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Mayor Fixell on GM: 'Set the Record Straight'

Tarrytown's Mayor Drew Fixell outlines the history of the GM project and expresses his hope that the neighboring villages can resolve their differences outside the courtroom.

Here is Mayor Drew Fixell's statement, in full, regarding the GM litigation, read before the Tarrytown Board of Trustees at this week's regular meeting.  

Statement by Mayor Drew Fixell:

Over the last several weeks, there has been a substantial amount of commentary published in the various local media outlets regarding the legal actions we have taken to protect Tarrytown’s residents from the severe traffic impacts of the GM development. Unfortunately, since so much of what’s been written is incorrect and offers a distorted view of the facts, it is necessary for us to set the record straight.

The history of the GM project, though rather extensive, is actually quite straightforward.

1) Back in 2007, Sleepy Hollow approved an indisputably enormous project which, by Sleepy Hollow’s own admission (not to mention common sense and the testimony of outside experts), will create unacceptable traffic impacts in Tarrytown, bringing our already overburdened roads and intersections, especially those on Broadway and the H-bridge, to a grinding halt. The plan approved by Sleepy Hollow contained over 1,150 residential units, more than four times the number of units approved for Hudson Harbor. As an aside, it should be noted that contrary to Sleepy Hollow Trustee Bruce Campbell’s assertion that his village “applauded the Hudson Harbor development,” the simple fact is that in 2004 Sleepy Hollow sued Tarrytown to stop Hudson Harbor, including the plan to build a new village hall.

2) In order to fulfill its legal obligation to mitigate those impacts, Sleepy Hollow proposed, as the primary mitigation measure, that Tarrytown remove over 35 parking spaces along Broadway. Sleepy Hollow also proposed a few other minor mitigation measures, all of which were again to be done in Tarrytown. With all of these measures, Sleepy Hollow required the developer to pay its “fair share” of the costs of implementation.

3) Tarrytown, both well before and after Sleepy Hollow issued its approvals, repeatedly informed Sleepy Hollow that the proposed removal of parking spaces on Broadway was unacceptable because it would undermine everything Tarrytown has been attempting to accomplish in its downtown. Moreover, expert testimony demonstrated that even if the spaces were removed, it wouldn’t make more than a dent in the projected traffic. Tarrytown also showed that the other mitigation measures proposed by Sleepy Hollow would be entirely inadequate as well. No evidence has ever been offered that contradicts these conclusions.

4) Tarrytown requested that Sleepy Hollow examine all reasonable alternative plans and/or configurations that would adequately reduce traffic impacts by bringing the density and types of building uses to levels closer to those approved for Hudson Harbor in Tarrytown.

5) Although we have made clear our willingness to talk about solutions, Sleepy Hollow has refused, and continues to refuse, to take a serious look at the alternatives suggested by Tarrytown or to propose any other reasonable mitigation measures that would bring traffic impacts down to acceptable levels. Since issuing its 2007 approvals, Sleepy Hollow has not offered to make a single change in the project or to take any other actions that would address any of Tarrytown’s concerns.

Consequently, this village board reluctantly concluded that it had no other means to protect our residents’ interests but to bring a legal action.

6) The one significant change Sleepy Hollow did make since 2007 was to agree to take an $11.5 million payment from GM instead of requiring GM itself to directly implement mitigation measures.

7) About one month ago, a judge on the state’s lowest court issued a ruling that, while it did not support our position, made clear that the obligations spelled out in 2007 to implement traffic mitigation measures in Tarrytown were still in effect and were shifted to Sleepy Hollow because of the $11.5 million payment from GM. Consequently, though we are not convinced the basic ruling is correct and do not believe that the traffic mitigation measures will be very effective, we still reached out to Sleepy Hollow to ask how it planned to follow up on the mitigation measures it committed to in 2007. At the same time, since we would have quickly lost any right to take any actions to protect Tarrytown, we filed papers preserving our right to appeal in case we were unable to make sufficient progress.

8) Sleepy Hollow now has made clear that it believes it does not have any obligation to do anything to reduce the negative impacts of the project in Tarrytown. In the words of Sleepy Hollow Trustee Bruce Campbell, ”nothing in the agreement with GM or the judge’s decision require...that Sleepy Hollow must use part of the funds it won with GM to mitigate traffic impacts on Tarrytown.”

