Two of the more controversial open-space development proposals currently under consideration in Gardiner made incremental steps forward at last week’s Planning Board meeting. But the project that has been bogged down the longest in the review process received unanimous approval of its final plat with little fanfare: Jacqueline Estates, an upscale residential subdivision on Denniston Road that includes 26 acres set aside as open space, with all building lots at a minimum of five acres each. The full review had taken 13 years, according to former Planning Board member Warren Wiegand.
Most of the assembled Gardinerites in the audience were on hand to witness the progress of another proposal: the Heartwood eco-camping resort planned for the parcel on the northern bank of the Shawangunk Kill, next door to the Tuthilltown Spirits distillery. A lengthy portion of the meeting was devoted to step-by-step review of town attorney Dave Brennan’s comments on the draft Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) prepared by the board as part of the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) for the Heartwood project.
Verbiage was carefully parsed to ensure that no definition was inexact — for instance, in a provision limiting use of the facility’s Event Barn to “guests,” which might be misconstrued to imply that anyone attending a wedding held there would be required to rent a room or cabin overnight. Brennan conceded that the word “guest” “does not cover every possible scenario,” but assured the board that conditions and limitations can be imposed outside the SEQR stage of the site plan review. Town planner Jim Freiband noted that “special permit conditions are more specific” than the FEIS, and can be made renewable annually for such community concerns as noise levels.
With several Planning Board members absent and alternate Marc Moran filling in to constitute a quorum, the ultimate vote to issue a negative declaration (no significant adverse environmental impact) on the FEIS as amended passed at 4-1. Carol Richman cast the only Nay vote.
The proposal by Shaft Road, LLC for an eight-lot open space subdivision underwent a similar point-by-point examination of the terms of its conservation easement, with considerable discussion devoted to such questions of whether organic fertilizer might be used for agricultural purposes on the land set aside for permanent protection. Richman was once again the sole dissenter when the Planning Board passed a motion to recommend the easement language as amended to the Town Board for approval and execution, saying, “It’s because I don’t think a conservation easement should be used for forestry or agriculture.”