One of the longest-running land use sagas in the Town of Gardiner, the rezoning of the Lazy River Resort a/k/a Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park as a Campground Floating District, has taken a major stride forward after long deliberation and a protracted wait for documentation to be submitted. At its January 25 meeting, the Planning Board finally completed the Full Environmental Assessment Form (FEAF) for the State Environmental Quality Review of Lazy River’s site plan currently under review, and issued a Negative Declaration, meaning no significant environmental impacts are anticipated from the zoning change. This finding allows the application to move forward to review by the Town Board, which is responsible for approving the Special Use Permit needed.
Most of the FEAF was completed back in September, with the Planning Board determining that continued operation of the campground in its expanded footprint would have little or no adverse environmental impact in most of the categories listed on the form. Moderate or large impact was then found to be likely only in the categories of “development within a 100-year floodplain,” reflecting flooding events that inundated some of the riverfront campsites in that same month. Lazy River will be required by the Town to submit a revised Flood Plan when it seeks a renewal of its campground license for 2022, specifying evacuation protocols that will need to be okayed by the Gardiner Fire Department.
Five other categories on the FEAF were not completed at the September meeting, pending submission of a number of documents that were received by the Board in time for the January meeting. These included a revised Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP), as well as a wetland delineation assessment from a biologist retained by the applicant that concluded that the project did not disturb any wetlands that would require permits from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation or the US Army Corps of Engineers. Still pending are comments from the Ulster County Department of Health on the amendments to the SWPPP; the applicant’s attorney, Charles Gottlieb, noted that the County agency is currently “overburdened” due to the COVID crisis.
At the January meeting, the Planning Board worked its way through the uncompleted categories without finding any more likely moderate or large impacts. Of these, the most controversial was the category of Impact on Noise, Odor and Light, Section 15 of the EAF, since most of the complaints from neighbors against Lazy River have involved high noise levels during peak camping season – especially amplified music outdoors on holiday weekends. In a memo to the Planning Board, consultant Andrew Millspaugh of Sterling Environmental Engineering, PC recommended that an additional noise study be conducted to ensure that Lazy River’s noise-limiting devices are performing as promised during special events, and that documented compliance with Gardiner’s noise ordinance be made a condition for annual license renewal of the campground.
Although the “neg dec” was issued on Lazy River’s site plan for designation of a Campground Floating District, subject to compliance with a list of specified conditions, there is as yet no guarantee that the Town Board will approve the Special Use Permit. Moreover, Town officials have been consistently careful to note that many recently built or acquired structures and amenities on the site have never yet been licensed, which must happen on an annual basis. Thus, there will be an additional level of review each spring, enabling the Town to withhold license approval at any point if Lazy River is found not to be operating in good faith. One thing is sure: If the campground operators fail to hold up their end of the bargain, their closest neighbors will be sure to bring their complaints to the attention of Gardiner officials.