The neighbors of Ashokan Dreams bed-and-breakfast in West Shokan have scored another point in their efforts to tone down the venue’s wedding activities. The New York State Supreme Court ruled on September 15 that the Town of Olive’s planning board acted improperly in issuing a special permit to the bed-and-breakfast. Judge Richard Mott said the board should have permitted only activities accessory to and subordinate to the primary business, which offers only one to three bedrooms for rent.
This lawsuit is the second brought against the town by the High Point Neighbors Association. They are trying to curb activities that they contend are disruptive, with well over 100 wedding guests bringing an increase of traffic on the rural road and making noise late into the night.
Other town residents have spoken up at planning-board meetings in favor of weddings at the venue, asserting that the owners have a right to make a living on their own property.
The first lawsuit established that the wedding events could be permitted if they were shown to be an accessory use to the original purpose of the venue.
The second ruling struck down several contentions by the neighbors’ association involving insufficient environmental review and improper distances from the edges of the lot. However, the judge upheld the complaint that the planning board sought to accommodate Ashokan Dreams’ existing contracts rather than inquiring about the actual b&b in regard to “scale, duration, impact, projection, and earnings to that of the wedding events.” It was important to determine whether the weddings in fact qualified as an accessory use, of less magnitude than the original use.
The court remanded the matter to the planning board “for further proceedings consistent with this determination.”
David Andrews, president of the High Point Neighbors Association, said its attorneys were instructed “to pursue enforcement of the court’s ruling, including the demand that the Town of Olive issue a cease-and-desist order barring further wedding events until such time, if ever, as Ashokan Dreams obtains all proper permits and approvals to operate its wedding event business.”
Olive now has to decide whether to shut down Ashokan Dreams’ wedding business. Town supervisor Sylvia Rozzelle said she has read the judgment. But she said she was swamped with work and has not had time to consider what the town should do next. “I have not had a chance to speak to our attorney,” said Rozzelle, “so I can’t make an informed comment. I know the attorney is going to speak with our zoning officer.”
Andrews said it seemed the town was not in any rush to do much, “but our hope is that they are going to enforce their own rules. That’s all we’ve ever asked. We’re not interested in shutting down Ashokan Dreams. We wanted to negotiate with them from the beginning, get the weddings so they were manageable and we could live around them, but they wouldn’t negotiate. We had no choice but to keep pushing.”
The owners of Ashokan Dreams declined comment. At the May planning board meeting, they noted they had contracts for three weddings in October.