Please also read our FactSheet.
Q. The Awosting Reserve is private property. And the property owner, the Awosting Reserve LLC, can do whatever it wants with the property.
A. No it can't. Neither can you nor I. Be grateful for that! If we could "do whatever we want with our property," you might have a strip club across the street from you and a propane storage facility as your next-door neighbor -- right by your barbecue. But thanks to planning boards, environmental review laws, zoning laws and town boards, you don't.
One doesn't have to drive too far out of one's way to see the results of pre-zoning law development. Many Ulster County towns have their share of auto body shops and heavy machinery-dependent industries sharing the streetscape with raised ranches, bungalows and wetlands. The town justice courts are chock full of nuisance petitions filed by homeowners who don't want junk cars and blowtorch operators as neighbors.
How about neighborhoods where a homeowner violates zoning ordinances - either intentionally or unintentionally - by keeping livestock or operating a business which results in greatly increased traffic? Residents tend to feel incensed that the rules they follow to keep their property values high and maintain their quality of life are being broken by a neighbor who has only his/her own interests in mind.
The land which comprises Awosting Reserve is valuable for reasons aesthetic, environmental, recreational and economic. The people who day trip in our Shawangunk Ridge towns come here to sky dive, hike, climb and bike - not to see suburban developments and golf courses slopped down in a wilderness area. They can stay home and see that in Westchester and New Jersey. They drive here for recreation and to enjoy the beauty of our Ridge. While here, tourists also eat lunch, shop for antiques, market at farmstands and plan longer future visits. This tourism contributes $10 million a year to the local economy.
Additionally, the biodiversity of the Ridge is good for our health. Suburban sprawl leads to proliferation of nuisance species (the Lyme Disease-carrying white footed mouse, most notably) and displacement of animals who function best in the wilderness, as opposed to our backyards. The Ridge's ecology also fosters and nurtures watershed development. That is good for our residential wells. I like running water, don't you?
Awosting Reserve is not being a good neighbor. It is no different from the homeowner who decides to build a sty, keep a dozen pigs, & operate a small slaughterhouse on his 1-acre lot . . . next door to you.
Q. It still doesn't seem right that any group of people can tell other people what to do with their property.
A. The Historic District of Cape May, New Jersey is unique. Every single structure must conform to the requirements of the many bodies on the local, state and Federal level which govern Historic Cape May. A homeowner cannot apply an exterior coat of paint to a windowsill nor replace a doorknocker without a permit. Seems harsh, doesn't it? But Cape May is beautiful. Stunningly beautiful -- a historical and architectural gem by the sea. There is no other place on the planet like it. That is why people vacation in Cape May. Without the vacationers, the regional economy would simply collapse. The tax base would become non-existent and residents' quality of life would plummet.
It is probably something of a burden for a Cape May homeowner or innkeeper to have to go to such lengths to make simple alterations to his/her property, but it is worth it to everyone: residents, visitors, the economy and the entire region.
The wilderness of the Shawangunk Ridge is valuable, too. It is worthy of protection from predators like the Awosting Reserve LLC no matter how burdensome the process may seem.
Whether you're a tree hugger or a road warrior or a day tripper or a hell raiser or simply a resident, the Ridge enriches all our lives in ways tangible and intangible. Ownership of the land does not give the Awosting Reserve LLC the right to take that away from us.
Q. Chaffin Light and Roger Beck refer to this as "a
conservation-based community....dedicated to the preservation and
enjoyment of its unique natural and scenic resources. So what's the problem?
A. Our reply to this is a little long to place on the website. So instead we have written out our response taking many sections of the proposal, analyzing it, and explaining our opinions on it. Click here to read that file.
Q. Is Save The Ridge opposing cluster housing?
A. Clustering is a good idea when it is used to preserve open space,
in a place where it is appropriate to build houses. We maintain that neither is
the case here, that in fact it is a misuse of the clustering provision in
N.Y. town law. We believe that most of the alleged 60% of the development that is
"preserved" as open space is unbuildable anyway, because it is too steep, too
rocky, a wetland, at the end of a planned but illegal private road, or just
uneconomical. The planning board should not be considering a cluster until they
have clarified how many lots there could be under conventional zoning; from
the moment the plan was submitted it has been clear that the developers simply
laid a 5-acre grid over the property and claimed the right to that many lots,
including all unbuildable areas. That violation has still not been dealt with.
And further: the space that is left unbuilt on in the proposal is so
fragmented as to be meaningless for wildlife habitat; clustering is supposed to leave
a large open space, not a lot of small spaces between the houses (which in the
proposal spread from end to end and top to bottom of the property). If this
is true, the developers are (mis)using "clustering" as an excuse to build twice
as many houses in the buildable space as regular zoning would allow.
And there shouldn't be any houses up there anyway. It's just the wrong place
to put what might be quite an acceptable, even attractive, development