Note: Observations below are my own and likely do not conform to everybody’s experience of the presentation and walk-through. Conversations were happening between neighbours and Terramor, the engineer, and the Board planning consultant. Different folks will have had different encounters and takeaways will vary
June 9, 2022
On June 7th several neighbors of Terramor and other interested parties gathered in the South Peak Vets parking lot, under gloomy and damp skies. A presentation was made by one member of the Terramor staff and one member of the land planners working on the project.
The first, and most disconcerting, point offered was that the project’s proposed scope has expanded from 50 tents to 75 tents. This was a result, we were told, of the “code enforcement office clarifying the number of units permitted on this land”. According to Terramor, the discrepancy was as a result of the earlier talks with code enforcement not precisely spelling out that the proposed “lodge” was not residential. Apparently, were the proposal for a residential lodge, code would have allowed 50 units, but given that the proposal is for tents separate from the lodge, code for this site will allow up to 75 tents. It was not apparent to me which code enforcement office this was, but I assume it was the County. (EDIT: It was the Town)
Reaction to this announcement was, predictably, one of surprise and anger. Many of the assembled company were alarmed that the deal had changed, and with no notice at all. The Terramor representative stressed that she had only found out about it a few days before and there was regret that such a substantial change had not be communicated earlier. As the questions came thick and fast, she tried to explain that the economics of the proposal were marginal at 50 tents and that 75 tents was more reasonable, given that code allowed it. Reaction to this assertion was skeptical, at best. A rambling discussion followed, touching on many of the familiar and salient areas of neighbourly concern, water, septic, pesticides, traffic, wildlife, etc. Tempers were somewhat frayed at times, with neighbours wondering if Terramor were, indeed, listening to local concerns.
The presentation continued with reference to the new sketch plan. Several other changes were noted. Primarily, the relocation of the worker’s dormitory. This was moved away from the previous location near the Cottontail emergency exit and further up the hill. It was suggested that more tents meant more staff and this was acknowledged, vaguely. A description was given of how the extra 25 tents were added to the site. The land planner stressed that the fifty foot distance between tents was still achieved and that the average was slightly higher than that.
There were many questions about the distance between the tents nearest the property line up by Raybrook. Discussion ensued about code for the buffer and the planned approach to the issue. It was resolved that the walk would affirmatively include a visit to that area so that we could see for ourselves. The claim was made that the nearest tent to the property line was 85 feet away.
The location of the entrance to the site appears to be nearer to the Woodstock side of the site than the last approved project, a decade ago. We were told that this location had been suggested by the Terramor traffic consultants, but that the land planner present was not expert in this area. The reason given for being as close to the Woodstock side as possible is that the project wishes to minimize ground and wetland disturbance. Please see a separate post here for more about the traffic issue: http://southpeaknabe.com/terramor-and-traffic/
Terramor acknowledged that they had not met the filing deadline for the June Planning Board meeting and said that they were hoping to file for the July meeting instead. Submission deadline is July 5th for the July 19th meeting
Some folks decided to leave and the walk commenced. While the choice may have been made for expediency’s sake (footwear etc.), it was instructive that they did not take us up from the proposed curb cut and over the (extensive) wetlands at the foot of the property. We walked up the significantly drier adjoining property (between the Vet and Terramor) and thence across to the proposed access road.
Terrain varied from swampy to firm-ish. “Map-checks” were made along the way, with the land planner indicating the route of the road and other proposed parts of the project. The “Welcome Center” was pointed out and it was again stressed that guests will park in one of several car parks but walk to their tents from there. Tents are generally not accessed directly from the paved through road. Paths to tents will be made of permeable material, including fabric, gravel and other engineered aggregates. Mention was made of the desire site tents so as to cut down a minimum of trees. Tents will be built on wooden platforms. “No, we do not propose concrete footings”.
