Pleasant Meadows could be the single biggest housing development Lancaster has ever seen, or it could be just another in a series of single-family home subdivisions dotting the suburban landscape.
Eventually, something will rise from the 270-acre parcel south of Pleasant View Drive and north of Walden Avenue. The developers -- a partnership that includes Marrano/Marc Equity, Cimato Brothers and Patrick Development -- promise as much. Opponents are at the very least resigned to the inevitability.
The proposed 800-unit Pleasant Meadows would include a mix of single-family houses, apartments, condominiums and a 54-acre office park off Walden Avenue.
The developers last week submitted a final draft environmental impact statement for the project and hope the Town Board will agree to rezone the parcel to accommodate their plans.
"Even if the Town Board doesn't, it's still zoned R1 (for single-family home development), and we can build housing similar to what's at Stony Brook (Estates), which we built in the 1990s," said Victor A. Martucci, vice president of Marrano/Marc Equity.
Lee Chowaniec, of Citizens for a Better Lancaster, which opposes plans for the subdivision, concedes that the site will be developed but has serious concerns about the scope of the project.
"We're not against development on that site, but development should not intrude on the quality of life of people who already live near the site," Chowaniec said.
Opponents say it would encroach on fragile wetlands and create a traffic nightmare for nearby residents.
"When you build around wetlands you start setting off situations where human contaminants threaten surrounding waterways," said Gary S. Howell, of Park Boulevard.
Since the 1970s, Howell said, the federal and state governments have spent millions of dollars cleaning up previously spoiled waterways such as Cayuga and Ellicott creeks.
"Developments, particularly in watersheds, threaten to destroy the improvements that the federal and state governments spent millions to correct," he added.
Both Howell and Chowaniec also believe water-pressure problems in the town would be made worse by the increased residential demands. Also, they said, roads in the area are inadequate.
Martucci, however, insists these concerns are addressed in the draft environmental impact statement and the supplementary report the developers presented to the town last week.
He said the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers required the developers to review the project's negative impact on wetlands and ways to solve the problem. They were required to exercise the same scrutiny on the traffic issue, he added.
Martucci said the Town Board and Planning Board have spent four years evaluating the project, and developers have spent tens of thousands of dollars to prepare a detailed report on what needs to be done to solve the problems.