Developers Say They're No Longer In Mamakating... For The Present Moment
WURTSBORO – Just when everybody except our letter writers had given it up for dead, China City of America has come barreling back into the news, with dozens expected to show up Wednesday evening, August 28, as its developers planned to go before the Town of Thompson planning board to present its newly-reduced plans after a wide-ranging action alert was sent out by the Basha Kill Area Association and other groups earlier this week.
Meanwhile, talks with project spokeswoman Sherry Li in New York City, along with planning process consultant Tom Shepstone of Pennsylvania-based Shepstone Management Company, resulted in promises that the massive development — first proposed in May as a $6 billion mixture of theme parks, retail mall, warehouses, business park and time-share-styled residential community for Chinese nationals doing business in the Northeast U.S. — would no longer be taking place in Mamakating. At least for now.
"We plan to develop Thompson right now. There will be no development at this stage for Mamakating," Li said.
She added that as for future development in Mamakating, "That depends on how progress goes on the Thompson side, including marketing."
Further questions regarding what exactly was being planned for Thompson, and the rest of the project if all were to proceed, were stonewalled by Li, who said that even though paperwork would be presented on August 28, she wasn't authorized to release anything beforehand.
"We will do no more than what the zoning codes require," she said after side consultations. "We will be seeking no variances."
Shepstone, who works with county and municipal zoning ordinances, was similarly circumspect when asked specifics about what was being proposed for Thompson this week... or might lie in store for Mamakating and the region, down the line.
"There are no plans I'm privy to regarding Mamakating at this moment," he said. "I'm also not an official spokesperson for this project. All I can say is that I'll be in Sullivan County for this presentation."
Meanwhile, the BKAA "action alert," which went out on Tuesday, stated, "On Wednesday, August 28, China City of America is listed as the 5th item on the Town of Thompson Planning Board Meeting Agenda: 'China City of America (572 acres on Wild Turnpike for college & student housing project).' Meeting time is 7:30 p.m. If possible, please attend this meeting. It is crucial to demonstrate continued interest in this development, whether it is located in Thompson or Mamakating, as project impacts will negatively affect us all. In Thompson, this endeavor is sited in the midst of Harlen Swamp, a priority conservation project in the state's Open Space Plan. Part of this swamp complex extends into Mamakating."
Later, BKAA president Paula Medley noted how she hadn't heard anything specific about what would be presented at the Wednesday meeting, but added how, "I still don't see how they're going to do anything without the state Department of Environmental Conservation being all over them. The usual next step for any development would be to ask an agency, such as the DEC, to be ready to serve as lead agency on their environmental review. They also have to be willing to discuss the whole damn project they're proposing, even if it's to be developed in segments."
Speaking for the Town of Thompson this week, their planning board secretary Nora Hughson said that China City had submitted plans and an Environmental Assessment Form (EAF) for its project, to be discussed this week... and initiating a review process forthwith.
Members of the Mamakating planning board reported at their meeting on Tuesday, meanwhile, that they had heard nothing new from China City, Li or Shepstone since their late May presentation.
A visit to the developers' website (www.chinacityofamerica.com) provides little information about how, when, and where this project is taking shape. Instead, there are some amazing "artist's concept" pictures of how different aspects of it will look. On their website, the BKAA has provided maps and details about this proposed "City" (www.thebashakill.org).
More next week...