Guilderland, NY: A speculator has proposed to sub-divide 7.9 acres of Pine Bush in the full protection area between the New York State Thruway and Lydius Street. The proposal is currently before the Guilderland Planning Board.
Last January, Mr. Coles, a real estate appraiser, proposed sub-dividing the property into four lots. There is already one house on the property, near Lydius Street, three more houses would be built. There is a large dune on the property between the current house and the Thruway. The proposed subdivision would require that the dune be cut into to create a driveway for the lot that would be adjacent to the Thruway.
At the Planning Board meeting, Steven Feeney, the chair, asked the developer about the noise levels of the lot adjacent to the Thruway. The developer reported on the noise studies he ordered. He noted that the decibel level between the dune and the Thruway, where one house is proposed to be built, was measured at 69 decibels.
According to the web site of the League of the Hard of Hearing which lists the noise levels from common machines and environments, a refrigerator is 50 decibels, a sewing machine is 60 decibels, and a vacuum cleaner can range from 60-85 decibels. Normal conservation is rated at 60 decibels.
Intensity of sound is measured in decibels on a logarithmic scale. This means that 30 decibels is 10 times louder than 20 decibels, and 50 decibels is 100 times louder than 30 decibels. Each increase of 5 decibels doubles the loudness. Noise levels above 85 decibels can lead to hearing loss.
Sixty-nine decibels is loud for background noise, louder than a refrigerator, sewing machine and some vacuums. Mr. Feeney expressed concern that a homeowner who purchased this property may, after finding out how loud the Thruway is, complain to the Town of Guilderland and ask for a remedy. Mr. Coles disagreed, saying that the back lot, behind the dune, would afford the homeowner privacy, out-weighing any concerns about noise.
Lynne Jackson, speaking for Save the Pine Bush, noted that this property is on a full-protection area of the Pine Bush and requested that the Board declare this parcel a Type I action under the State Environmental Review Act. She further asked the Board to require the developer to prepare a full environmental impact statement.
Ms. Jackson noted that the Pine Bush is a globally rare ecosystem, located on sand dunes. Sand dunes are part of the Pine Bush, and this proposed development would destroy a dune. This development would further fragment this delicate ecosystem. In addition, the impact of having invasive species such as black locust which add large amounts of nitrogen to the sand, need to be examined.
The Pine Bush once spanned at least 58,000 acres, and today there is less than 5,800 acres, only 10% of its original size. Of this 5,800 acres, only about 2950 acres has been dedicated to the Preserve. Half of the Pine Bush is privately owned, and subject to development at any time.
Mr. Feeney offered to the developer concept approval for the development if Mr. Coles agreed to eliminating the lot between the dune and the Thruway. Mr. Coles declined the offer, preferring to pursue getting approval for the four-lot subdivision. The Planning Board made no decision and no date was given for the next discussion of this proposal.