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Decision on Willow Woods in the Town of Hamburg is still up in the air

A proposed subdivision on Taylor Road has been discussed for months at Hamburg Planning Board meetings, and it does not look like the end is anywhere in sight. The big question surrounding the proposed Willow Woods 49-lot subdivision is whether or not the soil is contaminated on that land.

At a recent Hamburg Planning Board meeting (on Wednesday, Aug.15), members heard from a professional hired by the property owner, James Yovienne, who took photos and tested the soil and found no traces of a dump on that land. Dave Steiner from Empire Geo Services presented his report to the planning board. “There’s no evidence of garbage being buried there at all,” Steiner said.

The findings were a direct contrast to information presented at various Hamburg Planning Board meetings, from members of the board, from neighbors, and from previous reports performed several years ago that say there is proof of a dump on the property on Taylor Road. Environmental studies were done on the land in years past, including back in 1994 when work was done on the site.

The concern was caused from the 300-foot holes dug by Empire Geo Services. Steiner also told the planning board, “the 1994 report jumped to a conclusion that the area was a dump,” said Steiner to the board.

Hamburg Planning Board Chair Peter Reszka had this response after reviewing the report. “We have heard that there is a dump site and previous studies addressed it as if it existed and showed us test results. Now we have a study that says it doesn’t exist.”

Back in March, Planning Board Secretary Steve McCabe walked through the land in question and took several photos of the proposed Willow Woods site. Images included orange water, automobile skeletons, and a tank leaking oil. The orange water was spotted 50 yards from the proposed subdivision. Car parts looked to be decades old. A large tank was leaking oil on what would be lot 48 of the proposed subdivision, while McCabe spotted a Freon gas tank in lot 47.

When McCabe was presented with the most recent study, he and many of the members of the Hamburg Planning Board walked away from the meeting saying they are not convinced that there was or was not a dump on the site of the proposed subdivision, they also said that more investigation needs to be done on the land.

“We on the planning board are not geologists, chemists, engineers, or environmental risk analysts, but unbiased professional advice from these disciplines is exactly what we need,” McCabe said. McCabe and Reszka say that one option is to issue a positive SEQRA declaration on the land. McCabe said that would get the “expert analysis” process going in the right direction.

“It would put that report, as well as the preceding two reports, into the hands of those whose job it is to determine whether the dumpsite poses a threat to public health and safety at present—or to the residents of the 49 homes that are proposed to be built at Willow Woods,” he said.

McCabe admits that he doesn’t know if the soil is contaminated in that section of land on Taylor Road, but he said “I have seen enough in my visits to the site to convince me that the soil—and, more importantly, the water flowing through it--needs to be sampled, tested, and the results analyzed by independent professionals.”

Reszka said the environmental question is the Planning Board’s primary concern and biggest hurdle on the project. “Our main concern is the effects of the dump site, if it exists. Further review of the project has stopped until this question is addressed.”

Neighbors in the Taylor Road area will get a chance to hear the results of the latest study at a public hearing on the proposed Willow Woods subdivision at the Planning Board’s meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 15.


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