The owners of Normanside Country Club agreed to pay for initial repairs towards stabilizing the Normans Kill following this spring’s landslide, according to a deal made with the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). However, more extensive work will be needed in the near future.
The first stage involves widening the creek behind the country club. This will “increase the flow capacity of the Normans Kill so that it will be able to withstand a 50-year storm,” according to the DEC. These repairs are expected to be completed by the end of September, and will help reduce the risk of flooding for property owners upstream.
The April 19 landslide resulted in nearly 600 feet of the creek to be blocked. DEC officials said the landslide originated from the “crest” of the country club. Crews from throughout the county then worked to remove the debris and to clear enough material to withstand a “two-year storm.”
If the work is not completed by the end of the month, the club could face penalties between $500 and $2,500 per day. The club must then submit an engineering report certifying the project by Oct. 15 and additional plans to fully restore the creek by Jan. 31.
The cost of the interim repairs were not released. The agreement also notes the DEC has the right to address subsequent liability issues with the club, such as seeking civil penalties, natural resources damages and injunctive relief for further widening of the creek to restore flow to prior levels.
Supervisor John Clarkson said the town was not part of the consent order but they are working with both parties to help the consent order move forward. The town has provided aid from its planning engineers, and helped with finding contractors.
“The town wants to see Normanside survive and thrive,” said Clarkson. “It has been a regional asset for some time and we hope this arrangement and subsequent arrangements work toward that goal.”
Local municipalities, mostly the City of Albany and Bethlehem, earlier said they spent about $190,000 on emergency repairs.
Clarkson said the town is working to seek reimbursement through a Community Development Block Grant, which are federal funds administered by the state. The supervisor said the town will end up spending between $50,000 and $75,000 on the emergency repairs, but he does not think the cost will impact taxpayers.
Adam Schultz, the lawyer representing Normanside, said the club was happy to work with the DEC to ensure upstream property-owners are protected, and they could worry about liability at a later time.
“The work that was done out there was done pursuant to a town permit,” said Shultz. “If one looks at town regulations, an argument can be made that the permit should not have been issued. There’s is plenty of… if it turns out the slide was because of fill placement, they were out there because of the permit. It makes for difficult situation. More work that needs to be done, and then ultimately we all need to collectively decide who pays for protecting the public. Working our hardest to get this thing resoled in difficult circumstances.”
A Department of Transportation Geological Engineering report from June stated the landslide was most likely caused because the club had piled up fill material near the creek next to its maintenance shed.
“Our conclusion is that it is reasonable to believe that placement of the fill was the primary triggering factor that caused the landslide,” wrote Robert Burnett of the DOT’s Geotechnical Engineering Bureau, in the June 5 report. The report’s evaluation was used as evidence in the DEC’s agreement with the country club. Earlier estimates by the state DOT cited repair costs to be between $1.4 and $7.8 million, depending on the level of work needed.
Bethlehem Town Attorney James Potter also said the town feels it is Normanside’s responsibility to clear the channel and return it to it’s former condition.
“Normanside was placing fill in the area in 2012 before ever talking with the town, and then again in 2014 before ever talking to town,” said Potter. “The only reason they stopped is because the town learned of what they were doing and issued a stop work order. At that time the town advised the club to grade out in accordance with town code, and said they would need an engineer’s stamp of approval for what was submitted. They did that and had their own engineer assist them, and the town approved grading for the area they were filling for two years based on that engineer’s stamp. Based on this, we feel it is Normanside’s responsibility to address the slide.”
Potter said the town learned most of this information two week’s ago after the club’s operating manager David Hostig was brought in to speak under oath at a 50-H hearing under general municipal law. This is allowed after a party files a notice of claim, which Normanside did against the town last spring following the landslide. Potter said the town had a right to examine the claimant’s allegation.
During the deposition, Potter said the town learned Hostig had authorized the work done in 2012 and 2014. No lawsuits have been filed against the town yet, but Potter said Normanside has up to 1 year and 90 days following said event after a notice of claim is filed.
“Our first concern is and always was public safety,” said Clarkson. “And we are very glad to see the interim widening going forward under the consent order with Normanside. We’re going to keep working with all the parties to arrange for a complete solution.”