Once again, the ongoing sore point of Lazy River, LLC’s Yogi Bear Jellystone Park Campground dominated discussion by the Gardiner Town Board at its September 6 meeting. With help from notes supplied by Town attorney Allyson Phillips of Young/Sommer, LLC, Town supervisor Marybeth Majestic reviewed the Board’s discussion at a special meeting on August 24 dedicated to consideration of the waivers of Special Use Permit requirements requested by Lazy River as it seeks to establish a Campground Floating District within Gardiner’s zoning structure. While Town Board members clarified amongst themselves their postures on several of the waivers at the August 24 meeting, the murkier issues were tabled, and will be addressed in another special meeting scheduled for Tuesday, September 20.
Perhaps the most contentious request on Lazy River’s part is to waive the 8.5-foot width limitation on recreational vehicles used as camper housing on the site. The applicant lists 121 “park model” RVs as currently in place on the campground, with widths ranging from 11.5 feet to 13.75 feet. And Lazy River attorney Charles Gottlieb, of Whiteman Osterman & Hanna, LLP, has admitted at earlier meetings that the campground operators intend to continue expansion of this popular type of accommodation. Since park model RVs are stationary, with no trailer hitch attached, Town Board members have expressed great concern about the difficulty of evacuating campers from these sites in the event of fire, flood or other emergency.
Most of the other issues that strongly trouble the Town Board with regard to the requested waivers involve the use of permanent structures preexisting on the site or acquired by Lazy River on adjoining sites. Some of the buildings permitted for a specified use in 2014 are now being proposed for conversion to other uses. Ranger’s Retreat, Building #5, was previously approved for use as a manager’s dwelling, for example, but is currently being used as a camping unit housing up to 12 guests. Cindy Bear’s Palace, Building #19, is a more recent acquisition already being used as a single-family rental for up to 18 guests, although no permits have yet been secured for such use. Lazy River is asking the Town to allow operation of these two buildings, along with Bevier Lodge (Building #20) and Mountain View Lodge (Building #13), as year-round lodging — thereby increasing the density of the campground’s population, along with concerns that already have been expressed by neighbors about such seasonal issues as noise.
All of these requested changes of use have ramifications with regard to the number of allotted parking spaces, road access, setbacks and buffers, resulting in a web of necessary waivers that the Town Board must attempt to untangle on September 20. Allyson Phillips’ annotated chart explaining the issues surrounding each waiver request is available for download at www.townofgardiner.org/town-board-agenda.