This letter is going to all our friends and acquaintances in the Town of Bedford because the above application, if approved without change, would have significant Town wide impact.
Summarized below are a description of the application, selected facts gleaned from the DEIS, concerns of ours we feel may be shared more broadly as the community becomes more aware of the issues and, finally, specific ways you can help.
What is this all about?
The present Bedford Community Church (BCC) is located on Bedford Center Road at the intersection of Buxton Rd. (about a mile out of Bedford Hills). BCC has filed an application with the Town to build a new church complex on a separate 13-acre parcel it owns on the opposite side of Buxton Road. Be assured that we have no religious bias. What disturbs us is the enormous size of the proposed facility on environmentally sensitive land, raising serious concerns relative to construction scope on the site, visual, traffic, historical and especially drinking water and sewage issues.
Facts from the DEIS (Draft Environmental Impact Statement)
The DEIS has now been filed with the Planning Board. When public hearings commence TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 23rd, the public will have the opportunity to offer factual rebuttals to assertions made by the BCC in their filing, raise objections as to the impact of the proposed construction and otherwise voice opinions for consideration by the Planning Board. Some of the facts:
• Building structure = 35,500 sq. feet (37,000+ sq. feet by DEIS pp. II-5&6)
• Sanctuary seating = 720 adults + further seating for 360 in separate children’s sanctuary
• Additionally, separate banquet hall with seating for 250 at tables or seating for 360 “theater” style
• Parking for 240 cars
• 14 classrooms
• A sewage system, the size of which is yet to be determined so the original plan for 40 toilets is on hold
Concerns We Have
For the proposed location, this project strikes us as way out of scale.
• The square footage of the proposed structure would make it the largest within the “Primary Study Area” (1/2 mile radius). When the “study area” is enlarged to a 1-mile radius, the only structures that would be larger would be an Adam Street commercial building, the prison and two Bedford Hills apartment complexes, all of which are in mixed-use zoning area, whereas the proposed construction would be within a residentially zoned area.
• The proposed new sanctuary size would seat 720 adults (excluding the additional children’s seating of 360). As a point of reference, the existing BCC sanctuary seats 275. Currently, in Bedford the capacity of the largest houses of worship are: Temple Sharay Tefila-325; St. Matthew’s Church-300; Bedford Presbyterian Church-275; St. Mary of the Assumption-250 (the average of these largest houses of worship in our community being 288). So the proposed construction would be 2 ½ times the size of the average of the community’s largest houses of worship. Further by way of assessing the relative scale being proposed, the capacity of the Fox Lane Middle School Theater is 256 and the Fox Lane High School’s Mary Lou Meese theater seats 622.
• The size of the proposed parking lot at 240 overwhelms two well-known lots: the Katonah A&P lot at 142 cars and the Bedford Village A&P lot at 215.
The requested re-routing of Buxton Roadto permit the consolidation of the two BCC land parcels. Why is this a concern? Buxton Road follows an historic route long predating European settlement.
The proposed site for the new facility can be accessed solely via narrow, curving town roads, some of which are unpaved consistent with the Town’s rural heritage. The increased traffic would be a danger to equestrian and bicycle traffic alike. (Go to the BCC website http://www.bedfordcommunitychurch.org/index.shtmlto see all the streets suggested for use by the BCC in their directions.)
The sanctuary size, banquet facilities and classrooms seem hugely oversized for our community – IF IN THIS LOCATION.
Run-off and sewage must be taken seriously due to its possible contamination of our local water supply as well as NYC’s.
This water issue is, perhaps, the most serious. The proposed building site sits directly above a sensitive fractured rock aquifer that provides drinking water for local wells. Broad Brook flows into the Buxton Gorge and on to the Cross River Reservoir. Local and area drinking water could well be endangered.
Nor is there a parking lot this large in all of Bedford, Katonah or Pound Ridge from which runoff flows directly into the ground water with the real potential for contamination from cars, pesticides, etc. Much of the parking lot is proposed to be pervious surface to address concerns about rain water absorbtion, but with the consequence of increased risk from car oil leakage.
Can this Matter be Resolved to Suit All Parties?
We believe so. It is our hope that active involvement by the community can lead to one of two outcomes that will be acceptable to the BCC, the community and the Planning Board.
Reduced Scale on the Site: If, as the name Bedford Community Church suggests, the applicant’s focus is to serve existing and prospective members in the Bedford community, we feel that the scope of the construction on the selected site should be scaled back very significantly. A substantially reduced scale would, in itself, result in substantial mitigation to many concerns with the application.
Full Scale on Alternate Site: If, the BCC wishes to proceed with the full-scale project as proposed, we feel that a different location in Town would be more appropriate. A location with direct on/off highway access to accommodate traffic flow from outside the community would result in substantial mitigation to many concerns with the application. This alternative would enable the BCC to build for the future they anticipate, but do so without the many risks of adverse impact to the environment and to the community.
What You Can Do
In the precedents there have been for the Planning Board to process a DEIS review and balance applicant and community interests, informed citizen’s groups have played a critical and constructive role.
Some years ago Buxton Road residents nearest to the proposed site formed the Friends of Buxton Gorge (FBG), to provide a legal structure for the retention of attorneys and other professionals to examine the BCC application in the multitude of technical considerations ultimately included in a DEIS.
FBG is the best-positioned entity through which community concern and support can be channeled. As TUESDAY FEBRUARY 23rd nears for public hearings on the DEIS by the Planning Board, much more help is urgently needed.
The Planning Board evaluates factual data and welcomes facts presented by the community. The applicant has, and has had at its disposal for some years, legal, engineering, traffic, groundwater, and wetlands consultants. Experts to critically assess the applicant’s assertions are costly, but absolutely necessary. To date limited funding available for experts has been principally borne by residents of Buxton Road. Given the financial need and the impact across the Town, the first and most important way to help is by contributing to engage experts. Checks should be made out to Friends of Buxton Gorge and mailed to 150 Buxton Rd, Bedford Hills, NY 10507.
Write the Planning Board expressing your views.
Town of Bedford
Donald Coe, Chairman
425 Cherry Street
Bedford Hills, NY 10507
The Planning Board meetings are open to the public. Come, listen and join in, if so inclined, to the dialogue on balancing the rights of the applicant and those of the community.
Spread the word.
A concerned and informed citizenry is a bedrock principle of our country and, more locally, of the Bedford community. If aspects of the BCC application concern you, you can help by spreading the word and/or sharing this letter with others.
If you have suggestions or further ways to help, the best route is to contact Don Carniato, head of the FBG. Don can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit the website http://friendsofbuxtongorge.org/ (updates expected shortly)