Along the way, different conversations were held and comments made. I did not hear all of them. It was repeatedly stressed that this was all very much a work in progress and that engineering and planning details would change constantly as this difficult land presented new challenges.
Septic: Will be dealt with by pumping it from individual tents, likely to a central above-ground facility. This would probably be pumped at the end of the season. “We are still working on this”
Well-water: Thinking is that there will be three or four wells. Possibly feeding an above ground tank and distributed to tents via underground piping. Wells appear to be 200 to 300+ feet deep. So far, they propose to use the test wells currently on site. System might be blown out during the winter so that there is no water in it to freeze. Especially since trenches might be shallow enough to be frozen. “We are still working on this”
Water run-off: Road will be tilted, with swales at the sides. run-off will likle be fed in to the existing wetlands. There are currently no plans for added ponds. (This means that mosquito suppression via aeration of standing water is not possible. They are not adding standing water to the site and they cannot add aeration to existing wetlands)
Electric: to individual tents via trenches.
When we arrived at the top end of the site, furthest from Rt. 212 and nearest Raybrook, I volunteered to stand on the exact spot of the tent nearest the property line. The groups was then able to see the geography more plainly. From my vantage point I could see two houses, though not clearly. It was clear that they were there, but features were indistinct at best. I could see marker flags indicating garden beds and, possibly, the property line. Foliage was somewhat dense, given the time of year, but a proper screening hedge will certainly be necessary. A discussion ensued as to how to keep guests from wandering out of the property and into neighbour’s yards. It was apparent that Terramor will have to instruct guests very firmly, carefully, and repeatedly about not going where they should not. It was agreed that at least one tent had to be moved away from the property line.
There was some confusion about the Planning Board protocols. The representative of the Town consultants gave a concise explanation of the differences between the Planning Board meetings and the Public Hearing. Basically, the first formal Planning Board meeting allows the project to be presented and starts an ongoing process of information gathering, technical and otherwise, by the Board. This ongoing process also allows for input from the public and any other outside interested parties. Later in the process, the Board may schedule a Public Hearing, at which all are welcome to comment.
Here are two further short explanations:
From the consultant who walked around with us:
Experts are directly hired by the Planning Board to review a project if the Board feels it is necessary. For example, the Board will hire its own traffic engineer to review and comment on the applicant’s traffic report and so forth. The Board relies on these hired experts, and comments from involved agencies such as NYS DEC and DOT, to identify glaring issues, permit requirements, or items that would need to be addressed for an approvable project. The Town Code and NYS Environmental Quality Review Act provides a framework for this investigation.
The public can also provide comments from their own expert, and present those comments during public hearings.Formal meetings are the only time that the Planning Board can discuss the project as a quorum without violating NYS Open Meetings Law, so allowing the technical review to proceed month by month at these meetings is important to the Board’s decision making process.
From the Planning board Secretary:
The Planning Board’s procedure is to allow anyone to speak from the public with concerns/comments only at the meeting in which a public hearing is open. If the Planning Board has an expert that they have hired for review/advice then they may invite that person/persons to speak at a given meeting. Anyone is welcome to send in a letter addressing their concerns at any time during the process for the Planning Board to review and take into consideration. The first meeting is generally to familiarize the Planning Board with the project and let the Town Planner and Planning Board members address initial concerns or suggestions. A public hearing will only be scheduled when the site plan is complete enough, which is determined by the Planning Board with the Town Planner’s guidance. A public hearing can be kept open, with the Planning Board’s approval, if concerns are raised by the public that need to be addressed with an updated site plan or additional information.
As the walk wound down and we arrived back at the Vet’s, the Terramor representative suggested that there be more informal meetings. Probably in the time after their formal submission to the Board and before their formal appearance. At the moment, they hope to meet the July 5th submission deadline for the July 19th meeting.
Comments are open and tightly moderated.
Note: I have certainly forgotten some parts of the afternoon and some specifics. Your input is appreciated. You can comment publicly, or contact me with corrections and additions