On May 16, the Olive planning board approved the revised site plan for wedding events at the Ashokan Dreams bed-and-breakfast, hammering out conditions in an effort to limit the impact on High Point Mountain Road neighbors who have complained about such issues as noise, traffic, and invasion of privacy.
Neighbors who attended the meeting went away unsatisfied with the compromise but battle-weary. Anne-Marie Johansson, who runs Ashokan Dreams with her husband, Chester Karwatowski, was pleased to get approval from the board, despite the need to work out some challenges for this year’s season.
The session began with a perusal of the site plan for the 28.7-acre property. Space designated for the reception tent has been moved to a location 35 feet from the road, where vegetation gives some noise screening with respect to the neighboring properties. Ceremonies would continue to be held at a picturesque spot with less screening. Sixty-one parking spaces have been laid out, with three additional handicapped spaces.
The discussion of conditions began with a limit to the number of attendees. The application requests 200 guests. Board member Steve Dibbell suggested 150. Ed Kahil said, “I could go as much as 170, based on the history, and this is a better location for the tent.”
Dibbell agreed, “One-seventy, but it needs to stay in that area.” The board settled on 170.
The next condition requires the owners to post a schedule of forthcoming wedding events on their website, at least 30 days before each event, so neighbors will know in advance what to expect.
Contention arose over the hours of operation, with several board members asserting that music should stop by 9 p.m., and the property should be cleared of guests by 10:30 p.m. The owners strongly objected, pointing out that the town’s Davis Park allows weddings with no limitations on time, despite an even more dense population surrounding the park. “When we have a room full of neighbors complaining about the town park,” retorted board chairman Edwin Maldonado, “we’ll deal with it.”
“But it’s not fair from a business perspective,” said Johansson, to which Maldonado observed that clients are attracted to Ashokan Dreams by the beautiful setting. “One of the first things people ask is how late can we have music,” said Johansson. “Ten-thirty is the limit. I could do 10. Onteora Mountain House does 10.”
“That’s a different site with a different situation,” said Maldonado.
“This is not a negotiation,” said Kahil. “The planning board has to decide. Let’s close it off.”
“Going early destroys the customer base, and going late destroys the neighborhood,” declared board member Dan Lefever. “I’d say 9:30 just because it’s still light out in June.”
The board agreed to 9:30 for the end to music and 10:30 for the clearing of guests.
“But we book contracts a year or further in advance,” objected Karwatowski. “We have events with contracts with music ending at 10:30. What do we do?”
“Renegotiate,” said Kahil. “We all knew this was in process. Over a year ago you came to us.”
Regarding noise levels, Dibbell said the county had recommended they not use a decibel standard, which is too hard to measure, while suggesting a reasonable limit would be 55 decibels. “This is wishy-washy and unenforceable,” said Dibbell, “but we could say the goal is to maintain an average of 55 or less at the property line during an event.” The board approved.
In considering the number of events, two board members were thinking of six as the limit, several said ten, and some said nine. The application requests 12. The board decided that nine, last year’s number, was a good compromise, to be limited to May through October. Johansson said eleven events are already booked for this year, and the board agreed to be flexible for the current season but make a clear limit of nine for the future.
“What about consecutive weekends?” asked Melissa Brophy, an immediate neighbor of the property. Johansson reported the current bookings are intermittent from June through August, but September and October include five consecutive weekends. After a lengthy discussion, it was decided that with only nine events in six months, the consecutive weekends would naturally be minimized in future years, and no stipulation on the subject was made.
It was established that the road should not be blocked at any time.
Brophy asked, “Can we have setup Friday and breakdown Sunday, so it’s not a five-day event?” Board members refused to entertain this option, calling it impractical.
Dibbell brought up the question of transfer of conditions to subsequent owners of the property, and the board agreed that the same limitations would apply if future owners retain the current usage.
Honor the board
There was a debate over whether to revisit the conditions in November and schedule another public hearing if it appears the standards are not being met. “There’s going to be a lot of give and take for both of us, and we would appreciate the opportunity to talk,” said Brophy.
Maldonado said she could take any complaints to zoning enforcement officer John Ingram. “It’s his responsibility to make sure the site plan is adhered to. And you can come to a planning board meeting at any time.”
The board — minus David Sorbellini and David Jones, who were absent — voted unanimously to approve the site plan, pending some minor changes, with the conditions attached.
David Andrews, who has been a spokesperson for the neighbors, was asked, as he was leaving the meeting, how the group felt about the board’s decision. “We’ve got issues,” he replied, “but I’m not going to be specific.”
Neighbor Delia Adams said she was disappointed in the result. “But I think the board worked very hard,” she added. “I honor this board.”
Johansson said the next day, “I got approval from the planning board to continue with my business. I’m concerned about the lack of exemption for 2017 events on the timing. But I have to work with that. I’ll work with my customers and make that work.”
List of conditions set for wedding events at Ashokan Dreams
The number of persons is limited to 170 guests, with reception area to be between the road and the existing gazebo, as outlined in the site plan. Reception music is to be either in the reception area or in the gazebo. Music may be used during the ceremony (at a different location).
Schedule of events will be posted on Ashokan Dreams website within at least 30 days of each event.
At 9:30 p.m., amplified music stops and bar closes. At 10:30 p.m., all guests not staying at the B-&-B must leave the site.
Sound and noise should be maintained at an average level of 55 decibels at the property line during an event.
Events will be held May through October, with a maximum of nine per season after the 2017 season. The 11 events currently scheduled for 2017 will be allowed to continue, but in event of cancellation, there will be no substitutions unless the number of events goes below the nine permitted.
High Point Mountain Road will not be obstructed at any time.