It was déjà vu all over again as opponents of a proposed restaurant with cabins, hiking trails and other amenities faced off against engineer Bruce Utter of Praetorius and Conrad.
The public hearing on Tuesday, June 19, was the second on the proposed 82-acre Agawan resort off Glasco Turnpike near the Glasco firehouse. In addition to a 120-seat restaurant and 60 cabins, the facility would have garden areas for growing food for the restaurant, an artists’ studio and possibly a horseback riding stable. A substantial section of the property would be devoted to growing food for the farm-to-table restaurant.
Many of the same people returned to reiterate the same objections they had raised at the hearing in May, primarily traffic, noise and crowds of people from outside the area disrupting the community.
Planning board member Mike Tiano recused himself from the board’s discussion in order to raise his questions about the project. Tiano, who lives near the proposed development, raised a range of questions. He asked about the use of propane rather than natural gas to heat the facility. The use of propane, rather than natural gas would result in a proliferation of unsightly tanks to supply the cabins and in firefighters having to learn tactics to deal with potential propane fires, he said.
Tiano also asked about the increased traffic, He was concerned about the inadequate parking for the adjacent Little League fields and for events at the firehouse. He asked about the difficulty of bringing firefighting equipment into the site. He worried about the potential for a tax break for the project, resulting in a loss of revenue to the town. Tiano, secretary of the Glasco Fire Company, expressed concern that the water supply was inadequate for the demand the proposed project would add. .
Tom Francello, a former member of the town planning board, said the proposed plan was still the same after 15 months of discussion. Francello cited a report by his engineer recommending that all the roads in the project be tar and chips, but the plan still shows some gravel roads. The gravel surface in the parking lots could also be an issue, he said.
Francello also gave the board suggestions for fencing and evergreen trees and shrubs to plant. Francello recommended natural gas for heating, noting that propane tanks for 35 cabins would be unsightly and would require routine refilling.
Tiano noted that a ten-foot-wide path to an artist’s studio and residence would not handle firefighting equipment,
Mary Secreto said she has lived in another development in Saugerties where the developer had walked away from the project, leaving the residents with many problems. She advised the planning board to require a bond from the owners. Among the specific problems she mentioned at the other development was the use of gravel roads, which later had to be paved because of the difficulty they created for handicapped people.
The developers’ attorney, Michael Moriello, said the project would not be bonded. The developers would continue to own the entire property. Lots or homes would not be sold to individuals with a condominium association overseeing the common property.
Moriello also explained that the developers were not getting tax breaks. This restaurant-resort’s owners will also be the operators, and they have no intention of leaving.
Ted Miller owns property a short distance from the proposed development. He presented a long list of what he described as potential problems: vandalism, trespassing and traffic problems. People coming to the facility might miss the entrance and turn around, blocking traffic and potentially causing accidents. Miller said he could not believe how much traffic had increased during the past two and a half years he has been away from the area.
While acknowledging this was “a very aesthetically pleasing project,” Miller said the property would attract people who would litter, have picnics and bonfires, and generally disrespect the property and people staying there.Miller questioned Moriello’s assertion that the restaurateurs would not abandon the property. “How do we know what they will do?” he asked.
Moriello said many of the issues raised involved enforcement and administration, issues the planning board was not empowered to address. Its job is to administer the zoning law and determine whether the project is appropriate under that law. The issues Miller was raising would be more properly addressed by the town board and by the code enforcement officer.
Moriello cited a 50-page environmental analysis of the project and its relation to the zoning laws as addressing the issues Miller had raised. He noted that there were laws against vandalism and trespassing, and that property owners should call on law enforcement, not zoning authorities, to address them.
“This process has been going on for 15 or 16 months,” said the attorney, “and all these issues have been extensively vetted and addressed.” The board did not take action on the proposal at Tuesday’s meeting.