- Rich Klein
Berman's Avon Park Team Withheld Key DOT Info From Town of Thompson Planning Board For Eight Days
Representatives of developer Robert Berman and his Avon Park Commercial Park warehouse team withheld a Department of Transportation email from the Town of Thompson Planning Board and the public for eight days this month.
The memo details multiple concerns raised by the DOT about the traffic study conducted by Berman's team but said they could be resolved and should not impede the project aimed for the heart of Rock Hill.
At a March 23 meeting of the Planning Board, attorney George Duke - who represents Avon Commercial Park - said he would forward the "letter" to the Board at the conclusion of the meeting.
He did email it the next morning (as seen below), but it's clear from the time and date stamp that the engineering consultant for Berman - DTS Provident of White Plains - actually received the DOT memo on the morning of March 16.
Sean Murphy, the regional coordinator of DOT who drafted what he said were "technical analysis" comments about the project, also copied Kassondra Johnstone, who is a planner for the Sullivan County Division of Planning.
Coincidentally, March 16 was the same date that the Avon Park team was originally scheduled to appear before the Planning Board (at noon) before they abruptly cancelled their appearance. Duke told the Board in person on March 23 that the reason for the cancellation on March 16 was because they still had to respond to many comments from area residents that was part of the ongoing public hearing around the project.
But it's now clear from the DOT email obtained by The SullivanTimes that another possible reason for the abrupt cancellation on March 16 was that the team had just received the DOT memo that morning and were ill-prepared to answer any questions or concerns that were raised by the agency. The SullivanTimes on Tuesday morning left a voice mail for DTS Provident partner Carlito Holt but the call was not returned at press time early Wednesday.
Duke accused the Board of delaying the site plan and special use permit process and trying to "sandbag" the project after concerns about the applicant's traffic plan were raised by Highway Superintendent Rich Benjamin. Duke later apologized.
Meanwhile, The SullivanTimes on Monday asked Planning Board Chair Matthew Sush if the DOT memo that was promised to the Board by Duke on March 23 had been made public. He replied that the DOT letter should have been posted online.
The document was actually uploaded the morning of March 24 and placed in the "239 referral" folder for the project.
The Avon Commercial Park team is set to return to the Planning Board at the April 13 meeting.
(Note: Duke on March 23 also urged the Board to close out the public hearing, even though the Board and the public had not yet seen the DOT communication. The Board declined to do so).
CORRECTIONS: An earlier version of this story had the wrong first name of the Planning Board chair. It is Matthew Sush and has been updated. The previous version of this story also stated that the memo from the DOT had not been uploaded to the Planning Board's document system. However, it's now clear that the DOT memo was uploaded the morning of March 24 but placed inside a "239 referral" folder. The SulllivanTimes regrets the errors.