9) Although at this time we have not decided whether we will move forward with the appeal to a higher court, we have asked the judge who issued the first ruling to take another look at his decision in light of Sleepy Hollow’s apparent refusal to honor or even discuss the commitments it had made earlier. It is our hope that either the judge or Sleepy Hollow will provide some real assurances that there will be some true mitigation of the enormous traffic this project will create.

As we believe the above makes clear, this Board has not only taken a reasonable and responsible approach to protecting the legitimate interests of our residents, but we also have always been, and continue to be, open to resolving our differences with Sleepy Hollow outside of the courtroom. Though the signs are not good, we remainhopeful that Sleepy Hollow will come to that conclusion as well.

A Former Trustee October 17, 2012 at 10:20 PM
Mayor Fixell’s statement illustrates a surprisingly flawed understanding of the SEQRA process. This has, unfortunately formed the basis for his and his Board’s arguments before the court, and it must be restated that those arguments have been rejected in their entirety by that court. First, Sleepy Hollow is not responsible under the law or the SEQRA process to implement mitigation measures in municipalities outside of Lead Agency (Sleepy Hollow). It is required to follow a very clearly defined process, to listen to every single comment, to take a hard look at the facts, to identify potential mitigation measures, and to either implement them (within their jurisdiction) or recommend them to other municipalities. That is precisely what Sleepy Hollow did during a decade long process. Second, the specific traffic problems identified in the FEIS and Findings Statement with regard to Tarrytown made note that much of the congestion problem exists today, without the GM site development, and that Tarrytown therefore had a shared responsibility to address it. More specifically that meant that the cost of the mitigation measures recommended would be allocated on a “fair share” basis. In plain English this meant that Tarrytown could not rely on the GM development in Sleepy Hollow to underwrite 100% of a problem which had been created in part by their own inadequate planning. (continued)
A Former Trustee October 17, 2012 at 10:23 PM
Third, Mayor Fixell continues to rail against the size and density of the GM project but is apparently unaware that he can’t simply impose his feelings about it on Sleepy Hollow after a very public, astonishingly long, transparent, and fully complete SEQRA process led to different conclusions. The recent court decision was absolutely clear on this point. Finally, while Mayor Fixell opines that he and his Board are open to talking about solutions, he ignores the one in front of him: drop the lawsuits. I’m sorry Mr. Mayor, your vision for Sleepy Hollow is simply not relevant. The SEQRA process doesn’t require Sleepy Hollow to adopt it, the courts have ruled against you in this, and it appears to all the world that you just can’t seem to wrap your head around the fact that you are wrong on the facts, wrong on the law, and weren’t elected to determine what’s best for Sleepy Hollow. Drop the lawsuits, accept that Tarrytown can choose to implement the recommendations contained in the Findings and negotiate for what constitutes a fair share, or not, and get nothing. In either case, it is long past time to get out of the way and let the tax payers of both Villages benefit from this very important development which will create jobs, revitalize Sleepy Hollow, provide badly needed tax support for our schools, and help support the transformation of our community into a more vibrant destination.
wanda October 18, 2012 at 01:40 AM
AMEN!!!!!! Tarrytown paid Adler $20,000 for a traffic study and still lost. I guess DREW FIXELL is not going to be HAPPY TILL SLEEPYHOLLOW WETS HIS BEAK !!!!! CAN DREW EXPLAIN WHAT REPORTING HAS BEEN INCORRECT ? Krista is this letter on behalf of the Tarrytown Board or Drew Fixell ?
john slivin October 18, 2012 at 06:21 PM
Dear Drew Fixell, Do you really think that Tarrytown has any chance at all to win an appeal? Any person of sound mind who has read and understood the ruling would say absolutely NO. You on the other hand must be a complete moron and are willing to continue to waste hard earned taxpayer money on a completely LOST CAUSE.......THIS IS HAPPENING BOZO get over it and maybe you should partner with your sister town more on all things instead of acting like a baby and continue to drag something on at your taxpayers expense.....Get over yourself you are a pathetidc joke
Krista Madsen October 18, 2012 at 06:45 PM
@Wanda, he said "we" and "our" throughout and read this a public statement before the Board, so I assume they speak as one voice and he's the spokesperson. I will ask about what's been incorrect. I think perhaps he means he finds error in letters Sleepy Hollow has sent that we've posted, as that's been the brunt of this - a back and forth of letters at this point.

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