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Dedicated to the Historic Preservation of the Site of the 1969 Woodstock Festival

THE WOODSTOCK SITE
Hurd & West Shore Rds
Sullivan County
Bethel  NY


 

BETHEL PLANNING BOARD MEETING (MINUTES TRANSCRIPTION)

FEBRUARY 10, 2004

Item #9 Application of proposed Special Use Permit for the Bethel Woods Performing Arts Center on Hurd Road, Perry Road, SR 17B, Taggart Road and West Shore Road, known as Bethel Tax Map #'s:

20-1-10.4, 13.17, 13.18, 13.19, 13.20, 13.21, 13.23, & 13.24

21-1-1.3, 5.1, & 5.8

22-1-1 &4

Proposed by The Gerry Foundation

Larry Wolinski and Jonathon Drapkin present.

Wolinski: I am the land use attorney for the Gerry Foundation in connection with this Performing Arts Center project and as Mr. Chairman just read, we are here tonight to commence our application process under the Arts Center Development District Zoning. Let me explain what we are handing out here. We are submitting an overall development plan (see attachment #10 - Large Map), a copy of the SEQR statement of the findings that was originally adopted by this Board and the Town Board when we went through the re-zoning process (see attachment #11), and a narrative description of what our overall development plan entails (see attachment #12) and we highlight some of the changes between the overall development plan that will be described to you in more detail by Jonathon this evening and the overall development plan that was conceptually analyzed in the generic environmental impact statement.

Basically just by way of background, under this zoning that was adopted we require 2 actions from the Planning Board. One is a Special Use Permit for essentially approving the overall conceptual layout, the overall development plan and then we will need site plan approval for sections of this that we will actually go forward and construct. Now in terms of timing, we are kicking off the Special Use Permit process this evening. We would like to get a Public Hearing for next month and then for the April meeting, we will begin with our Site Plan for Phase I of construction. Hopefully, we will be well through the Planning Board in time to have a summer ground breaking here.

In terms of State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) Act, just to refresh your recollection, we went through a generic Environmental Impact Statement which analyzed an overall development plan in quite some detail and there was a statement of findings, which you have here tonight, that was issued. A portion of that statement of findings contained a number of performance criteria which if we can demonstrate to you that we have met through this overall development plan approval we do not need to involve ourselves in any additional review under SEQR. Our position is that the plan that we put together in fact will meet all those performance criteria, and we will be giving you between now and the Public Hearing probably a pretty substantial package of information that will actually demonstrate item by item how this plan meets those performance criteria. In addition to that, that same package will demonstrate how this plan meets each and every one of the special permit criteria set forth in the zoning. So that way that will perform the evidence for the basis for the approval at the end of the road.

I think that is all I have to say procedurally. If there are any additional questions along those lines, we can get those questions answered. But before we do that, I would just like to turn it over to Jonathon Drapkin as you all know is the Executive Director of the Gerry Foundation, to give you a little presentation of the plan that is before you.

Drapkin: You all have the map in front of you and it was suggested by Tom that I bring an enlarged map of the core area so that we can walk through whatever differences there are, so I can explain.

The pavilion area remains in the Gabriel Bowl and is still the covered seating portion for 4,000 seats. There is an access service road that had been moved tighter, still avoids all wetlands disturbance. It is to enable access to wastewater treatment, electric, parking that services the pavilion, all of which was originally proposed in the EIS. The lawn area for the pavilion, is now sized to match what was in the EIS, where we suggested that the maximum attendance that we thought would occur for a typical event was in the 7,000 range, and so all the infrastructure that we are putting in for lets say bathrooms, food concessions and in our parking area is sized to meet that 7,000 figure. How that translates is that 4,000 are undercover and 3,000 on the lawn which is lower than the number that we originally asked permission for. Let me explain two things about what we have discovered in the period that we haven't been before you.

First, the actual capacity of what we can put in there if we had a successful event, we can put 12,000 and almost right next to the number that we had put in the original document. But if we actually think we are going to have a major lawn event, well then we are going to take it back to the bowl, which we had always asked permission for and which the Town fathers have granted us permission for up to 30,000. But the difference is that we could supplement above 7,000 with port-a-potties, with additional parking and temporary lighting but all the permanent fixtures to support that pavilion are sized to the 7,000 for parking, concessions, and food.

