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.
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.