Patterson Crossing clears first hurdle
Putnam County Courier

PATTERSON--The Patterson Planning Board issued its Findings Statement last week giving developer Paul Camarda the OK to proceed with site plans for the 382,560 square foot shopping center proposed for the Route 311-I-84 corridor at the Patterson-Kent line.

The Findings Statement followed the board's acceptance of the project's Final Environmental Impact Statement.

Supervisor Michael Griffin called the action a "huge obstacle for the project to have overcome. With all the rules and regulations out there, it is a tremendous feat to have successfully completed the rigorous test."

Griffin agreed that the "project was a long way from becoming a done deal but our board's actions have allowed the plan to proceed to the next level."

Griffin looked into his crystal ball and forecast that Patterson Crossing would become reality: "If Mr. Camarda has been able to keep his anchors in place this long and has committed to the project along with the fact that 80-85 percent of the people of Patterson want the project, cool minds will eventually prevail and realize the benefits of the project to our entire county. Personally, I believe that Mr. Camarda has done an outstanding job in making an effort to address all of the concerns to the greatest extent practical. He has completely redesigned the project from the original plan and has moved all of the buildings and loading docks far away from the residential neighborhood. The man has gone to great lengths to bring in designs which have made Patterson Crossing pedestrian friendly, user friendly and green friendly. Once completed Patterson Crossing will put Putnam on the map. The benefits derived from this project will far outweigh any of the negatives."

Camarda said he and his staff were working "extremely hard to answer all questions and concerns by dotting every 'I' and crossing every 't.' I want everyone-supporters and naysayer alike to know that we are doing everything the right way. As a matter of fact, we are exceeding the regulations."

Camarda estimated that he has expended $2.5 million to date in "paper soft costs not including the land purchase. Between planning, engineering, soil-testing and traffic consultants, the price has skyrocketed to $2.5 million with one million dollars of that being spent on planning alone."

Patterson Crossing's Draft Environmental Impact Statement was approved almost two years ago. Camarda said he answered more than 1,100 questions from the public in writing which became the Final Environmental Impact Statement. That was accepted in June and now with the Findings Statement being issued, within the next 45 to 60 days, actual finite site plans will be submitted for town review. Camarda has promised to detail "every building, parking space, tree and bush."

Camarda has come under attack from residents of the Lake Carmel area who fear for the safety of their lake should the project reach fruition.

Camarda assured residents of Kent in an interview with the Courier last Friday that the project has gone beyond the regulations by making sure that water quality of Lake Carmel actually improves.

Camarda said his engineers have devised a plan that will treat water running from I-84 and Route 311. "Water will be taken from the two ramps and will be treated before it reaches Lake Carmel. This alone will be a tremendous improvement to the water quality. The water quality in Lake Carmel will be better off once the project is completed than it is today," he said.

Camarda called the hysteria being created by "a few residents and organizations not supported by the facts."

Despite Camarda's assurances and the endorsement of the project by Supervisor Griffin, a number of Lake Carmel and Patterson residents protested the Planning Board's issuance and approval of the findings opening the door for Patterson Crossing to proceed with site plans.

Ann Fanizzi of Carmel forecast that "Stop Patterson Crossing" members would continue to vigorously oppose the project with weekly demonstrations and other activities.

Fanizzi charged that Patterson Crossing would "disproportionately harm Lake Carmel by subjecting the community and its residents to blasting, noise, crime, air pollution and traffic leaving the vast majority of Patterson unaffected enjoying the peace and tranquility of their homes."

Other opposition has been generated by George Nikitovich of Cross River. Nikitovich forecast should Patterson Crossing become reality "Putnam's motto of 'Come to Where the Country Begins' will change to 'Come to Where the Rats and Run-off Begin'."

Paul Spiegel of Lake Carmel believes bringing a project of this magnitude to Putnam County would "attract the criminal element. Leaving our cars and homes unlocked will be a memory."

Adam Greene of Brewster charged that Southeast's "stupidity" 25 years ago cost Putnam County hundreds of millions of dollars in sales tax revenue when local officials failed to approve a major shopping complex that later became the Danbury Fair Mall. "It was ours for the asking. The mall was proposed not once or twice but three times for Southeast. Finally, the developers got sick and tired of the ridiculous Southeast administration and moved a mile across the border into Connecticut that welcomed the mall with open arms. I hope we haven't forgotten about that expensive mistake," he said.

Christina Fatum of Lake Carmel said large scale development comes with a price. "This is the country. We want to keep it that way," she said.

Kevin Bailey, President of the non-for-profit Putnam County Economic Development Corporation, lauded the town's decision: "People want commercial development in strategic locations such as along the I-84 corridor to help the overly burdened Putnam County property owner. Projects of this type do not destroy communities. They add to the lifestyle of a town."

Bailey predicted that Putnam will always remain beautiful due to the New York City watershed which allows for limited development: "Route 84 at Route 311 is the perfect location provided the residents of Patterson are desirous of the shopping center."

Bailey also said the town's decision coincided with e-mails and correspondence received by his office from residents of Kent concerning the proposal: "The majority of the e-mails from Lake Carmel residents are fearful yet many received each week want the project."

Camarda firmly believes Patterson Crossing is in the best interests of the residents of Putnam County. "We are talking about generating millions of dollars of sales tax each year. Sales tax is a viable solution in easing skyrocketing property tax," he said.

Camarda said the project would not succeed until all avenues were thoroughly reviewed: "Outside interests including the Clean Water Coalition and Trout Unlimited are hiring people to do anything they can to fault my work."

Plans call for the shopping center to be constructed on 90 acres of land adjacent to Exit 18 along Interstate 84. Forty of the acres will be used for the center while the remainder will remain green. Camarda hopes to locate a Costco warehouse store, a Lowe's Home Center and several other shops on the property.