ELDRED, NY — It was a full house at the July 27 Highland Planning Board meeting as the review process of creating Camp Fimfo-Catskills moves along. The 230-acre former Kittatinny Campgrounds on Route 97 in Barryville is anticipated to become part of Northgate Resorts, in partnership with Sun Communities’ newest family-resort brands, sometime in 2023. Phase One is estimated to cost $43 million.
From the Highland Planning Board side, all members, including alternates, were in attendance. Ken Ellsworth, PE, from Keystone Associates, was there. Keystone is hired by the Town of Highland to provide a detailed technical review of project plans submitted. As in any land-use development project, an escrow account is set up to handle costs associated with these review proceedings. Jim Hanson, representing Fusco Engineering and Land Survey, which handles the code enforcement for the town, was at the table, as was Michael Davidoff, attorney of the town.
Residents of the Town of Highland filled all the seats. The Upper Delaware Council, which is charged with project review, was represented by resources and land-use specialist Kerry Engelhardt and chair Andy Boyar, who is also a Highland resident.
The proceeding was filmed and recorded.
Two lawyers from Brown Weinraub of Albany represented the Northgate interests. Northgate Resorts Regional Operations manager Brian Czarnecki and project manager Scott Campbell flew in from Minnesota, where Northgate is headquartered. Kittatinny general manager Rocky Baldassari was also in attendance; he had also attended the May meeting.
Caren LoBrutto, representing LaBella, the Rochester-based architecture and engineering firm hired by Northgate Resorts and Sun Communities to shepherd the renovation and expansion through the permitting process, made the formal presentation. Jody Allen, of LaBella, was there to answer technical questions about the water and sewer systems that she had designed.
This version was similar to the project presentation at the May meeting, but had a little more detail. Campsite areas were delineated, including blocks of campsites that are noted “not included in proposed project.” Of the 324 campsites, 234 will be equipped with water, sewer and electric connections, with those former tenting sites replaced with campsites that feature new “temporary” Recreation Vehicles Industry Associational-certified units. One hundred and eight campsites will continue to use bathhouses.
There was further detail about the placement of wastewater and water infrastructure. However, planning board chairman Norm Sutherland indicated that the plans were still incomplete and there were still many questions to be answered. The board was invited individually to tour the current operation with Baldassari to get a clearer on-the-ground understanding of the project.
Following the presentation, planning board members asked clarifying questions and requested more information. Chairman Norm Sutherland, who kept a tight rein on the proceedings, asked that the company provide materials that would aid the public in understanding the depth of the project. At that point, the smooth give-and-take of information became a little tense.
The company pushed for an August public hearing.
Sutherland was adamant, as he was in May. No public hearing would be scheduled until the UDC and the National Park Service weighed in on project reviews. The land in question is within the river corridor boundary and is part of the scenic river overlay in the Town of Highland’s zoning. The review is necessitated by the River Management Plan. Upon receipt of the plans, which Sutherland said were delivered on July 25, the UDC and the NPS have 45 days to complete their reviews.
Both attorney David N. Weinraub and Czarnecki responded after the meeting that the insistence on an early public hearing was based on the belief that public processes like this go better when the public is involved early on. The holding of a public hearing also triggers a deadline in that a board then has 62 days to come to a decision. According to New York State law, this deadline can be extended by agreement with both parties.
The board held firm, with Davidoff making clear to attorney Daniel Rubin that the board was not going to hold a public hearing in August. No commitment was made on when the public hearing would be held, which would be dependent on the speed in which the company supplied the planning board with the information that they requested.
In the end, the company agreed that it would provide the board with whatever materials were necessary to inform the public and answers to all of the board’s concern. There was no public comment at the meeting and at its conclusion, Boyar questioned how the UDC could render a decision if they were not in receipt of the final plans. Sutherland advised him to bring his concerns to the public hearing. In a subsequent interview, Engelhardt indicated that the plans she received did give her information she needed for her review of the compliance of the project to the land use regulations of the River Management Plan.
As outlined in the presentation, here are next steps.
This is a developing story.
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