SAUGERTIES — Terramor, the luxury division of Kampgrounds of America, on Wednesday withdrew its application to build a glamping complex on 77 acres off state Route 212 between Saugerties and Woodstock after facing significant opposition from community members.

The sudden about-face seemed to come as a surprise to town leaders and the organized group of residents who have been fighting the proposal for more than a year. Terramor sought to build 75 raised tents — each with its own toilet, shower and fire pit — along with a 4,000-square-foot restaurant and events center, wellness tent, lodge, Olympic-size swimming pool with cabanas, maintenance building and employee housing in the forest off state Route 212 just south of Glasco Turnpike.

The company’s request for a special use permit was met with unanimous opposition from 22 speakers at a Jan. 17 information meeting, and Terramor was due to present counter-arguments to the Saugerties Planning Board on Feb 21. Instead, it withdrew its application in a short letter that contained “no specifics whatsoever,” according to Town Supervisor Fred Costello via the Daily Freeman, which first reported the news.

Terramor’s neighbors feared air and water pollution, groundwater depletion, noise, traffic on already over-burdened roads, pesticide use and “violation of community character,” not to mention a drop in their property values. They organized Citizens Against Terramor, raised money for a lawyer and hydrologist and launched a petition that garnered more than 35,000 signatures. In recent months, the group attracted support from local environmental groups, such as the Sierra Club, Catskill Mountainkeeper and the Woodstock Land Conservancy, as well as the Woodstock Jewish Congregation after it learned that Terramor’s initial plans called for treated wastewater to be dumped in their sacred pond.

Terramor’s attorney cited “internal business decisions” as the reason for withdrawing the application. Jenny McCullough, Terramor’s senior director of marketing and operations, told the Times Union that no final decision had been made about the Catskills location — which was only one of several under consideration for a future Terramor resort.

“After careful evaluation, the Catskills property is not meeting our criteria across several key benchmarks, especially with increasingly high costs of development in this market continually impacting performance metrics,” she said.

Asked whether local antipathy was a deciding factor, McCullough said, “The opposition was heard but they weren’t decisive.”

But Susan Paynter, president of Citizens Against Terramor, is celebrating. “I’m so happy, I’m pinching myself,” she said. She was girding for a two-year battle and is relieved that it’s over.

National implications of local control

Paynter believes Citizens Against Terramor’s win is a victory for citizen activism that may inspire others to resist development in their neighborhoods. Where Terramor claimed to be a campground — allowable in a residential area — Paynter and her allies saw a five-star resort. The company claimed its tents were temporary structures, but Paynter said that tents with wooden floors, plumbing, granite countertops and queen beds cannot be rolled up like traditional tents.

Town Supervisor Costello agreed. He told the Daily Freeman that Terramor was neither a campground nor a resort. “One of the projects the Comprehensive Plan Committee is working on is to better define hospitality uses,” he said. “It would have been an easier planning exercise if we could have described them in a more definitive way.”

Paynter thinks zoning codes across the country may have to be rewritten to accommodate glamping.

McCullough said no decision has been made on the future of the property, but one thing is certain: Terramor will not resubmit their existing proposal.

As for Citizens Against Terramor, they still have to raise money to pay their consultants. Then they plan to try buying the property for a nature preserve.

“Looking at the bedrock, wetland and endangered species, it is well suited to be a nature preserve,” Paynter said. “It’s perfect for carefully laid-out walking trails … But before all that, we’re having a big party!”

published 2023-02-14 01:29:44