Gardiner eco-cabin resort approved

(Photo by Lauren Thomas)

More than two years after it was first proposed, the controversial 141.3-acre Heartwood eco-resort in Tuthilltown has received conditional special permit, site plan and lot line revision approval from the Gardiner Planning Board. The resolution to approve described the proposed lodging facility, with 70 cabins and a restaurant and event barn, as “a modified project that is sensitive to the concerns that have been raised and is sited and laid out in the best possible way on the site.”

The lot line revision for the two-lot parcel, which lies between the Shawangunk Kill and Route 44/55, reduces the size of the lot reserved for agriculture from 97.1 acres to 33.1 acres. The lot that will contain the lodging facility will expand from 44.2 to 108.2 acres. Three conservation easements will cover the entirety of the agricultural parcel plus 21 acres of the lodging site.

In its findings for special permit approval, the Planning Board noted, “The project consists of a modest number of cabins that are sited in a way to minimize visibility and maximize distance from surrounding properties. The applicant has committed to quiet hours and outdoor music at special events will be monitored and the sound level capped through the use of noise limiters.” While acknowledging that the public hearing process generated “extended discussion and debate about potential noise from the project,” the resolution concluded, “The Planning Board determines that the project, with the stated conditions imposed and implemented, will not cause a public or private nuisance.”

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One of the conditions to site plan approval regarding noise mitigation was further tweaked by the board prior to the vote. Noise limiters, originally proposed to cap the sound level at the source (Heartwood’s event barn) at 110 decibels between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. and 100 decibels between 8 and 10 p.m., will now be calibrated to limit levels to 100 db and 90 db respectively. No amplified music will be permitted between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m., and outdoor public address systems are prohibited.

The goal is to keep the increase in noise levels at the property line to a maximum of 3 db, which should be imperceptible to the average listener. The conditions specify that, “Prior to issuance of a certificate of occupancy, the sound system and noise limiters will be field-tested under the supervision of a Planning Board representative with sound levels measured at the site property line in order to confirm there is no increase in the observed sound level at the property line.” A sound engineer would also be present during the field test. A recommendation from the citizens’ group known as the Heartwood Seven to establish a noise complaint telephone line directly to facility operators was rejected, with the board reiterating its previous position that the town’s building inspector/code enforcement officer is the appropriate agent to monitor and investigate complaints.

Other tweaks to the conditions include adoption of strict limitations on the use of “pesticides, herbicides, rodenticides and insecticides” in the forested area of the site outside the conservation easement, with mechanical methods such as traps being the first resort. Carol Richman warned her colleagues that “second-generation rodenticides” are “super-lethal” and can bioaccumulate in predator species such as raptors that eat rodents.

Tree removal guidelines were made more specific, protecting trees “greater than six inches diameter at breast height,” and the developers reiterated their intent to “field locate” the exact placement of cabins and other structures in order to minimize tree-cutting. Some other limitations impacting habitat were deferred to the wording of the conservation easements, which are yet to be finalized.

The vote on the resolution to approve was 6-1, with Richman the sole dissenter. “When does the clock start ticking, so we can go for an Article 78 [lawsuit]?” attorney Hilary Adler asked following the approval. “Because you know that’s coming.”

There are 16 comments

  1. tanya marquette

    This project is way too big for the area and despite all the discussion about environmental preservation the very concept belies this. As for chemicals to be used for maintenance, I am very concerned as there are no commercial chemicals on the market that are not toxic to the environment and people. The demand should have been for sustainable methods that are more strict than organic standards.

    1. FunkieGunkie

      How is this project “way too big”? They are within size limits provided by Town Code? The property has three conservation easements in the plan. That’s environmental isn’t it? The Mohonk Preserve has over 8,500 acres and only has conservation easements on about 17% of their land. Plus they influence local government to change zoning laws that de-valuate lots of peoples land without compensation, based on elevation. Heartwood is placing 23% of their land in conservation easements. That’s better then Mohonk! They have weddings and events all the time. No one dares challenge the fact that they are tax exempt or that they create traffic, noise and trespassing issues in the name of “ecotourism”. Concerning “commercial chemicals”, I understand and completely agree with your concern, but as long as they follow the laws they don’t have to answer to you and your standards. If your uncomfortable with these laws I suggest you run for congress or town board and help get them changed.

  2. Make them pay

    I hope that the town has made plans to tax the 70+ structures enough to take some burden off the property owners of the town. I also hope that they plan to enforce any noise violations with exorbitant and escalating fines for repeat violations.

    1. FunkieGunkie

      The Resort is taxable and that’s a huge reason it’s getting approved (not to mention they are restricted by existing Town Codes). As for noise violations, there are thresholds being established that are on the conservative side. The same thing happened in Accord with an event space during the last two years. The town decided that there were no violations buy the locals say otherwise. It will be interesting to say the least.

      1. Your Local Assessor

        No, the project is hugely un-taxable, which is the reason why it went through. If it were hugely taxable and not approved, it would appear in the “Wholly Untaxable” Section of the Assessment Roll. Empirical-knowledge.

          1. A.F. O'Rism

            It means Freud was right when he stated “Ignorance is ignorance; no right to believe anything can be derived from it.”

  3. FunkieGunkie

    3 decibels at the property line, really? That’s pretty extreme and most likely unattainable. A car and normal conversation makes more noise then that! And the threats of an Article 78, well that’s interesting. Love to see what it’s based on!

  4. town local

    Good idea, will bring jobs and economic growth. Jobs and growth is okay, new buildings are a good thing.

    We should have a community welcome party for new businesses that help us grow.

  5. Bemused Cooks Lane Resident

    I live just up Albany Post from the proposed resort site and … I think this is fine? I really don’t get why the hate. The “ecological” concerns seem like a rather absurd smokescreen.

    I bet there is a strong correlation between “I can see some parts of this property from my house” and “oh noes these cabins will literally destroy this pristine environment”.

    News flash, it appears to be some former farm fields with some areas of overgrown brush and some fairly recent, few-decades-old tree regrowth that probably came post-farm. If you have spent any time outdoors or around farms in your life the eco-claims of those opposing this project seem, again, absurd.

    What I’m least thrilled about as someone watching this lunacy unfold from the sidelines is:

    1. People who think that property they don’t own but can sorta see from their house is … partially theirs, somehow? Or at least, they need a BIG say in what happens because apparently they are medieval Kings and Queens who should have dominion over all their eyes fall upon from their castle walls.

    2. A small contingent of people will keep being gadflies and doing lawsuits and being a bother in other ways, all of which are (1) discouraging to people acting in good faith to make improvements to the town, whether business owners or town board members, and (2) will likely cost me money when the town budget gets blown paying for lawyers to deal with their absurdly inflated concerns that, again, are likely more to do with being nearby property owners than “the environment”.

    It hasn’t been a pretty sight. Reminds me more of the New Paltz NIMBY vibe tbh, but I guess it was gonna get here eventually

    1. George Airday

      Those who assert without explanation that Heartland is not taxable neglect or refuse to state the basis for this claim. Why isn’t this develoment not taxable? I’m quite interested in how and why these issues seem to percelate unchallanged through the town’s highly developed legal structures.

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