The Gardiner Town Board voted 3-1 at its September 20 meeting to hire a new law firm to deal solely with the board’s interactions with the controversial Awosting Club.
The new attorney is David N. Yaffe of Hamburger, Maxson & Yaffe, LLP. The firm is based in Melville, Long Island.
Yaffe is a partner in the firm and his resume on LinkedIn noted that he is an experienced litigation partner with a 25-year history of state and federal trial and appellate court advocacy in many areas including contract disputes, land use/zoning and SEQRA litigation.
Though the town has no pending litigation against the Awosting Club, the board decided it needed a change in representation since “some town board members were not pleased with the legal representation” provided by Young/ Sommer, LLC of Albany to date, Supervisor Marybeth Majestic said.
Majestic, Deputy Supervisor Warren Wiegand and board member Franco Carucci voted to hire the new firm. Board member Carol Richman cast the lone dissenting vote, while board member Laura Walls was absent.
Neighbors of the Awosting Club have complained to town officials that the club has built unpermitted structures over the last two years, including large geodesic domes on platforms, with electricity.
The neighbors have expressed particular concerns about the structures’ proximity to the Palmaghatt Stream, one of the most ecologically sensitive sites on the Shawangunk Ridge.
At the September 6th Town Board meeting during the public comment period, town resident Janet Kern, a member of the Town of Gardiner’s Environmental Conservation Commission and an outspoken critic of the private wilderness reserve, said a change in the law firm was long overdue.
She said the Awosting Club has been operating illegally for more than two years and asked the board why a cease and desist order hadn’t been issued. Majestic said she wouldn’t answer that question.
In other news, the board continued to review requested waivers of special-use permits requested by Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Camp-Resort (Lazy River) as it seeks to establish a Campground Floating District within Gardiner’s zoning structure.
The board first reviewed an inspection of the campground’s internal roadways that it requested from Town Highway Superintendent Brian Stiscia.
Stiscia, who is also the Assistant Chief of the Gardiner Fire Department, said he inspected the roadways, specifically Third Avenue. Majestic read a letter from Stiscia dated September 15 to the board that was titled: “Emergency Evacuation Access Site Plan Review – Lazy River Jellystone Campground.”
“The original site plan was not followed for through road for Third Avenue,” Stiscia wrote. “Third Avenue is currently two dead end roads at Lots 293 and 294 and Lots 279 and 280.”
Stiscia also stated that signage was inadequate.
According to his inspection, he said he found no signage for road names, what signage existed was “non-reflective” and he found no evacuation route signage.
Without proper signage, Stiscia seemed concerned about what could occur in the case of an emergency.
“Just being provided a map to find some place is distracted driving and not acceptable when time is of the essence,” he said.
The board is expected to continue to review the requests for waivers from Lazy River at subsequent meetings.