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Glamping tonight? Who’s got the permission?


VALATIE—The Planning Board is keeping open the public hearing on the application for a Special Use Permit from Sun Communities for a glamping (luxury camping) resort on Knickerbocker Lake.

The decision came after the Planning Board’s September 15 meeting. The public hearing was opened in May and residents around the proposed site for the resort have had many questions at the hearings.

In August community members retained the law firm of Whiteman, Osterman and Hanna, which sent a letter to the members of the Planning Board, as well as to the town’s code enforcement officer and building inspector, siting “grave concerns” about the process of reviewing the project.

Representatives from Sun Communities began meeting with the Planning Board in July 2021, according to meeting minutes. A plan was submitted by the company and their engineers early this year for a resort concept at 58 Orinsekwa Road in the hamlet of Niverville on a site zoned R3 (residential), where, according to the town zoning, camps are permitted with a special use permit. Those permits are granted by the Planning Board.

The town’s zoning code definition of a camp is “any parcel of land on what are located two or more tents, shelters or other accommodations of a design or character suitable for seasonal or other temporary living purpose, including resort or day camp, but not including a trailer park, boardinghouse, hotel or motel or bungalow colony.”

The minutes of the January 2022 Planning Board meeting show the scope of the proposed Sun Resort concept would include a 2,500 sq. ft. clubhouse, pool, fitness and food and beverage area with indoor and outdoor seating. The plan also includes 90 units on approximately 71 acres. The units are of different types, with one called the “Treehouse,” which is elevated. In the renderings, the units have bathrooms and kitchenettes.

According to Planning Board minutes from January, “the code is vague in the definitions and the proposed use does not fit neatly into one of the categories. Bungalow colonies and hotels were also discussed. Density and lot coverage was also addressed and thought to be well under the requirements.”

After the Planning Board met with Sun Communities at a few more meetings, they decided in May to open the public hearing saying, “it is important to receive public comment and feedback as early as possible.”

The letter from Whiteman, Osterman and Hanna, representing the residents, dated August 15, said to the Planning Board members, that, after reviewing “the limited current record of proceedings made available, we feel compelled to share with you our grave concerns regarding the legality of the processes undertaken by the Planning Board.” The letter goes on to say that the board has been conducting public hearings prematurely and “has apparently referred the application to the County Planning Board….without all the required documentation to make a proper referral.”

A letter from the town’s Code Enforcement Officer, dated September 6, in response to lawyers’ concerns says that if the application had been found not to be a permitted use or there was ambiguity between the proposed use and the Zoning Code definition of camp, “this application would have been sent to the Zoning Board of Appeals for a Use Variance,” but the Sun Communities application “has been determined to be one for a special use permit under the Town of Kinderhook Zoning Code” so the application will only be reviewed by the Planning Board.

Residents at the public hearing on September 15, talked about the application not being complete and they also voiced concerns with fire safety and density.

Several residents signed a letter to Town Supervisor Tim Ooms, that was read at the September meeting, asking to meet with the supervisor about the fire safety issues with the units and the paths to get those buildings and the incompleteness for the application. The letter from residents also says “we believe the Town Attorney is misguiding the Planning Board to consider this proposal when it should be reviewed by the Town Zoning Board of Appeals and the Town Building Department.”

At the end of the letter, the residents wrote, “It appears to several members of the community who have attended Planning Board meetings on this subject that the Town Attorney is clearly leading the Planning Board, and as such he may be giving misguided advice on procedure surrounding the review of this project.” The letter says that Town Attorney Andy Howard, “no doubt, assisted in drafting a 9/6/22 letter for the Building Inspector regarding the permissibility of the ‘glamping’ use.”

Mr. Howard is also the attorney for both the Planning Board and the Zoning of Appeals (ZBA), which the letter says represents a clear conflict of interest if aggrieved residents were to bring the case to the ZBA. “Therefore, we respectfully request that the Zoning Board obtain new legal counsel, if and when an appeal is filed to hear an appeal of the Building Inspector’s use determination,” the letter reads.

Residents at the meeting said the Planning Board has not responded to the letter from Whiteman, Osterman and Hanna sent in August.

When asked about the process, Planning Board Chairman Jonathan Cavagnaro said the board was still working out details and they are in the “middle” of the review process.

As for Sun Communities, representatives of the company said at the meeting they had met with the county about the entrances, since the main entrance is off of a county road, and they also had a letter from the local fire company about the fire safety issues. They did not have any changes to the plan to present at the September meeting.

The next Planning Board meeting will be Thursday, October 20 at 7 p.m. at the Martin H. Glynn Municipal.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale at eteasdale@columbiapaper.com

Board hears neighbors’ views on proposed solar farm

VALATIE—The public hearing for an application from Seaboard Solar for a solar panel project at 321 Running Creek Road, in Kinderhook and Stuyvesant, opened Thursday September 15. Pedro Rodriguez, from Seaboard, a New Milford, CT, company, presented the plan, saying that the company will use about 65 acres of a 140-acre farm for solar panels. Mr. Rodriguez said that Seaboard Solar plans to buy the land and has an agreement with the farmer to continue to farm that land.

Steve Wilson from Bohler Engineering presented images of what the site would look like with tree cover around the panels and how far the panels are from the nearest house. The representatives from the company both talked about working with the board for the last few months and making changes to the plan.

Several neighbors of the property voiced concerns about the solar panels. They questioned why the solar panels were going on what they called “prime farmland” and had concerns about chemicals from the equipment contaminating their water. There was also discussion about the upkeep of the current solar panel farm on Route 9 and what the company would do with damaged panels.

Residents also had concerns about fires at solar farms. Mr. Rodriguez said that in the 10 years he had been with the company there had never been a fire at one of their sites. He also said that his company set up a decommissioning account for when the solar panels need to be removed in 25 or 30 years.

After several questions from residents to the board and Mr. Rodriguez the board adjourned the public hearing to be reopened at the next Planning Board meeting October 20 at 7 p.m. at the Martin H. Glynn Municipal Building. Minutes from past meetings and applications in front of the Planning Board are on the town’s website at www.kinderhook-ny.gov/agendas-minutes/planning-board-agendas-minutes

Seaboard Solar’s website is www.seaboardsolar.com —Emilia Teasdale

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