After nearly two years of attempts to persuade the Bradley family to obtain a campground license for the lodging facility that they operate on their Awosting Club property along the Palmaghatt Kill, Town of Gardiner officials are finally beginning to release some information to the public about the situation. Local environmental leaders have been demanding action for many months now, alleging that the recent revival of use of the former Girl Scout campsite may have serious negative impacts on the wilderness waterway.
Located between Camp Ridge and Aumick Roads near Gardiner’s border with the Town of Shawangunk, the Awosting Club property was retained by John Atwater Bradley following the 2006 acquisition by the Open Space Institute and the Trust for Public Land of the adjoining lands now known as the Awosting Reserve, part of the Minnewaska State Park Preserve. Bradley had sparked a firestorm of protest – the Save the Ridge campaign – when he tried to develop what is now the Awosting Reserve property as luxury housing, and eventually decided to sell off the disputed land.
Like the Awosting Reserve, the privately owned Awosting Club, operated by Bradley’s daughter Camilla, is situated on the environmentally sensitive flanks of the Shawangunk Ridge. According to the Gardiner zoning code, this talus slope biosphere is classified as SP-2 and SP-3, meaning that it’s subject to the Town’s most stringent level of building restrictions. The wooden tent platforms once used by the Girl Scouts, and currently being rebuilt to house geodomes for the Bradley “glamping” operation, are sited right along the Palmaghatt Kill, which flows down from the rift between Gertrude’s Nose and Hamilton Point. Particularly alarming to local environmentalists are the outhouses built adjacent to the campsites, which they allege far are too close to the stream to conform to building code or Health Department guidelines.
As part of its ongoing efforts to update the Town’s zoning code and Comprehensive Plan, Gardiner officials have been seeking to bring the Bradley family into compliance with regulations requiring all campgrounds to be licensed and to obtain annual operation permits. Part-time building inspector Andy Lewis has had little luck in that regard, with Camilla Bradley failing to file the necessary applications after more than a year-and-a-half of requests. Local environmentalists, including members of the Town’s Environmental Conservation Commission (EnCC), have been questioning why the process is taking so long, and why more pressure has not been brought to bear on the Bradleys. According to Lewis, Camilla Bradley is taking the position that the camping facilities are “grandfathered in” because they were operated as a camp by the Girl Scouts in decades past.
For many months, Town officials have been closemouthed on the issue, prompting speculation by some that the Bradley family was receiving preferential treatment. Public discussion of the issue occurred only when residents raised it in the Privilege of the Floor segment at the end of Town Board meetings. Finally, at the January 4 meeting, an update made it to the agenda. Town supervisor Marybeth Majestic was still playing her cards close to her chest, citing an opinion from town attorney Dave Brennan of Young/Summer LLC that “there is no unpermitted work being done” at the Awosting Club site. “Their application for a campground license was deemed deficient; a professional drawing was required,” she said. “Andy made a site visit and determined that the work was appropriate and did not require permits.”
Not all of the Town Board members were buying the explanation for the long delay. “I’m questioning the site visit performance,” said Franco Carucci. “You can’t change something from platform tents to geodesic domes and say there’s no significant improvement. Maybe we should get Bruce to come in and report to us.” Bruce Terwilliger took over the role of full-time building inspector and code enforcement officer from Lewis last year, and reportedly has also visited the Awosting Club site.
The issue was raised again during Privilege of the Floor at the January 11 Zoom meeting – after Supervisor Majestic, recovering from COVID and visibly fatigued, had signed off – by Patty Parmalee of Friends of the Shawangunks, one of the organizations that led the battle against John Bradley’s aborted Awosting Reserve development project. “Why is the Town not fulfilling its own laws with respect to glamping up at the Awosting Club?” Parmalee asked. “It’s an extremely environmentally sensitive area.” EnCC member Roberta Clements chimed in as well, stating that she had heard Supervisor Majestic “made a sympathetic statement about Camilla Bradley.”
According to councilman Carucci, EnCC chair Michael Hartner has been monitoring the Awosting Club issue closely and had just presented the Town Board with a timeline of events, along with memos from the building inspector. Both Carucci and councilman Warren Wiegand said that they hadn’t yet had time to review the documentation.
Town Board newcomer Carol Richman, long known for her environmental advocacy on both the EnCC and the Planning Board, urged that an executive session be held to discuss the matter and determine why more pressure has not yet been brought to bear on the landowners. “Most of the Board is in the dark about what has taken place,” she said. The four remaining Board members agreed to schedule such a meeting as soon as possible, but inquiries by Hudson Valley One later in the week as to whether it had taken place had not received any responses as of presstime.
Gardiner STR Law vote delayed until after tax season
The Town Board meeting at Gardiner Town Hall on January 11 seems destined to be preserved in the minutes as one where things that were supposed to happen didn’t, for one reason or another. A scheduled public hearing on the proposed Kennel Law was canceled, because a provision making commercial dog-breeding illegal in certain zones was determined by attorneys to be a zoning change – making it necessary first to refer it to both the Town and Ulster County Planning Boards, and to fill out an Environmental Assessment Form.
Also on the agenda was the adoption, three years in the making, of the final draft of a much-amended Short-Term Rental (STR) Law. It looked set to pass, with Laura Walls, who favors a more restrictive approach, the only likely holdout. But the vote ended up being postponed for reasons having to do with, in councilman Franco Carucci’s words, “more logistics than content.”
It was not a Town Board member who threw a spanner into the works this time, but Michelle Mosher, the Town clerk – and, more to the point in this case, Gardiner’s tax collector. “It’s a really bad time of year,” she said. “I’m in the throes of it right now. The next six weeks are crucial.”
Pleading for a delay until March to implement the new law’s licensing procedure for STR operators, Mosher argued that processing the applications will constitute a burden on Town Hall staff “far more involved than just giving someone a license…. If you adopt it tonight, there’ll be in people in tomorrow looking for that application, and I don’t have that.” She also reminded the Board that Building Department staff, who would need to inspect all properties intended for licensing as STRs, has lately been “slammed” due to the spike in home sales and renovations that resulted from the COVID pandemic.
The Town Board ended up rescheduling the vote until the March 8 meeting. The public hearing on the controversial legislation was closed in November.
— Frances Marion Platt