thursday, SEPTEMBER 26, 2019 - 7:00P AT COPAKE TOWN HALL


COPake planning board meeting

thursday, October 3, 2019 - 7:00P AT COPAKE TOWN HALL


GRJH, INC. HAS STATED THAT THE PROPOSED SITE DOES NOT SIT OVER A MAPPED AQUIFER. IT DOES. IN 2014, THE DEC AUTHORED A COMPREHENSIVE SUMMARY OF COPAKE’s WATER RESOURCES. PAGE 25 EXPLICITLY depicts the unconfined, mid-yield aquifer under the proposed site. The characteristics of an unconfined aquifer put local well water at a higher risk of exposure to contamination.



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At the September 5, 2019 Public Hearing, Save Craryville presented volumes of relevant new expert information and findings regarding the proposed GRJH, Inc. gas station development and its potential commercial and environmental degradation to the surrounding community. This information was presented on the back of a formal Appeal submitted to the Zoning Board of Appeals by Save Craryville and nine (9) abutting and nearby landowners just a week prior on August 30, 2019. Save Craryville’s documentation, as highlighted in Thursday’s Hearing, is critical to the Planning Board and applicant’s due diligence related to existing subsurface contamination and potential contamination of the aquifer, well water and wetlands. Namely, Save Craryville disproved Chairman Bob Haight’s assertion that the site was not formerly a gas station, and that he made in response to Save Craryville’s demand for a Phase I ESA related to existing subsurface contamination.

Following Save Craryville presentations, Chairman Bob Haight called to immediately close the Public Hearing “for good”. Marcia Becker and Steve Saverese voted in support of the closure. Jon Urban, Ed Sawchuck and Julie Cohen voted to oppose the closure, and the Public Hearing remains open.

Save Craryville submitted a Freedom of Information Law Request (FOIL) on June 25, 2019 that has not yet been satisfied. Knowing this, the Chairman of the Board and two of its members were willing to close commentary and submission to Save Craryville and the public at large before the public’s access and review of critical documentation related to the application.

Furthermore, it appeared that Haight did not understand the actual implications of closing the Public Hearing, namely that the public also would not be allowed to submit further documentation and commentary to the Board.

Below is a summary of Save Craryville’s submissions and presentations before the Board.

1. Save Craryville Director Jamie Carano presents 

Letter Re: History of the Missing ‘Phase I’ ESA for Proposed GRJH Gas Station Site

2. Craryville Resident Leigh McBride presents 

Letter Re: Site History of Proposed GRJH Gas Station, By Leigh McBride and Mack McCormack

3. SAVE Craryville ATTORNEY Timothy Rode PRESENTS 

Carrie O’Farrell and Hydrogeologist Eric C. Arnesen of Nelson, Pope & Voorhis LLC Letter Re: Proposed GRJH Gas Station and Historical Documentation Review


Letter Re: GRJH, Inc. Gas Station-Convenience Store Proposal: Lack of Site-Specific Data Needed to Make an Informed Decision on Project Approval or Denial

Following Save Craryville’s expert submissions and presentations, Planning Board Chairman Bob Haight calls to close the Public HearingMarcia Becker and Steve Saverese voted in support of the closure. Jon Urban, Ed Sawchuck and Julie Cohen voted to oppose the closure, and the Public Hearing remains open.

Below is a summary of the Board commentary that ensued.

Timothy Heffernan, one of nine (9) Craryville residents to Appeal the ZBA’s Special Use Permit Speaks

Timothy Heffernan says: ". . . There’s no chance gasoline won’t get in my well; there’s absolutely no chance . . . When I bought the house 13 years ago there was a driven point well and I drilled a well 8 or 9 years ago."

Ed Sawchuck asks:  "Were you able to draw on that? Have you ever been dry?”

Heffernan responds:  "No. Literally the water is just bubbling right up. There’s a spring in the yard.”

Chairman Bob Haight Makes a Motion to Close the Public Hearing “for Good”

Bob Haight says: “I would like to make a motion to close the public hearing for good.”

