CATSKILL — A proposed campground law drafted by the town board without the participation of local businesses was aired Tuesday, with Catskill Town Supervisor Doreen Davis holding herself accountable for the omission.
Campground owners are not sitting around a campfire singing the praises of the law, which they said is too restrictive.
Residents and business owners packed the Catskill Town Hall for a public hearing Tuesday on a proposed law to regulate transient camping and the operation and maintenance of campgrounds for transient use.
No property owner can allow his or her land to be used for camping unless they have obtained a campground license, according to a draft of the proposed law.THE ORIGINS
The town has never had a set of regulations for camping projects and the law will help officials decide on them more easily, Planning Board Chairman Joseph Izzo said during the meeting.
“That’s why we’re looking at this law, because we can’t make a decision based on what you want without having a set of guidelines,” Izzo said. “Unless we have a set of regulations, a set of goals that we can put, and look at, on a piece of paper, you may end up with something in a neighborhood that nobody wants.”
The hearing served as an opportunity for residents to look at the proposed law and comment on it, Catskill Town Supervisor Doreen Davis said.
“We wanted to have some consistent regulations so that all proposals are treated fairly, that was our initial intent,” Davis said.THE PUBLIC SPEAKS
Learning of the proposed law, Brookside Campground co-owner Bonnie Schroader said Wednesday it raised concerns. Schroader, who attended the meeting with her husband Jerry, Brookside’s co-owner, called the town office to get an explanation of what the law entails.
Brookside has been in business for 13 years.
“It was the first attempt — they [officials] thought it sounded good, but didn’t realize the economic impact of it,” she said. “It took us by surprise, as it did everybody.”
The towns of Cairo and Windham don’t have a law similar to what Catskill is proposing. Such a law would devalue the campground, making it hard to sell in the future, Schroader said.
The Schroaders spent $250,000 to add 24 new campsites about eight years ago, a feat that couldn’t have been achieved with strict regulations.
“Under this law, we wouldn’t be able to do that,” she said.
Many Brookside campers arrive in large groups of 10, Schroader said.
“We’ve made a niche in that area because we have large comfortable sites for large families,” Schroader said.
Many workers on construction projects in the county remain in the area from 3 months to a year and stay at the campground in recreational vehicles because it’s more homey, Schroader said. The county receives an economic benefit because anyone living in the state for more than 30 days pays state tax.
“They’re bringing in extra income — we have three guys here right now, they’re here till November,” she said. “They’d rather do that [stay in an RV] than stay in a motel.”
Schroader left the meeting confident the town board listened to her concerns, she said.
Daniel Ellett, of Catskill, owns two large pieces of property and wants to have a rustic camping site where he would take visitors hiking, he said.
The proposed law would be bad for those business plans, Ellett said.
“You’re going to tell me I’m wrong for having my friends, my family and everybody there, I don’t understand how you can make this regulation,” he said. “You’re restricting what the property owners’ values are or what our rights are.”
Greene County has missed out on several opportunities to attract business, but surrounding counties have succeeded, Ellett said. The lifelong Catskill resident asked the town board not to make a rush decision on the law.
“I don’t understand why Greene County is the last to evolve,” Ellett said. “I feel like there’s been an apocalypse for my whole life. I said when s*** hits the fan, we’re going to laugh it off because we’ve been living in the depths of hell our whole life here in Greene County.”
Davis addressed the audience and explained why the law is being proposed and took responsibility for not including local business owners in its drafting.
“We looked, we had nothing, we took a shot,” she said. “Nobody came into this job trying to prevent business.”
The proposed law is important to keep noise under control and weed out troublemakers, Kathy Holtz, of Catskill, said after the meeting. She has dealt with a neighbor running an illegal camp for two years.
“You can’t just bring a bunch of people to a property and say they’re going to camp,” Holtz said. “People come from upstate, they want to move into our woods.”
The law will not affect campground owners who run their businesses properly, Holtz said.
“This is to control those that are doing things they’re not supposed to do,” she said. “You need to have laws, just like you have parking laws.”AFTERMATH
Davis invited further comment to hash out the law.
“We benefited greatly from some of their constructive suggestions,” Davis said. “All of them have done a good job of taking a look at the proposed regulations.”
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