The Town of Gardiner has initiated a six-month moratorium on “the processing and approval of new applications for certain tourism-related accommodation land uses” — but it doesn’t apply to the two most contentious tourism-related development proposals currently before the Planning Board: the new Heartwood eco-resort and a new water feature at the Lazy River Campground, both located in the Tuthilltown hamlet. In a 3-2 split vote, with David Dukler and Mike Reynolds voting against, the Town Board passed the local law establishing the moratorium at its December 11 meeting.
The vote took place following a public hearing that lasted nearly two hours, with most of the residents in attendance expressing concern about the fact that the Heartwood and Lazy River proposals would be “grandfathered in” under the local law as drafted. “They weren’t happy that we were excluding those projects,” said town supervisor Marybeth Majestic.
The supervisor argued that the principals of the Heartwood proposal in particular have “vested rights” to a continuing review, based on the fact that, over the two years that have elapsed since they filed their initial application, they have expended more than $65,000 held in escrow to pay for contractual services from the town’s engineering, planning and legal consultants. Any substantive changes in applications already under consideration by the town could, however, trigger a delay under the moratorium.
Ironically, as Majestic noted, it was primarily Heartwood’s application that “brought to light some of the deficiencies in our code” that the moratorium is designed to examine and alleviate. The six-month period was deemed needful in order for Gardiner officials to conduct “a comprehensive review of the tourism-related uses defined in the Zoning Law and Chapter 200 of the Town Code, which regulates ‘tourist camps’ and ‘travel trailer parks’ specifically. The Town Board intends to review the definitions and use regulations that are currently in place and consider if these regulations need to be updated or revised to ensure that tourism-related accommodation uses are located and undertaken in a manner that will not result in a material adverse impact on the Town’s built and natural environment. As part of this review, the Town Board also intends to review and consider a new tourism-related accommodation use called ‘glamping’ that has become prevalent in the region and greater State in recent years, but is not specifically contemplated, addressed or regulated under the Zoning Law or Town Code.”
The text of the local law enacting the moratorium goes on to note that Gardiner’s Comprehensive Plan, adopted in 2004 but never fully implemented, “recommends that the Town review the structure of the Zoning Law and the densities in the zoning districts to ensure that they provide ‘sufficient incentives for creative development consistent with the plan goals.’ This recommendation would apply to the periodic review of existing uses, including tourism-related uses, and an evaluation of new proposed land uses that were not specifically addressed or contemplated at the time the Comprehensive Plan was adopted and subsequent zoning amendments were considered…The Town Board desires to effectuate its Comprehensive Plan and address, in a careful manner, the undertaking, establishment, siting, placement, construction, enlargement and erection of the tourism-related accommodation uses within the scope of this Local Law on a comprehensive Town-wide basis, rather than on an ad hoc basis, and if deemed necessary, to adopt new land use regulations that include provisions to specifically regulate the same.”
The six-month moratorium will apply to “the processing and approval of new applications for building permits, special use permits, special permits, variances, site plan approval, lot line revision, subdivision approval or other approvals or permission related to the undertaking, establishment, placement, development, excavation, enlargement, construction or erection of the following in the Town: 1) Camps; 2) Low-Impact Recreation; 3) Recreational Camps and Facilities; 4) Lodging Facilities; 5) Resorts; 6) Tourist Camps; 7) Travel Trailer Parks; and 8) Glamping Facilities.”
Developers who begin building during the moratorium period without necessary approvals will be subject to a fine of up to $250 and/or imprisonment for up to 15 days. The six-month period takes effect immediately upon filing with the Offices of the New York State Secretary of State.