Citizen group sues Gardiner over approval of cabin resort project

An old sluiceway parallels the Shawangunk Kill in the vicinity of where the Heartwood cabins are planned. (File photo by Lauren Thomas)

The citizens’ group Friends of Gardiner, claiming to represent more than 300 Gardinerites, has filed an Article 78 legal action against the town of Gardiner challenging the approval on January 17 of the special permit, site plan and subdivision request for the Heartwood project in Tuthilltown. The group describes Heartwood as “an expansive and intrusive lodging facility, restaurant and wedding resort in a quiet, rural and ecologically sensitive location” and contends that “the plan violates numerous laws.”

Plans call for 70 cabins, a restaurant and an event barn.

Advertisement

Concerns about the project include “the size and intensity of the Resort proposal and the impacts it would have, including noise and nuisance, groundwater depletion and destruction of wildlife habitat.” The litigants contend that the project is not in compliance with the town code and is ineligible for a special permit.

The language of the lawsuit equates the construction proposed for the resort with residential development rather than as a lodging facility, as construed by the town. Within the rural agricultural zoning district, the critics argue, “Residential subdivision is allowed with lots of at least five acres.  For a parcel the size of the 141-acre subject property, that would equate to a maximum of 28 homes…the project could not qualify for a special permit unless it could prove to have no greater impact on the surrounding neighborhood than an allowed development.” It aggregates the square footage of all the buildings planned for the site at “48,123 feet of nonresidential structures, arguing that this exceeds the 6,000-square-foot “maximum footprint for nonresidential structures” per the town code.

The Article 78 action goes on to contend, “Restaurants are not permitted in the [rural agriculture] district unless it is either in connection with agricultural use, or is an adaptive reuse of existing buildings. The restaurant proposed by the developer and approved by the Planning Board meets neither of these criteria.”

The suit alleges setbacks between cabins and the Shawangunk Kill streambank to be noncompliant as well. It calls water testing for the project “incomplete and illegitimate” and noise studies “inadequate.” The potential for the land included under an agricultural easement to be used for unspecified commercial activities also came in for criticism.

There are 4 comments

  1. Seymour

    Awww, they’re right.
    Kill it and raise the 300 citizens property taxes 25% to cover lost revenues.

    Oh, by the way,
    THERE ARE NOT 300 CITIZENS IN GARDINER WHO ARE EVEN REMOTELY IMPACTED BY THIS
    …so somebody is telling a big fat lie…can ya’ll just stop it already?!

  2. Steven L. Fornal

    Per usual, those fearing change decide to sue a definite plus to Gardiner. Heartwood has done a great job of planning this resort and its engineer did an equally great job of assuring it would be environmentally sound; a wonderful addition to the township.

    Per usual also is the stretching of zoning code to make a “case” against the planning board review. An example might suffice: “The Article 78 action goes on to contend, ‘Restaurants are not permitted in the [rural agriculture] district unless it is either in connection with agricultural use, or is an adaptive reuse of existing buildings. The restaurant proposed by the developer and approved by the Planning Board meets neither of these criteria’.”

    This is the definition within the Gardiner zoning code re RECREATIONAL CAMPS AND FACILITIES which ARE ALLOWED within the SP (including SP2 and SP3): “Seasonal recreational uses that may involve seasonal cabins and other permanent seasonal structures, including but not limited to seasonal transient lodging, information kiosks, clubhouses, pools, tennis courts, exercise facilities, basketball courts, and other recreational structures, excluding golf courses, hotels, resorts, and facilities for travel trailers, campers, and other motorized camping vehicles.”

    That perfectly fits the Heartwood project. So does the RA allowance for Lodging facility which is defined as: “Any hotel, motel, inn, or other establishment providing sleeping accommodations for transient guests, with or without a dining room or restaurant, excluding bed-and-breakfast establishments.”

    Another claim against the town’s planning board is, “It aggregates the square footage of all the buildings planned for the site at ‘48,123 feet of nonresidential structures, arguing that this exceeds the 6,000-square-foot “maximum footprint for nonresidential structures” per the town code’.”

    220-16 e (3)(c) states:
    “The maximum total floor area of all structures shall not exceed 6,000 square feet, unless the Planning Board finds that a structure of greater size will not compromise the purposes of this § 220-16 or the conservation findings, and that special design features or other mitigating circumstances justify allowing an increased floor area . Such circumstances may include the grant of a conservation easement on land of conservation value substantially in excess of the minimum lot area requirement.”

    Again, obvious is the fact that the town’s planning board adhered to their zoning code and was meticulous in its procedural way forward.

    My advice to those disgruntled citizens, save your money. Only the attorney will come out a winner here.

  3. Bob Smith

    Stand against this at all costs. Its pure flim-flam. “we’re not gonna do X. we’re well within the law, etc.”. Read what they’re NOT telling you.

    Say it a little louder, “THERE ARE NOT 300 CITIZENS IN GARDINER WHO ARE EVEN REMOTELY IMPACTED BY THIS”. More than 300 people will be impacted by this. A lot more people. take a look around and see what has already happened. This is more of the same.

    If you open the door, don’t be surprised by what or who comes in.

  4. Gres

    There are NOW over 400 Gardinerites supporting the opposition to this project. The reason for the lawsuit is that the Planning Board (and its consultants) ignored and violated Town Code and State Law and completely disregarded the recommendations and policy voted on by Gardiner Residents.

    Steve Fornal (poster above) selects the part of the code he wants to read. We invite you to read all the Code and the Petition.

    The Planning Board never made requisite findings, nor did it follow Town Code, or SEQR law (The Town Planner gave the Planning Board the wrong review standard).

    The Planning Board sacrificed residents who have invested, paid taxes and lived in Gardiner for decades and intentionally violated the law, engaged in private conversations (outside public meetings) without disclosing the nature and breath of the conversations and then voted in favor of out-of-town developers representing foreign (non-Gardiner) investors and interests who are going to hand the development over to a management company.

    Read the Petition for yourself and make up your own mind:
    http://www.stopheartwood.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/HEARTWOOD-SVENSON-AFFIRMATION.pdf
    http://www.stopheartwood.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/HEARTWOOD-PETITION.pdf

Post Your Thoughts