NPS has concerns: FIMFO asks board to continue to move the ball forward

Posted 3/1/23

ELDRED, NY — Norm Sutherland, the Highland Planning Board chairman, finally got what he wanted. The National Park Service has responded with a letter of review for the expansion of the former …

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NPS has concerns: FIMFO asks board to continue to move the ball forward


ELDRED, NY — Norm Sutherland, the Highland Planning Board chairman, finally got what he wanted. The National Park Service has responded with a letter of review for the expansion of the former Kittitinny Campground from a largely tenting-site facility to RV-style units that are fully electrified with water and sewer.

The park service has concerns.

The letter, read as part of the record, at the February 23 Town of Highland Planning Board meeting, outlined additional studies and detailed plans that are needed. It noted that specificity in the plans had been requested from the applicant and had not been received previously. The specificity is imperative in determining the cumulative effect of the large-scale $44 million development. Without this additional information, the NPS cannot make a determination of substantial conformance to the RMP (River Management Plan), the letter said. It encouraged the applicant to engage with the NPS, the Upper Delaware Council and the Town of Highland to obtain the information requested.

The NPS requested more specific information on several particulars. It requested additional information about the total disturbance of vegetation. It requested hydraulic and hydrologic modeling to help determine the potential erosion and degradation of the river both during the construction phase and in the future, and requested clarification on the cut and fill boundary of the project. It requested renderings of the project from the center of the river, from the riverbanks and from Route 97 toward the river, to determine the impact it would have on recreational resources. It expressed concerns about the base floodplain elevation, and asked for a detailed plan on how the park-style RVs would be disconnected and removed in the event of a flood. It referenced a 2006 flood in Hankins, where more than 20 campsite trailers were swept into the river, and remain there still.

“Although the proposed use of camping is consistent with historical use, park model RVs and associated utilities reflect a substantial change in the type of infrastructure on the site,” wrote the NPS.

Sutherland praised the comments, saying that the NPS input was the most important review so far in the nearly year-long special-use review process. Especially, he said, as other agencies, specifically the Sullivan County planning department and the NYS Department of Transportation in particular, did not look at this project as extensively as he thought necessary.

In response, Daniel Rubin, attorney for LaBella Engineers, the Rochester-based engineering firm shepherding the project through the regulatory process, urged the board to approve the special-use permit application. He went through the project’s timeline and took issue that the National Park Service review letter had taken 149 days to be received. He cited the 1978 federal act that designated the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River, which sets out that the NPS “shall” issue a review within 45 days. “Shall, in my line of business, means must,” he said.

He did not address the letter’s position that additional information had been requested and not received.

“Our position,” he concluded, “is you do not have to wait for the NPS decision in order to pass judgment on our application.”

Sutherland responded by urging Rubin to meet with the NPS. “I definitely would like to see their input on clearing all of this up,” he said.

Rubin countered: “Does it make sense, chairman, to issue this decision, with it being conditional on NPS approval? At least, we can move the ball forward another step.”

Attorney for the town Michael Davidoff reassured Rubin that the board was just beginning the SEQR process and that the process would continue to move forward.

Questions from the local board

Planning board member Jeff Spitz then returned to his own lengthy list of requests for information from former meetings. These include coordination with local fire and EMS squads, an overview of staffing requirements and skill sets of campground employees to handle medical emergencies, including an on-site EMT and an on-call EMT close by; the filling of the pool by truck and not from wells; and the provision that the amenities at the family resort be offered to the community. Rubin said that if the campground was not filled to capacity, day passes could be assigned to the unfilled campsites and made available to the public.

Board member Laura Burrell inquired about the size of the trees that would be planted as part of vegetative screening.

The board will begin to review Part II of the SEQR application, and scheduled a March 8 meeting, to be held in executive session. The board will begin discussing the SEQR process and, Davidoff noted, potential litigation.

In other business, the board scheduled three public hearings for its next meeting on March 22 at 7 p.m. at the Eldred High School gym for special-use permits relating to short-term rentals.

Town of Highland, Highland Planning Board, FIMFO, Kittatinny, Northgate Resorts, National Park Service


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