New Paltz officials wowed by Wildberry Lodge proposal

Rocking Horse Ranch owner Steve Turk on the parcel of land located in New Paltz at Route 299 and Paradies Lane that is proposed for the Wildberry Lodge project. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

Rocking Horse Ranch owner Steve Turk on the parcel of land located in New Paltz at Route 299 and Paradies Lane that is proposed for the Wildberry Lodge project. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

New Paltz Town Board members liked what they heard during a presentation about the proposed $75 million Wildberry Lodge indoor water park and resort.

Preliminarily proposed for the 57-acre Plesser property east of the Thruway near Paradies Lane, Wildberry Lodge would have 250 hotel rooms, an indoor water park, a 600-seat conference center, two restaurants, rock climbing, bowling, an outdoor zip line and ropes course and at least 12 tennis courts.


Developer Steve Turk said he envisions the resort as having a big connection with downtown New Paltz. He plans to have shuttle buses run from Wildberry Lodge to Historic Huguenot Street, the Main Street businesses and up to Minnewaska State Park.

“We’d be doing a disservice to our guests, local businesses and citizens of New Paltz if Wildberry Lodge were to have a ‘fortress’ or ‘private resort’ mentality,” explained Turk, who is also the owner of Rocking Horse Ranch in Highland. “Instead, our design is based on bringing our guests into New Paltz and the greater Hudson Valley region.”

The shuttle bus service is an acknowledgement of how car-conscious New Paltzians are. “There will be no need for the hotel guests to drive their own car into the village,” he said.

Rocco Tammone, chief financial officer for Rocking Horse Ranch, said he believed if Wildberry Lodge were built, it would create 750 temporary construction jobs. It would prompt $45 million in spending on construction materials, fixtures and furniture — which would likely boost the local economy.

When Wildberry gets up and running, it would create 250 permanent full-time jobs. But that number would swell to 375 employees at the height of the season.

Those jobs would range from minimum wage up to $80,000 for upper management positions, Tammone added.

Wildberry Lodge is looking for a tax break from the Ulster County Industrial Development Agency. They’re looking for a 10-year abatement period to save $6.5 million in taxes, but the resort would pay $17.2 million property taxes in that time.

Tammone estimated that the water park and resort would pay $1.5 million in sales and occupancy tax during their first year as well.

Payments in lieu of taxes, or PILOTs, haven’t been super popular of late locally because of a proposed college housing development called Park Point New Paltz.

Supervisor Susan Zimet noted that what Wildberry Lodge is offering in terms of its benefit blows Wilmorite’s PILOT request out of the water. Park Point is likely to create eight or so jobs to Wildberry’s 250 to 375.

“This is a real taxpaying project,” Zimet said.

Councilman Kevin Barry also liked what he saw.

“I think this is going to be a great opportunity for this community. I’m sure there will be hurdles — there are always hurdles in New Paltz. But I really feel that this is the right kind of project for this community,” Barry said.

The Plesser property has been the site of several development proposals that New Paltz has come out en masse to protest — specifically the Wal-Mart and the Crossroads at New Paltz mixed-use projects.

Supervisor Zimet also said she thought Wildberry Lodge was a fit. “We’ve been fighting malls on this property for a very long time,” she said. “This is the beginning, but there’s a lot of work to do.”

Town Board members plan to conduct a coordinated review of the project with the New Paltz Town Planning Board.

Currently, the lot is zoned partially light industrial and partially in the highway business zoning. While the highway business zoning does allow hotels, nothing like what Wildberry Lodge would be is described in the zoning definitions.

Potentially, the town could have to create a new zoning for the lot or create a special zoning overlay district.

That work, as well as the Planning Board’s site plan review for the project, is just beginning. Eventually, Wildberry Lodge would have to go through public hearings and the SEQRA process.

Any changes in zoning would also likely trigger a public hearing.

There are 6 comments

  1. Ryan Lauchaire

    Hi my name Is Ryan Lauchaire and I own Lauchaire Builders a construction company here in New Paltz. I think this would be a geat opportunity for our community . My concern is with the 750 temporary construction jobs. From my experience these jobs usually end up being awarded to out of town/state companies with no ties to our community. Therefore all the money and opportunity is funneled out of our community as fast as it came in. They should at the very least give local companies the chance to bid on the work.

    Ryan Lauchaire
    Lauchaire Builders
    New Paltz, NY

  2. Kim Gabriello

    I believe this is a great thing to come to New Paltz. Steve Turk and the Rocking Horse Ranch have given employment opportunities to the local community for over 40 years (that I can attest to) in Highland. Now he will be opening up that many more jobs to our community.

    1. Janine Bowen

      I cannot believe that this is being pushed forward. The traffic is unbearable as it is with NOTHING having been done to address the issue. People may not HAVE to use their own cars, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t. No one will take a shuttle bus when they want to explore the area. Additionally the draw of people from other areas with no vested interest in New Paltz as a community will inevitably lead to a decline in the quality of the daily life and of the environment. Many people from other, more urban, areas will not be concerned with what happens here since they are only visiting for the day or weekend. Garbage, car exhaust, traffic, crime…for what? Oh – tax relief! Except that they are already asking for a break. I’m not against sane development, but a theme park here is ludicrous when so many basic infrastructure elements are not in place to support it.

      I wish that I thought anything I could do would be able to put a stop to this. Unfortunately the huge smiles and on all of those pushing this through as they marginalize all of the negatives and glamorize the project at the expense of the spirit and soul of New Paltz tell me that this was decided behind the scenes long ago. I’m sorry New Paltz.

  3. TK David

    Sounds pretty gross to me! What makes this area beautiful is precisely the opposite of what developers and resort entrepreneurs like Steve Turk want. To them, our mountain, wetlands, aquifers, etc. are merely a “backdrop” (Turk’s actual words). Travel nearly anywhere in the U.S. and you’ll find cheesy entertainment and lodging at the Wildberry level… Resorts like this attract a slobby type, so expect McDonalds and Burger King to get the biggest boost (and do you really believe they’ll use those shuttles–ha!). The Hudson Valley is special only to the extent that it sets a high bar for the protection and preservation of natural beauty and wildlife.

    I can see the foxes running in fear already, rushing through our sleepy neighborhoods in the middle of the night trying to find some safe spot to make a new home…

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