At its October 11 meeting, the Gardiner Town Board voted unanimously to override the New York State-imposed tax cap for 2023. Negotiations and tweaks to the draft Town budget in the coming weeks, beginning with a special meeting scheduled for October 17, will determine the percentage by which the local tax increase will need to exceed the “two percent” guideline.
The Board also confirmed the appointment of two members to Gardiner’s Environmental Conservation Commission, from a field of five candidates. Joan Parker, whose term on the ECC had expired, was reappointed to a new seven-year term. The vote was split, 3-2, after councilwoman Carol Richman raised the possibility of a conflict of interest based on Parker’s husband being the current clerk for the Planning Board.
A new ECC member, Jules Kaufman, was unanimously approved after councilman Warren Wiegand praised his “very impressive” background and put his name in nomination. A quick background check reveals Kaufman to have been a tenant and longtime associate of John Atwater Bradley, whose controversial proposal to build a housing development on his Awosting Reserve property along the flank of the Shawangunk cliffs sparked the “Save the Ridge” legal battle in the early 2000s.
Much of the meeting was devoted to continuing discussion of Lazy River, LLC’s request to create a Campground Floating District for its Yogi Bear Jellystone Park Campground. One of the topics still to be resolved by the Board, issues related to permanent buildings either already permitted on the site or more recently acquired on adjoining properties, was tabled until after Gardiner’s building inspector/code enforcement officer conducts an inspection of these structures, their parking lots and landscaping.
Thus, last Tuesday’s discussion focused primarily on “park model” recreational vehicles. In its waiver request, Lazy River lists 121 park model RVs as being already in place on the campground, with more on order to be delivered this year and next. “I’m flabbergasted at how many there are,” said councilwoman Laura Walls. “We were blindsided. It’s so vast. It’s a fait accompli, and I continue to be concerned at how close they are together.”
These vehicles have widths ranging from 11.5 feet to 13.75 feet and are designed to have the wheels and hitches removed once they are in place, in effect becoming permanent lodging. Gardiner’s campground law limits the width of RVs to 8.5 feet, and Town Board members have repeatedly expressed safety concerns over the fact that, once installed, they cannot be moved quickly in the event of emergencies such as fires or flooding. “They’re wider, but they are maintained in spaces designed for standard on-road campers,” said councilman Franco Carucci, who also pointed out that the dwellings are equipped with external propane tanks.
Carucci articulated a complaint about the applicant that several others on the Board echoed when he accused Lazy River’s owners of taking the attitude, “We’re going to do more and ask forgiveness later.” He argued that any park model RVs installed since passage of the campground law in 2020 are “completely invalid and should be removed.” He also decried the density of the site, saying, “When they are at full capacity, they amount to 50 percent of residents in this Town, and that scares me.”
“They have a huge visual impact – it makes Lazy River look like a city,” Richman agreed. “Before the 2020 law, in the 1990, 2003 and 2008 iterations of the zoning law, none of these allowed RVs of this type. They were still illegal. Plus, they’ve expanded the campground without trying to obtain a permit. So, there are two different layers of noncompliance.”
Some uncertainty arose as to whether the mandated minimum separation distance between camping vehicles – 15 feet before 2020, 75 feet after passage of the campground law – meant within a single campsite or between adjoining sites. Town attorney Allyson Phillips of Young/Sommer, LLC agreed to look more closely at the wording of the applicable codes. With regard to the specific waivers being requested, she reminded the Board that Lazy River is asking to allow RVs that exceed the 8.5-foot width limit and that have their wheels removed. Phillips also said that she would begin to draft a “decision document” reflecting the overall tenor of the Board, including language for special conditions that could be attached to any approval.