Mill Dam Road wedding venue defeated - BlueStone Press
June 18, 2018
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Mill Dam Road wedding venue defeated

But, town considers draft legislation to allow “special events venues” in the town’s residential districts

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The M-1 meeting room at the Rondout Municipal Center was packed on April 25 when dozens of anxious neighbors convened to hear the outcome of an appeal to Marbletown’s Zoning Board of Appeals. Thomas Brownlie, owner of the 1712 House Bed and Breakfast on Mill Dam Road, had previously applied for a special use permit to use his 51-acre property as a wedding venue. Plans called for the erection of a tent capable of housing up to 200 guests, which would eventually be replaced by a permanent structure.

 

Brownlie’s application specifically listed the proposed use of his property as a “limited service eating establishment,” a classification that was later appealed by neighbors Nancy Gagliardi and Declan Denehan. During the hearing for the appeal, Ronald Pordy – lawyer for Denehan and Gagliardi – claimed that the town code enforcement officer’s classification of the application was incorrect. Marbletown’s zoning code lists the property uses allowed within each zoning district. According to town law, only uses specifically listed in the code’s “schedule of uses” are permitted. In the case presented by Pordy, outdoor commercial event venues are not specifically addressed in the schedule of uses, and therefore, such businesses are forbidden within the town’s R-1 residential district.

 

ZBA member Paris Perry read through the list of the board’s findings to those assembled. Midway through item number 10, the crowd began to applaud.

 

“The ZBA determines that under current zoning, a commercial venue is not a permitted use in the R-1 zoning district and the determination of the CEO to the contrary is reversed,” Perry said. According to the town attorney, Larry Wolinsky, the board’s decision to overturn the CEO’s determination will essentially prevent the application from proceeding.

 

Opposition to Brownlie’s proposal has been vehement from the beginning. Neighbors have consistently attended Zoning Board meetings to argue that the venue’s proposed placement within the town’s R-1 residential district would be inappropriate. At the April 25 meeting, residents wore shirts and buttons the color of green road signs, which read “Entering Town of Marbletown, Zoning Laws Enforced.”

 

Although many are celebrating the defeat of Brownlie’s application, the victory may not be a lasting one. Jacqueline Williams, owner of the Rockcliff House on Route 213 in High Falls, hopes to hold wedding events on her property once renovations to the building are complete. With an application for a wedding venue presently before the board and more likely on the way, the town is currently working to establish laws for event venues. As of now, not only are event venues absent from the schedule of uses for the R-1 zone but also from the schedule of uses for all districts.

 

Marbletown’s Planning and Zoning Committee is the nursery for proposed zoning laws. The committee is made up of representatives from the town, as well as interested residents. Together, these committee members meet for monthly brainstorming sessions, which are open to the public. With the help of town planner, Dan Shuster, the PZC has come up with a draft law to regulate commercial wedding venues. During Marbletown’s first May Town Board meeting, town supervisor Rich Parete explained that Shuster modeled the draft law on extant laws in other local communities.

 

If approved as-is, the draft legislation would allow “special events venues” in the town’s R-1 and R-2 residential districts as well as in the A-2, A-3 and A-4 zones. Restrictions would prohibit property owners from holding more than 10 events per calendar year, with no more than two permitted in a single calendar month. Events must also be spaced at least five days apart. Each event would be limited to a five-hour window, and could only take place between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m.

 

At present, these rules are not set in stone, and many of the draft law’s other details – such as the maximum permitted number of attendees – are still unspecified. During May’s first Town Board meeting, Parete announced that he would form a PZC subcommittee to take over the job of hammering out the law’s details. This subcommittee, he said, will be made up of an unspecified number of volunteers. To apply, Marbletown residents can email the supervisor at supervisor@marbletown.net.

 

The town zoning code is actually a set of zoning laws and, as such, must be subjected to a public hearing before being passed by Marbletown’s five-member Town Board. Historically, both the ZBA and the town planning board review proposed zoning laws that have been drafted by the PZC. After comments are received (and possibly incorporated) into the final draft, the proposed legislation is submitted to the Town Board so that a public hearing can be held.

 

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