ANCRAM—Iron Star Retreat Center applicants have gone back to the drawing board to come up with a slimmed down proposal that will no longer require a change in town zoning.
They also hope their revised plan will be more palatable to Ancram residents.
The original plan proposed to locate a retreat center on 146 acres made up of four parcels owned by JSG Farms, LLC, RSG Farms LLC, SSG Farms LLC, and P & M Farms LLC. The parcels are at 2540 State Route 82 in Ancram, property formerly owned by Luigi DiMaio.
Applicants have appeared before the Ancram Planning Board over the past few months seeking a special use permit, lot line adjustment (subdivision) approval and site plan approval for the project.
Also, project owners/developers petitioned the Town Board for a zoning amendment to the town’s zoning map to change a 13-acre portion from the Ancram Hamlet Residential (AH-R2) Zoning District to the Agriculture (Ag) Zoning District. The majority of the retreat center premises would be in the town’s Ag Zoning District, with a portion in the AH-R2 Zoning District. The property is also located in Columbia County Agricultural District 1.
The applicant’s original proposal included a driveway and stormwater facilities in the portion of the property zoned AH-R2, which would not be allowed there without the zoning change to an Ag Zoning District.
In a January 19 letter to the Ancram Town Board, Attorney Taylor M. Palmer of Cuddy & Feder LLP, who represents the property owners/applicants, asked to “withdraw without prejudice” the petition which sought the zoning change.
He wrote that the applicants are in the process of reworking their proposal with consultants. “The refined development program will consist of a significantly reduced development proposal that is both responsive to public comments and is fully zoning compliant.”
So, when the plan is reduced and revised, there will be no need for a zoning change.
The original public hearing notice about the proposed retreat center said it would include the adaptive reuse of an existing residence for a five guestroom inn, and the development of four separate lodging cottages (creek houses) for overnight accommodations, along with three separate buildings for associated recreational support uses on the east side of the property.
The development proposed for the west side of the property consists of a “glamping” area with 22 individual camping structures. The inn will also have a restaurant for patrons utilizing produce from the onsite organic farming operation. Recreational amenities for the commercial retreat will include massage, horseback riding, swimming (an indoor pool), exercise and art. The camping use will be glamorous camping (glamping) and will be provided in individual cabins and rustic buildings. Organic farming will use open space on the site that has been used historically for farming operations and will also include the construction of two farm-related buildings to support produce processing and equipment storage.
‘The refined development program will consist of a significantly reduced development proposal that is both responsive to public comments and is fully zoning compliant.’
Attorney Taylor M. Palmer
Iron Star Retreat Center applicants
Many Ancram residents who spoke during the ongoing public hearing in December and January opposed the project for a variety of reasons, including, it:
*Is not in keeping with community character
*Will be disruptive—create increased traffic
*Will impact the water table and cause neighboring wells to run dry
*Will not provide adequate living quarters for staff and the town is already lacking in affordable housing
*May not be financially viable
*Will flood the night sky with light pollution.
Additionally, a group of local concerned citizens, some owners of property directly adjacent and/or opposite the proposed Iron Star development, has retained the Albany law firm of Whiteman, Osterman and Hanna, LLC.
Attorney Thomas A. Shepardson of the firm, wrote a nine-page letter dated January 6 to the Ancram Planning Board expressing clients’ concerns about the Iron Star development. He made seven points about what is wrong with the Iron Star application—many had to do with a lack of information.
Though Iron Star Retreat Center applicant is creating a reduced development proposal and an updated full site plan set, she has asked to appear at the Planning Board’s February 3 meeting.
Her comments will be limited to giving the board a status update on the reduced proposal.
Because there has been much interest and a high attendance at Planning Board meetings in connection with the retreat project, the Planning Board issued a townwide email to let people know that no public hearing session will be held at the February 3 meeting. The public hearing will be adjourned for continuation at an undetermined date.
Also part of Mr. Palmer’s January 25 communication with the Planning Board was a letter from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to Iron Star founder, Stacey Shurgin, stating that the project, which is near the Ancram Historic District, will have “no adverse impact on historic resources.”
The letter will become part of the official record in connection with the environmental review of the project in accordance with the state’s Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA).
Once the Planning Board decides to resume the public hearing, notice will be posted and published in advance of the meeting.
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