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Times-Union Commentary: Sometimes, NIMBY can also be for the greater good


Nancy Jainchill Nov. 9, 2022

More than 25 years have passed since I moved to the Hudson Valley, a move that was done in stages, but I always knew this would be home. I settled on a pretty unexceptional house. My husband urged me to look more, look more. But I wasn't buying the house. I was buying the land, so I didn’t need to “look more.” I found home on 5 1/3 acres, on a dead-end road that wasn’t yet paved. Land, for me, was priority.

Now, these many years later, I’ve watched as this area has been discovered, perhaps at its height as a pandemic refuge. And I’ve watched as the land has been chopped up and more houses built, with reduced acreage permitted.

The Hudson Valley has become a mecca for people who seek their special homes, but it’s also become a destination for financial opportunism. The response of “Not In My Back Yard” (NIMBY) has been confronted on issues from hotels to low-income housing to wedding/event venues — and to Terramor. Terramor Resorts, the luxury “glamping” division of KOA, has come along hoping to take advantage of this area’s magic, proposing to construct a 75-tent glamping campground on 77 acres of mature forest. Each tent will have its own bathroom, shower and wood-burning firepit. A total of 89 structures, including a 4,000-square-foot restaurant and wedding/event center, a bar, a 28-person dormitory, an Olympic-size swimming pool, a community fire pit, and a wellness center are planned.

The location is in the midst of a largely residential area in the heart of the Saugerties-Woodstock community, just off of two main roads that converge at an intersection with the highest number of vehicular accidents in the region. Terramor conducted a traffic assessment to determine the impact of the glampers in February, on a Thursday, in the middle of the pandemic. Perhaps they thought no one would notice the timing, how unrepresentative the data would be of traffic during their months of operation — May to November. There are a lot of community members raising an outcry. Red and white signs shouting "STOP TERRAMOR" catch your attention on most of the roads in the area. Is this an example of NIMBY for the greater good?

In a recently published essay on ethical travel, the writer advises us to seek out places with sustainable resources. The Hudson Valley Resource Mapper identifies the proposed glamping site as an area of climate interest and unique conservation value, including at least ten acres of thousands-of-years-old wetlands that will be impacted if the project proceeds. Wetlands provide an important habitat for terrestrial animals. They offer flood resilience. They serve as “nature’s kidney” by improving our water quality through the natural filtration of pollutants. Here’s Terramor’s solution: Relocate or “offset” the wetlands miles away through a program of credits. I’m not sure how that will help our environment.

Of course there are other concerns. Noise and light pollution have serious detrimental effects on wildlife. Sensory pollution wrought by flooding the environment with human-made light and sound, known to confound the senses of countless animals and obscure the cues they depend upon to survive, will be an inevitable byproduct of 150-375 people enjoying nature. Then there’s the smoke from the 75+ fire pits. The particulates can have a strong negative effect on our health. Experts contend the smoke from just one fire pit compares to the second-hand smoke from 800 cigarettes.

It might seem an irony that in March 2022, when I took my first vacation since the pandemic began, I went glamping. But the site was literally in the middle of nowhere and with many fewer tents. So glamping can be done responsibly, and more in line with environmental concerns, as has been shown with sites that have revitalized worn campgrounds. This is in sharp contrast to what Terramor is attempting, which is the takeover of mature, dense forests with wetlands.

For our community, “Saugerstock,” for the totality of the inhabitants — human and otherwise — this seems to me a case of NIMBY for the greater good. Nancy Jainchill of Woodstock is a writer and psychologist.

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