Note : This was written summer 2010 but was never published. Hopefully, most of the points of contention have been cleared up as residents move on latest petition campaigns.
Having a swimming lake within walking distance furnishes a picture that Normal Rockwell could easily make hay of. Comparatively, Somers Town Supervisor Mary Beth Murphy doesn’t need a thousand words to do the scenery justice. “They offer a very special attribute to their communities,” she says, but when the issue arrived at the town board in May, she felt the low turnout indicated that Shenorock was not engaged enough for the town to act. Four months later, that has definitely changed.
With petitions circulating from the Shenorock United Owners Associations and a group known as “No to Shenorock Lake ,” a divergent flow of information has raised the attention of the community’s 650 households. Of course, the cost to each home is driving much of the discussion.
In turn, the vehicle in which the project may proceed comes in the form of creating a park district. Through an engineering study (paid for the town of Somers in response to a Shenorock petition), it was found that the cost would run at an average of $400 per household.
Arrived at by the accessed tax value of each home, the figure came as a surprise to UOA president, Dennis Disanto. “Contamination was found at Nine Acres,” he says of one of the three properties owned by the UOA, and it seemed the initiative was dead, he added.
At the June town board meeting, he says, people were very much against it, so Mr. Disanto called on the UOA to brainstorm solutions. The new proposal took Nine Acres off the table and called for the selling of the UOA Clubhouse to pay back taxes. This enabled the UOA to petition the community with an annual average of $200.
Looking for 51% of household signatures to force an open forum and an eventual requirement that the town to render a decision, the UOA’s numbers have been called into question. The $1.2 million figure does not account for someone overseeing the ongoing lake operation, says Anita Krusko of the “No to Shenorock Lake Group.”
In response, Supervisor Murphy clarified that the town board is the ultimate overseer of operation. On the other hand, she admits, like anything else, maintenance costs detailed in the Park District’s Budget could rise and result in corresponding increases for Shenorock residents.
Nonetheless, the supervisor points to the setting up of the Amawalk Shenorock Water District in 2000 . Conservatively estimated, she says, costs came in much lower than we originally projected.
The question of lake insurance falls into a similar category. Seemingly low at $5,000 a year to the “No” campaign, the park district’s liability comes under the numerous insurance policies held by the town. We compile all our different types of insurance to get better rates, says Murphy.
Either way, for some residents, Shenorock Lake will always carry a connotation as a place you wouldn’t want to swim. The lake is so darn polluted, says resident Willy Pesce, it was like that in 1972 and it will be like that in another 30 years.
Ms Krusko points to the Woodard and Curran Shenorock Park District Lake Evaluation Report from 2009, which seemed to indicate septic leakage into the lake. But report citations of contamination are a “Phase I Environmental Assessment” and actually refer to septic concerns brought to the engineering firm by UOA members, according to Sr. Vice President Joseph C. Barbagallo, (P.E., BCEE)
The actual findings show something different. In the summer of 2009, he says, we did three different samplings in five locations and the 80 CFU’s of fecal coliform per 100 milliliters is well under the 1,000 CFU’s set by the state.
The luxuries aside, the UOA sees a dead lake as an eyesore that will drop property values. “Who wants to live in a community with a swamp in the middle,” says Mr. Disanto of a lake that’s listed as “impaired” by The New York State Federation of Lake Associations.
Ms. Krusko thinks homeowners’ primary concerns are not that closely associated to the lake’s Bridge Lane address. I think they are more interested in the quality of the house and school district and the level of taxation, she says.
But even as the UOA points to evidence of toxic algae blooms in the lake, Supervisor Murphy puts the environmental concerns in perspective. It might eventually become a wetland, she says
So given the protected status of such a body, arguments of serious environmental problems seem off the table. Still, Ms. Krusko is sympathetic to having a living lake at the center of Shenorock. In contrast, she would prefer a cheaper alternative known as Clean-Flow rather than expensively dredging the swimming area.
Nonetheless, a Clean-Flow System, which is part of the UOA’s plan, still requires a funding stream, but the lake’s impaired status does not provide this, according to Mr. Disanto. The government isn’t going to come bail us out just because we’re on the list, he says.
Supervisor Murphy is not aware of a funding source either. At the same time, she will keep searching and the same goes for finding money for the Nine Acres cleanup. I don’t think it’s something we should ignore, she says.
Regardless, No to Shenorock Lake fears Nine Acres will eventually be lumped into the park district and bring home the $400 cost. The supervisor allays those fears in majority form. That would require Shenorock to go through petitioning phase again, she says.
In the end, even a $200 average comes in as too high. “Shenorock is the first rung on the property ladder,” says Ms. Krusko, and a new tax could knock some from the ground they occupy, she adds.
Making their stand, No to Shenorock Lake is circulating a counter petition in their rush to 51%. In turn, Supervisor Murphy welcomes public debate – especially if it helps displace the somewhat anonymous interaction of the internet.
It can be very impersonal so you might say something that you would never say face to face, and of the public meetings I’ve sat in on, the dialogue has created healthy changes to the original plan, she concludes.