Julie Cohen: “Uh - no. . . not to close it yet.”

Haight“To close it.”

Marcia Becker“Yes close it.”

Ed Sawchuck: “Opposed to closing.”

Steve Saverese“Close it.”

Jon Urban: “No.”

Chairman Bob Haight Asks Jon Urban and Ed Sawchuck Why the Board should keep the Public Hearing Open

Bob Haight says: “Why should we keep the public hearing open? We don’t have any new information for the public and they can always send us anything.”

Jon Urban responds: “. . . I feel like there was a lot of information that was presented tonight that was new information and it was relevant.”

Haight: “Right. They can keep on sending it to us.”

Ken Dow corrects Haight: “Once you really close the public hearing, that closes submissions too.”

Haight:  “Oh. Ok.”

Dow: “. . . once you close the public hearing, you are closing it to further submissions.”

Haight: “Ed, why do you think it should stay open?”

Ed Sawchuck responds: “This was a lot of work. This is a commitment from this community, out of their pockets. They don’t have tax revenues. They are not paid. They are not paid as a civil servant. They are not given parking spots out front. They don’t have an office here. They are doing this voluntarily. They are getting themselves coalesced and putting out a work product. Having some familiarity with this area, both engineering and legal - this is a substantial commitment they’ve made financially. And I think we want to give them the opportunity to challenge these results. What I am seeing here is a battle of the experts . . . I am concerned here with the dyslexia of the decision. There is still dyslexia here with he-said, she-said . . .”

Haight: “After two years, I think we should close the public hearing.”

Sawchuck: “Well after two years we should have had this data quite frankly.”

Public applauds Ed Sawchuck’s statements.

Sawchuck summarizes: “ . . . Once you pollute that aquifer, it’s gone. No more trout. No more wells. It’s gone. It’s hard to take this stuff out of groundwater.”

Ed Sawchuck Calls for a Phase II

Watch the video here.

Bob Haight says: “. . . I’ve been going through historic photos, talking with people and everything else. Never found anybody that could prove to me that there was a gas station. Maybe it’s in here.”
Public chants: “It is. It is.”

Member of the Public: “Larry Proper’s Uncle worked there for god’s sake.” (Larry Proper is the Copake Town Clerk)

Haight says: “So I put quite a few hours myself into looking for this thing and that’s the reason that we had the owner GRJH do the ground radar looking for the tanks. So it’s not like we’ve been ignoring this thing.”

Ed Sawchuck says: “I think this calls for a Phase II. It calls for a further inspection.”


GRJH, Inc., [Cobble Pond Farm] is seeking approval from the Town of Copake to develop one of the largest gas station/convenience stores in Columbia County at an historic and environmentally sensitive intersection–the gateway to the Taconic-Berkshire Region. GRJH, Inc.’s application to build the gas station at the intersection of NY Route 23 and County Route 7 has already been approved by the Copake Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA), receiving a “Negative Declaration of Significance” determination in the New York State-required SEQRA (State Environmental Quality Review Act) assessment. The Save Craryville community coalition was formed in response to the discovery of this decision by the ZBA. Save Craryville believes that there are in fact potential, serious environmental consequences associated with this project, and that the ZBA should have questioned many aspects of the Environmental Impact Statement submitted by the applicant. Now, the project has advanced to the Copake Planning Board, which is conducting a site plan review to ensure that the project conforms with the Town of Copake Zoning Code. This final review process is our community’s last chance to make sure that true due diligence is conducted to ensure the environmental, aesthetic and scenic value of our hamlet is not impacted. Save Craryville has engaged the services of of the environmental land use attorney David K. Gordon and associate attorney Emily Svenson to assist with strategy.

GRJH, Inc. owns many gas stations in the Northeast and has been sued multiple times for violating environmental protection laws. In most instances these cases have been settled prior to going to trial. However, the company's history is troubling, particularly given that the proposed site is on top of the aquifer on which the community relies for well water and crop irrigation.