Proponents of an immediate moratorium against the issuance of building permits for so-called “glamping” facilities in Gardiner once again went home empty-handed after the October 10 town board meeting. The board opted instead to take “an alternate tack,” in the words of councilwoman Laura Walls, in response to calls from residents for updates to the town’s zoning code to reflect contemporary development pressures.
Town board members reviewed a memorandum from the town’s attorney, Dave Brennan of Young/Summer LLC, providing an “Outline for Proposed Review/Analysis of Town Code.” Specifically, the document calls for review of Chapters 200 and 220 of the zoning code, with an eye toward updating definitions of such terms as “lodging facility” and “tourist camp” and the regulations and standards that apply to such developments. Recommendations based on this review process would identify areas “where existing code provisions conflict and/or cannot be harmonized” or “where a proposed use may go unregulated under existing code provisions,” as well as “what, if any, amendments could be adopted to address unregulated/underregulated uses or to resolve ambiguities or conflicts in existing law.”
“I think this is a great start,” said Walls. “Perhaps the planning board would want to weigh in on this” regarding “any intricacies that we haven’t discussed.” She listed several lodging trends that were not anticipated at the time that the code last underwent major revision, in 2008, including Airbnb, camping apps like Tentrr and the “tiny house” movement. Walls also recommended seeking further public input regarding “things that can affect neighborhoods and communities.”
“Is campground zoning the limit of what the attorney is going to look at?” asked planning board member Warren Wiegand, noting that “other issues have been raised” in the past in terms of loopholes, vague definitions, inconsistencies and even outright contradictions in the zoning code. “This would be a good opportunity to cast a wider net.”
“If we don’t limit the scope of what we’re going to do right now, we might lose focus,” responded town supervisor Marybeth Majestic, noting that only $1,600 to $2,000 had been budgeted toward the law firm’s analysis. She promised to send Brennan’s memo to both the planning board and zoning board of appeals for review, and also to post it on the town website and solicit public comments. “We should ask for feedback before the end of the year,” Majestic said. The supervisor recommended convening “a tri-board meeting at least once a year,” with planning and zoning officials joining in at a town board meeting, at which public input on zoning law could be solicited.
Opponents of Heartwood, the controversial current proposal for an eco-cabin resort bordering the Shawangunk Kill in the Tuthilltown hamlet, continued to press the town board to put a “glamping” moratorium to a vote. Noting that under state municipal law, “the board must have a specific reason for requesting a moratorium,” Gardiner resident Bridget Regan suggested that the Young/Summer memo “provides the structure” for doing so. But board members maintained their reluctance to tread on territory that might open the town to a costly lawsuit if a moratorium could be shown to target a particular proposal already under consideration under the existing code. “No one at this table is prepared to bring forth a moratorium resolution,” Walls told audience members who demanded to know how prospective tweaks to zoning code language might “modify or alter Heartwood.”