About 30 Village of Saugerties residents turned out for a public hearing on a request by Struzzieri Properties for a Special Use Permit to convert a building at 2 Ferry Street into a banquet/wedding venue, many of whom expressed the fear that loud music, crowds, an influx of vehicles parking on the streets, and a full schedule of events would disrupt the neighborhood and their “peaceful, quiet lives.”
While no formal meeting where Struzzieri or his representatives has been held for them to answer questions from the village planning board, which conducted the Tuesday, May 31 public hearing, there has been a preliminary site plan and application for the Special Use Permit filed.
Most of the public’s information about the project has come from those filings, an advertisement on the Diamond Mills Facebook Page, and from Mayor William Murphy who has met with Struzzieri to discuss the proposed use.
Struzzieri, owner of the national Horse Shows in the Sun (HITS) and co-owner of Diamond Mills, boutique hotel, restaurant and banquet hall and wedding venue purchased the former Lynch’s Marina at 2 Ferry Street in December and is seeking permission to turn one of two buildings at the site into a wedding-banquet venue initially, and then, according to Murphy build a water-side restaurant the following year.
The property is zoned waterfront development and residential and the site in question has, at least as long as anyone can remember, been used as a marina as part of what was once a bustling steamboat port and later as a pleasure boat marina.
Under the site’s current zoning a special use permit can be granted by the planning board for a restaurant use, and according to some village officials a wedding venue/banquet hall would be covered under that same permit.
Dave Minch, a member of the village’s Historic Review Board for 20 years and who lives in the neighborhood of the marina said those assembled at the meeting were there to protect their home values and were worried about noise levels that might come from a wedding venue. He added that state and village law allows the village planners to put conditions on a property-owner that is granted a special use permit.
“We are in the middle of a wedding venue development…” Minch said. He said that in talking with a friend from New Jersey about such venues he was told that down there some places have two or three weddings a day, and as many as six on a weekend.
“Image six weddings, each weekend here,” he urged village planners.
And, Struzzieri’s venue is apparently offering outdoor weddings that could have outdoor music from a band or D.J. Minch asked planning board members to ban the use of outside music, and to have windows and doors at the venue kept closed while such music was playing.
Many in attendance feared such music would be carried across the water and bounce around the neighboring hills.
Minch also asked the planning board to ensure that no more than 99 people are permitted at a wedding, as stated in the special permit requirements.
Other audience members said Struzzieri has already advertised that the venue can hold up to 300 people, although only 99 are permitted under law. Some insisted they’ve heard that some weddings have already been booked at the site despite the fact the planning board has yet to give any approvals.
Residents also asked that on-street parking be banned on the narrow streets surrounding the venue, and parking only be allowed on the venue site or at Diamond Mills and then guests shuttled to the venue. “We have an expectation of a quiet neighborhood,” said local resident Penelope Mulford and “we prefer it that way.”
“A quiet restaurant and marina,” would be preferable, but a wedding and banquet venue, “would have a negative impact.”
Robin Goss, Minch’s wife, said originally she was pleased to see the buildings at the marina being renovated “but not this way.” She added that a banquet hall is not listed as one of the uses under a special use permit.
Goss urged the planning board not be rushed into making a decision on the permit until they have all the information and can deliberate the appropriateness of the application.
State law requires that planning board either approve or disapprove an application within 62 days of the closure of a public hearing.
Jeff Helmuth, planning board chair said he intends to close the public hearing process at the board’s June 8 meeting, and gave residents until June 7 to submit and more comments they might have by then.