Residents complain Terramor glamping project in Saugerties would discharge wastewater into Woodstock Jewish Congregation pond
By William J. Kemble PUBLISHED: December 21, 2022 at 10:03 a.m. | UPDATED: December 21, 2022 at 11:58 a.m.
SAUGERTIES, N.Y. – A team of eight Terramor Catskills/KOA representatives detailed their application to the Planning Board but faced concerns that the project would discharge wastewater into a pond used by the nearby Woodstock Jewish Congregation.
The Planning Board meeting drew nearly 100 people, and most were members or supporters of the Saugerties-based congregation, where a pond on the Glasco Turnpike property would receive the effluent from a sewer treatment plant proposed by developers.
“That pond for us…is used specifically on high holy days on Rosh Hashanah,” congregation spokeswoman Gail Albert said. “It is a tradition for centuries and we bought the building knowing we would be using the pond for this purpose.”
Among rituals that would be impacted is Tashlich, where the casting of stones has personal significance for participants. “You are throwing stones into the water and you are throwing your sins in and promising you will do better next year,” Albert said. “That has been done…since we’ve been there.” Albert said uses of the pond for deeply held religious practices also include immersion during mikvahs.
“It’s part of a conversion ceremony,” she said. “It is similar to being baptized. So if you think about a church being told the water being used for baptism is now going to have treated wastewater, including sewage, you could see why we might be upset.”
The Terramor plans in June estimated the treatment plant would be constructed with a capacity to handle 17,190 gallons per day. It wasn’t until Planning Board member Mike Tiano directly asked whether the effluent would go into the Woodstock Jewish Congregation pond, which is across the street from one of the glamping site entrances, that representatives briefly acknowledged it would be where the treated water would end up.
“We did receive that letter (from the congregation) and we will respond in writing to their concerns,” Terramor representative Jake Gordon said. The project is proposed to cover 77.15 acres off of state Route 212. Among features of the project would be a 4,000-square-foot restaurant and events center, 28-person staff dormitory, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, a community fire pit, wellness center, maintenance building, and a dog park.
During the meeting Terramor experts issued details on noise issues, traffic studies, visual impacts, architecture, wetlands, endangered species, and overall site plans. But that left some audience members feeling that the objective was to inundate board members with details in an effort to get ahead of the growing controversy. Among observers voicing the sentiment was Woodstock town Councilwoman Laura Ricci, who routinely hears detailed project proposals and was at the session because the project would abut the municipal line. “It was a firehose of information,” she said. “I feel like it’s a train that’s (traveling) 60 miles an hour and they are gaining speed.”
Ricci noted parts of the presentation appeared to be an effort by Terramor to “dismiss” opponents, including comments directed at Woodstock’s concerns by reminding Saugerties planners that the neighboring municipality could only have limited input in the approval process.
Terramor attorney Charles Gottlieb had opened the presentation by identifying most of the publicized opposition issues, with Woodstock singled out as being ineligible for anything more than an interested party designation.
“They legally cannot be an involved agency,” he said. “The (state environmental regulations) very clearly state the … involved agency is only that agency that (has) approval jurisdiction or funding jurisdiction over a project. The town of Woodstock has neither.”
Gottlieb also noted that time had lapsed for an appeal to be filed objecting to the June 2 decision by the town Code Enforcement Office designating the project as a campground. “Clearly there has been sufficient notice that (a) 60-day time period has run,” he said. Gottlieb said the developers have agreed with a town proposal for a special meeting to take public comments.
“We can assure the board that we will respond to … each and every reasonable comment to provide clarification,” he said.
Among the material distributed to the board and audience members was a list of efforts made to work with “neighbors,” which included conducting on-site visits and invitations to special meetings for property owners.
“It’s really trying to quell the fears that this is a resort,” Gottlieb said. “Instead, this is going to be a tranquil campground area.”
Planning Board members set Jan. 17 meeting to take public comments on the project.