My view

More traffic, sewage problems, seasonal jobs only

The White Lake Mansion House project will harm more than it helps

Posted 5/22/24

I listened to the Bethel town board meeting last week via Zoom. I heard Jacob Billig, lawyer for the proposed hotel near the corner of Route 17B and Route 55 in White Lake, state that his …

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My view

More traffic, sewage problems, seasonal jobs only

The White Lake Mansion House project will harm more than it helps


I listened to the Bethel town board meeting last week via Zoom. I heard Jacob Billig, lawyer for the proposed hotel near the corner of Route 17B and Route 55 in White Lake, state that his clients—known as The White Lake Estates—had submitted a traffic study and that since hotels are approved for that area of 17B, the town should grant the special use permit he has requested.

I do not believe the traffic study was accurate for a Fourth of July weekend. We have heard from local firemen that the traffic is so bad on concert nights that they often have trouble getting to the firehouse or getting to the sites that need their attention. It seems highly suspect that the traffic study, completed on a holiday weekend in conjunction with a concert at Bethel Woods, showed traffic was not a problem. Local residents, including me and my husband, can testify to being stuck in traffic for long periods of time, just trying to get to our own houses in White Lake. It seems that miraculously on that particular weekend, traffic was light.

The consideration for zoning this area for hotels was meant to accommodate concertgoers, keep the traffic off the road and give visitors a chance to stay in Bethel and get to know the town. This is the definition of a hotel that I found:

“A commercial establishment offering lodging to travelers and sometimes to permanent residents, and often having restaurants, meeting rooms, stores, etc., that are available to the general public. Synonyms: motel, guesthouse, hostel, hostelry.” Concertgoers will not be accommodated, as this would be a “private” hotel. The dining room will not be available to visitors or local residents. Are there even bathrooms available to the public? I would like to know the definition of “hotel” that is being used.

Additionally, last year Dan Sturm requested that the state lower the speed limit in the area of 17B and Route 55 because of a safety concern. Oftentimes, cars park on the existing shoulders and sometimes on a diagonal. When cars back out onto 17B, the potential for accidents increases. Since there are no sidewalks, pedestrians will be forced onto the state highway. Cars could literally back out into pedestrians.

It seems highly illogical to consider adding more auto and pedestrian traffic to this precise location, especially when it has already been deemed a dangerous area. Sidewalks would need to be considered before such approval would be granted. Is there money in the budget for this?

Furthermore, we do not have a municipal water system. I owned a home for several years on what would be considered an old country road in the town of Clifton Park, NY. When a development of just eight homes was constructed in a keyhole lot behind my house, my well went dry, Fortunately, a new town water line had just been constructed and although it cost a significant amount of money to hook up, at least I had water. When this happens in Bethel, this is not an option. Does anyone know what the impact will be on the church next door? What happens if its well dries up? How can the wells of existing residents be protected from large developments?

Also mentioned was the fact that since Bethel has lost population, we should welcome the additional residents. Seasonal residents provide for largely seasonal employment. Bethel needs to attract year-round jobs in order to attract year-round residents. Drive through the villages of Woodbourne or South Fallsburg during the winter and you will see veritable ghost towns since the residents in those areas are largely seasonal. Few stores if any are open.

I mentioned at last week’s meeting that I have been in contact with Stephen Monteverde from DEC. He has confirmed that when we have significant rainfall, our sewer system has not been able to handle the overload and failed at least three times in 2023. The manhole cover, located at Central Avenue and Lakeshore Drive, is just a few feet from the lakeshore of White Lake. When the pump station fails, sewage quite literally ends up in the lake. 

Until there are guarantees that the sewer system can handle any additional sewage no approvals for large projects should be given. Or we have to plan on increasing sewer capacity and need to find out how much that will cost.

And most importantly, construction in a watershed requires specific controls to prevent irreversible damage to the ecology of the lake. Removal of grass and trees which absorb many pollutants puts the lake at risk. Previously, these builders have not even recognized the fact that their project is in the White Lake watershed. How can we expect them to protect it? Reversing the negative impacts of construction on the habitat of a lake is nearly impossible.

Granting a special use permit to the White Lake Estates just seems to compound already existing problems.

A few weeks ago, I listened to three legislators, including Assembly Member Aileen Gunther, discuss the possibility of creating a Catskill Park Agency, similar to the Adirondack Park Agency, to prevent losing one of our greatest natural resources—the Catskill Mountains.

 At the meeting last week, an analysis of the area indicated that 80-plus projects are proposed for the general area of Bethel and adjacent towns, including high-density housing. I do not believe that high-density housing is allowed in Adirondack Park, although I might be wrong. 

The planning board is required to consider the cumulative impact that all of these projects would have on the town and the Catskill Park. 

The next planning board meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Monday, June 3, and the next town board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, June 12 at 7:30 p.m. Both are held in the Dr. Duggan  Community Center, 3460 Rte. 55. Be sure to let the boards know your thoughts.

 Mary-Ellen Seitelman is a resident of White Lake, NY.


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