Sierra Club

Public Hearing:
Hudson River Valley Resort’s Request for a New Zoning Amendment on Williams Lake

Held on Wednesday, August 14, 2013, Rosendale Recreation Center - 7:00 p.m.

The Sierra Club was, for the first time in this case, represented by an attorney, David Gordon, who, like all the speakers, was allowed a 3-minute statement. Several other Sierrans and Save the Lakes supporters spoke, many expressing concerns about the project’s non-compliance with the Rosendale Comprehensive Plan and lack of assurances for public access. Characteristic of the Rosendale community, project opponents and supporters were seemingly pretty much evenly divided. The Town Board reluctantly voted to extend the comment period to Aug. 21 for written comments.


Despite the DEC's approval of the Williams Lake Project in their 45-page SEQRA Findings on the HRVR project issued on July 10, HRVR can not move forward with its high-end gated community without a zoning amendment by the Town of Rosendale.

The Town Board has scheduled a public hearing on Wed., Aug. 14 on the 3rd version of HRVR's zoning amendment, called the Binnewater Lakes Conservation Planned Development Area (BLCPDA). This amendment effectively creates a zoning overlay encompassing HRVR's property and would remove many of the zoning restrictions that would otherwise apply within the Residence A zone of which it is a part. In the view of the Sierra Club and Save the Lakes, this amendment has serious negative impacts for residents of Rosendale and surrounding communities.

We share our concerns about the contents of the BLCPDA below. We urge you to come and share any of these or other concerns at the public hearing. This is the first and only chance the public will have to speak out on the current zoning amendment being considered by the Town Board. Even if you're not a Rosendale resident, your participation will demonstrate that this issue has significance for people throughout the region.

1. The Amendment is Illegal Spot Zoning

The principle of zoning is to establish appropriate uses for various town areas to benefit the general public. Spot zoning means that a special area with its own unique zoning regulations is created for one developer. It's generally illegal, but can be used when a project is expected to bring substantial benefits to an area.

HRVR argues in its amendment proposal that it deserves this special exception to the zoning laws because its elite development will bring economic and other benefits to the town of Rosendale and is consistent with Rosendale’s Comprehensive Plan. HRVR's main claim to consistency seems to be that all deviations from that Plan will be more than compensated for by the promised hoard of money that the completed project will provide to the community. We disagree. This argument minimizes the adverse impacts of this project and the many ways it is inconsistent with the Rosendale Comprehensive Plan.

2. The Project is Incompatible with the Rosendale Comprehensive Plan:

a. Binnewater Lakes

The Comprehensive Plan, in accordance with the wishes expressed by Rosendale residents, gives a high priority to preservation of the Binnewater Lakes because of their significant ecological, cultural, and recreational value to the people of this region.

b. Areas for Development

The Comprehensive Plan states that large-scale development in Rosendale should be limited to the Routes 32 and 213 corridors.

c. Affordable Housing

The Comprehensive Plan aims to “encourage a variety of housing types for residents at a scale and price range consistent with community character”. The few affordable housing units being built for workers on HRVR's property will do little to meet Rosendale's need for affordable housing.

3. Public Access is Not Assured

The amendment provides for: "Public access to Williams Lake, Fourth Binnewater Lake and/or lands protected by conservation easement whether free or via a fee day pass or some other method as may be applicable." This phrasing would allow the management to omit access entirely to both of these Binnewater Lakes. There is no clear commitment to access or affordability to any part of the property outside the rail trail. In fact, in HRVR's Final Environmental Impact Statement, no provision is made for on-site parking for day-pass users.

In the past, public events, like high school graduation outings, and beach club membership (comparable to the YMCA in cost) assured public access to many hundreds of people for swimming in Williams Lake every year. This access has been lost since HRVR took over the property, and is not restored by this amendment.

4. Time Limits for Building Could Be Expansive

Generous time limits are provided for each stage of approval and construction, with extensions obtainable via Town Board agreement. Under these limits, construction could begin as much as 5 years after the approval of a Master Development Plan for the project and could drag on for decades, subjecting the Rosendale community to noise, dust, and traffic for an extended time.

5. PILOT Could Reduce Project's Tax Liabilities

Although the primary community benefit from the project has been promoted as financial, the amendment does not preclude the use of a PILOT or similar tax-avoidance plan for the resort portion of this development. HRVR itself has estimated that use of such an exemption would reduce the financial benefit to the community by some $17 Million dollars and has repeatedly declined to rule out use of such an arrangement.

In short, because this project will not provide the major public benefits HRVR has promised, this special amendment to the zoning law should not be granted. We believe consideration should be given to a public/private partnership which would redevelop the property as a resort, but provide better protection for its significant natural and cultural features and affordable access for the general public. Such a development would enhance Rosendale's status as a tourist destination and support its small businesses far more than an exclusive gated community for the super rich.

If you care at all about the future of the Binnewater Lakes, come and speak at the hearing about these or other issues of concern to you! If someone else has made your point, make it again in your own way. Let these elected officials know how important this area is to the people of this region!


Click here for an overview of the Williams Lake Development

Click to download the Sierra Club's evaluation of the FEIS, including the full text of the analyses of ecologist Erik Kiviat and engineer John Keith.

Click to download Save the Lakes' evaluation, including analyses of hydrologist Paul Rubin and others.

Click to access a hyperlinked FEIS Table of Contents that facilitates review of the document.

Click to access Save the Lakes' website, for up-to-date status, background, and research about this project.

Click to contact Marie Caruso, Chair of the Sierra Club's Williams Lake Committee