CATSKILL — Town planners approved a proposed lantern festival at the former Friar Tuck Inn on Monday night.
With more than 120 lantern exhibits, the Hello Panda Lantern Festival is considered the largest of its kind in North America, according to hellopandafest.com.
The planning board needed a super majority, or five affirmative votes, to approve the festival, Chairman Joseph Izzo said Tuesday.
“Five board members were present and they all approved it,” Izzo said.
Board members Charles Holtz and Reid Mower were not present at the special meeting. Izzo, Vice Chairman Larry Federman and members Thomas Decker, Teresa Golden and Bridget Hernandez voted in favor of the proposal.
Ruben Lindo, with Gridiron Enterprise Management Inc., represents the owner of the property. Lindo said Tuesday they are pleased to offer the festival to the community.
“My clients are excited to bring the Hello Panda Festival to the Town of Catskill,” Lindo said. “As we have always maintained it has been our intention to comply with and correct any of the concerns that the Town Planning Board had along with the County Planning Board. I believe we demonstrated that my clients have made a commitment to the Town of Catskill and Greene County as it started several years ago and will continue into the future. My clients look forward to making Friar Tuck property the crown jewel of the northern Catskills again.”
A point of contention for planners was the lack of proper liability insurance, complete with an indemnification clause, as required by the town’s Mass Gathering Law.
The applicant, Lily Li, had satisfied this requirement as of Monday’s meeting, Izzo said.
The board had also requested a letter from an engineer regarding the ability of a bridge on the property to support emergency vehicles. The letter was provided to the board, Izzo said.
The festival’s special-use permit contains a series of conditions including having adequate traffic control and security for the event, a first-aid station, a minimum of four portalets with one that is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, appropriate security fencing and adequate lighting.
No food or beverages may be sold at the event, all electrical work must be performed by a licensed Greene County master electrician and inspected by a licensed Greene County third-party inspector, the bridge that provides access to the site must be evaluated by an engineer and deemed capable of supporting emergency vehicles and the former hotel buildings must be kept locked and clearly marked with no trespassing signs.
Festival organizers are also required to abide by the town’s noise ordinance and the festival has to be capped at 100 visitors per day and operate within the hours of 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.
“We are limiting the site plan approval to just this year,” Izzo said Tuesday. The festival is scheduled to run Dec. 20 through March 2020, he said.
Hello Panda is also being held at Citi Field in Queens until Jan. 26 and at Lake Glenwood in Vernon, New Jersey, until Jan. 5.
Greene County Treasurer Peter Markou was critical of the festival at the Greene County Legislature’s Finance Committee meeting Monday night.
The property where the festival is proposed was owned by Greene County in 2013. It is currently owned by Friar Tuck Resorts Inc. There are several adjacent parcels owned by L&H Resort Systems, LP.
Cumulatively, the properties are behind nearly $7 million in taxes, Markou said.
“They have not made one attempt to pay it,” Markou said.
The parcel where the festival is scheduled to be held is behind $132,599, Markou said.
Markou did not see how the festival would be profitable.
“They are limiting it to 100 people per day,” he said. “How are you going to make money off of that unless you are charging $10,000 a ticket?”
Markou also had concerns with the state of the buildings on the property.
“I wouldn’t own that piece of property if they gave it to me for five cents,” he said. “It would cost a fortune to tear those buildings down. They are filled with asbestos and mold.”
The county planning board rejected the festival proposal Nov. 15, citing poor and potentially dangerous site conditions.
Town planners overruled the county’s decision and continued reviewing the project by a super-majority vote Dec. 10.