed out that the fire district delayed the bid process for the construction of the new station after the June 5 meeting. “Our architects and engineers have addressed that situation,” he said. “I’m not sure
what MJ was doing, but the next meeting of this board is not for some time now, which will cause the district problems in terms of starting construction on this public safety building.” He asked if the board was able to grant conditional approval so that the district could move forward.
“I think the district has complied with every requirement to date,” he said.
“We depend on the engineers’ okay before we move ahead with a project and, I really don’t like to say this, but I’m reluctant to put a conditional approval before this board,” said Smolinksy.” He noted that the issue had gone unresolved prior to the June 11 letter and said he was not prepared to move ahead without approval from town engineers.
Hannigan was clearly frustrated that the fire district would not be able to see or address the response from MJ until the following day, effectively delaying the approval process for another month, as the July 3 Planning Board meeting has been cancelled.
“If that’s the sole issue that remains, there’s no way it should have taken ten days by the town’s designated engineer,” he argued. “I don’t know that MJ’s lack of response is acceptable or sufficient for the district at this time.”
Michael Moore, Planning Board counsel, and Robert Leslie, director of the Department of Economic Development and Planning, both stated that the town requires assurance—by its own engineers—that the plans conform to state-mandated regulations.
“We’re doing what we can to move forward as quickly as possible,” said Leslie, “but engineering has advised us not to issue a conditional approval until this item is addressed.”
Planning staff declined to share the draft response from MJ when Hannigan asked.
Commissioner Brennan said that the goal of the new building is to improve service to residents in the southern part of the district. “You have to understand that when we are dealing with seconds and minutes, and I say this with all due respect, that before a decision will even be considered, we will have gone seven months into this project.”
He said he preferred not to cast blame, but that he couldn’t understand why the district should have to wait until mid-July to gain approval. “I can’t believe that something can’t be remedied so that we can begin this process,” he said. “All I’m asking is for fairness. Not for the firefighters, but for the residents.”
“Seven months, for a project of this type, is not unusual,” said Smolinsky, who eventually promised to explore options to expedite the process, such as a special meeting before the next scheduled board meeting on July 17.
The discussion was tabled until the board’s next meeting.