Gardiner extends moratorium on tourism-related development

At its November 12 meeting, even as it took several steps toward making long-awaited changes to the town’s zoning code to clarify definitions of such terms as “campground,” “lodging facility” and “resort,” the Gardiner Town Board also bought itself a little more time to polish the proposed new law. The board voted unanimously to extend the current moratorium on accepting applications for “certain tourism-related land uses,” which was set to expire on December 31, for an additional three months, until March 31, 2020. Town supervisor Marybeth Majestic described the extension as “a fail-safe, in case we have to make revisions to the draft.”

The meeting served as the first of two sessions of a public hearing on the proposed Local Law to Amend Chapters 220 and 200 of the Town Code of the Town of Gardiner Regulating Certain Tourism-Related Accommodation Uses. The second part of the public hearing will skip the first December meeting, which is the annual joint session of the Town Board, Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals, and resume at the December 10 Town Board meeting. The board also voted itself lead agency for the State Environmental Quality Review of the proposed local law, whose passage requires filing of a full Environmental Assessment Form.

Questions about how the proposed changes in the law would impact the existing Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Campground, located in the Tuthilltown hamlet, were much on the minds of Gardiner residents who turned up for the public hearing, some of whom have come before the board multiple times in the past to complain about noise and other issues related to campground and water park activities. While part of the campground is grandfathered under the old law, since it was first built in 1969 and received a Special Use Permit from the ZBA in 2005, several residential buildings — at 30, 36 and 46 Bevier Road — were added to the resort more recently. Gardiner’s building inspector/code enforcement officer, Andy Lewis, issued a Notice of Violation in July citing their unauthorized use.

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Under the proposed new law, a campground “shall not include sleeping accommodations for transient guests in permanent structures that are intended for year-round use.” Charles Gottlieb of Whiteman, Osterman & Hanna, LLP, attorney for Lazy River Resorts, LLP, attended the public hearing to argue in favor of the entire property, both older and newer acreage, being included under a Campground Floating District as defined under the proposed new zoning. This was one of several demands included in a letter that Gottlieb had submitted to the Town Board the day before the meeting, which Tuthilltown resident Ralph Erenzo characterized as “quite a laundry list of expansions.” With regard to the restrictions on year-round use of the recently acquired buildings, the letter argued in favor of a waiver for Lazy River, saying, “It would make little sense for the town to require the existing residences to be demolished to make way for camp units.” Erenzo argued that the permanent structures should instead “be treated as accommodations, like an inn or lodge.”

Town Board members evinced little sympathy for Lazy River’s arguments, reiterating that the new definitions for campgrounds and lodging facilities were intentional and thoroughly thought-out. “We made it very clear,” said Laura Walls of the distinction. “One of the reasons we did the audit [of the current code] was the ambiguity…The law is intended to create clarity where there was none before, and also to look toward the future.” “Lazy River is a pre-existing non-conforming use. The properties on Bevier Road are different,” Majestic stated flatly.

 While holding open the possibility of further tweaks to the proposed local law with the extension of the moratorium into the New Year, the Town Board could pass it anytime after the closing of the public hearing on December 10. The full text of the most recent draft of the legislation is accessible online on the Town of Gardiner website at www.townofgardiner.org. To view the document, use the first link under “Miscellaneous Announcements.”

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