CATSKILL — A proposed hotel in town was delayed from progressing for further review after residents expressed concerns about the project at a public hearing Wednesday.
The Zoning Board of Appeals unanimously decided to postpone reviewing applications for variances for Greens Suites Resort — a four-story, 50-unit hotel at the Catskill Golf Course on Brooks Lane Road, which is slated to be open year-round.
No formal vote was taken Wednesday.
Golf course owner David Vipler has been trying to get the town to approve the building plans since February. They were not accepted in the past because the hotel was proposed for construction in a high-density zone.
Peter Sanson, of Catskill, read from a copy of Vipler’s land-use variance application.
The variance must satisfy four conditions before the board can approve it: is there unnecessary hardship, is the hardship unique, will the variance alter the community’s character and is the hardship self-created.
“It’s a four-story monstrosity,” Sanson said. “It will change the character of the neighborhood. It will change the parking, the noise and the lighting.”
Zoning Board Vice Chair Gary Harvey argued the land-use variance only applies to the parking lot — not the resort.
“The hotel is permitted in an RA [residential-agricultural] zone,” he said.
Last month, Vipler presented a revised plan to the Zoning Board to build the site in a residential-agricultural zone while changing the hotel’s size from three stories to four and from 42 units to 50.
The owner was required to apply for two variances with the updated project: an area variance to set the building back 25 feet from the road instead of the town’s required 50-foot standard for a residential-agricultural zone; and a land-use variance to build a parking lot behind that hotel that will partially be on a high-density zone.
Vipler originally applied for an area variance to set the hotel 20 feet from the road. Harvey realized it should be 25 feet and the application was amended.
Vipler created the hardship himself, Sanson said, and did not answer the section of the application about the project’s hardship being unique.
“Four things are required and three are not met,” Sanson said of the application’s conditions. “The board should not grant him the variance. I’m not threatening you, but if you push this through, I’m filing for Article 78 and getting the state down here. We don’t want this thing in our neighborhood; we’re going to fight it.
“He bought a failing business [the golf course],” Sanson added. “That’s not our problem.”
Harvey, Zoning Board Chair Lynn Zubris and board member Marsie Garafalo said Sanson was threatening them.
“Take it how you want,” Sanson replied. “We’re threatened by this building.”
Raymond Ward, of Catskill, stood to object to Sanson’s threat.
“He’s not speaking for all of us,” Ward said.
Sanson misrepresented Article 78, Town Attorney Michael Smith said after the hearing.
“It has nothing to do with the state,” he said. “An interested party can appeal the decision in county court or supreme court. It’s the interested party versus the municipality.”
Vipler filled out the required section of the variance form by mistake, secretary Patricia Case-Keel said after the hearing.
“That’s something the board fills out,” she said.
Scott Fischer, of Catskill, expressed concerns over how close the building would be to the road.
“It’s very common in construction to take trees down,” he said. “Why not just remove some trees [to set the hotel back farther]?”
Tree removal would add several extra steps to construction, surveyor Mark Salomon replied.
“We would have to level the property and change the sheet flow,” he said. “The way the building is designed, the trees are intended to be visible behind it.”
Residents expressed concerns about issues that will come into play with the planning board down the line, including increased traffic and increased stress on the water and sewer systems.
Vipler and his surveyor defended what the hotel will bring to the community.
“When he bought the property, the golf course was dying,” Salomon said. “He had two options: repurpose the property to something that will generate revenue and allow the golf course to survive, or if it died, a boatload of houses could come in. The open land would be developed by somebody else.”
The resort will market themselves to the skiers in the winters in particular, Salomon said.
“Pricing has exploded,” he added. “People can’t afford to stay in Windham. Summer’s great up here, but then we die.”
The resort will offer its amenities to golfers, overnight guests and the local community, Vipler said.
“We will have an ice skating rink, cross-country/hiking paths, a fitness center and we’re renovating our swimming pool,” he said.
The zoning board decided to postpone approving or rejecting the variances until its Nov. 14 meeeting so they have more time to review the variances with the town attorney and code enforcement officer, Harvey said.
“We knew there would be some opposition,” Zubris said. “We expected it, but he’s entitled to make a living, No. 1, and I think the property itself will be beautiful.”
“I’m very pleased with how tonight went,” Vipler said after the hearing. “Our next step [if it goes through the zoning board] is to schedule a meeting with the planning board on Dec. 11. It’s the last hurtle to getting formal approval for a building permit. We hope to start building in the spring.”