The parking area is divided basically into 3 levels. There is one level of parking, which would be paved, and it's minimal and it's in compliance with what we have to do for ADA standards. So there will be some parking that is done on that level. I think you can see it on the map in front of you. The second level is graveled parking and the third is lawn parking. All of it would be treated for drainage and surrounded with lighting, but hooded lighting, so that we focus the lighting in the parking area down. But that parking lot is sized for about 2,350 cars, which roughly translates into that attendance of 7,000.

Smith: That includes the grass area?

Drapkin: Yes it does. That is pretty similar to where we were in the EIS. So I am going to skip around the core at the moment. For off site parking, this is where it is shown in the EIS. Down here is the hotel, the inn, the conference center, which is Phase II which is the same location as in the EIS. I think the significant change is the core area and I think Tom had suggested that I walk you through how we see that operating and how what occurred.

Denise, do you have any objections yet?

Frangipane: No

Drapkin: The core area should look familiar, that is what was in the EIS and this is where some of the more significant changes to the overall development plan occurred. The old plan had a configuration in the core, which had a retail in a "U" shape of a horseshoe. One side had the performance hall and the bottom part had the museum and visitors center. Approximately 390,000 sq ft was projected there but as part of the EIS we had to give you our best shot at what we were thinking about globally, everything that we could conceive of. Then we went back out in the last year and tested this and have reached several conclusions that have resulted in us saying that most of those activities certainly would require heavy subsidy. It did not seem realistic for us to be able to project that would be contained within there though it was part of the original plan of what we tested. So in fact the square footage that you see before you is approximately 40,000 sq ft. What we did is create a hybrid of what we thought were the best elements of each of the structures that were originally proposed. So what is in this building is what we are now calling the Interpretative Center, rather than purely a Visitors Center, a shared events lobby, and then the Community Theater, the old performance hall. And what we did, is we took the performance hall which we asked permission of up to 1,000 seats, and the community theater is sized for 650, we took the museum, which was a rather large structure and certainly our best hope for of what could happen in the future, and took some of the components of that that you will eventually find as we continue over the next couple of months, you will find elements of that inside the Interpretative Center and the Visitors Center is also merged in there. You will find retail elements and some minimal food concessions in there. Also in there we do hope to tell a story of the concert from 1969. Then also, if it makes sense, we will enlarge that and talk about the period of which this concert occurred. We hope the Interpretative Center will serve as a destination to itself on days when there are no music events occurring here.

So we think we have taken elements from all 4 of those structures and merged them into something we will build today. Now the theater is still something which we are going to ask permission to build, but we are not sure if we are staring with that in Phase I.

The pedestrian access remains the same, and the idea would be that you come out of the parking area and walk up across Hurd Road, walk past the Interpretative Center and the event lobby, where there would be the ticket booth for the pavilion, and other administrative assets to the project. You would then walk past the foot path and up here is the new feature. We would like to explore but it is our proposal here.

The notion of building permanent farm sheds for our farm market. We have worked very hard for 5 years to dedicate that element of our project. It is growing and I think it has become a terrific asset to the Town of Bethel as well as the County. Rather than continuing to put up and take down the tents that we have done each year, we would like to see if we can create very tastefully done sheds that would enable you to see through. What we have got is to put them all the way over to the side so that it would not interfere with the view sheds into the bowl. Part of the other reason that we would like to create a permanent element there and features is that for the Fall Farm Market this year, every day that the weather worked with us, we had that best attendance that we have had to the Farm Market in 5 years. When the weather worked against us, our attendance suffered and that has been the pattern over the past 5 years. If we create some better shelter for the farm and craft vendors then we think we have done something very terrific.

Now the configuration here shown like this, and we are going to work with you to see if you like this as the Planning Board, but I think we have got a pretty good idea what to do, will also serve that when pedestrians are coming in and this sort of flow that you access across the ridge line to get to the best views as possible and why we think and why we are excited about our Performing Arts Center and think that it is going to be better than others because of incorporating the incredible view sheds that exist there. But that on nights when there are performances, these elements can be used for retailers as often as commonly found at other performing arts centers. You would then walk across the top and these are event tents that are for rental. I think one is actually a concession. Various groups may wish to rent them but also the tents would then exist there so that is you went into the Interpretative Center or wanted to come up for a box lunch, you would have the opportunity to sit on the site and really take advantage of the views that are there.

Then you would continue to walk along and enter the pavilion. One other feature we think, which we hope is not a major cost element, many pavilions have a second stage, which is part of the experience within the two hours before the event occurs. We want to encourage people to come early to the site and enjoy the site for longer than just the concert. It also helps with mitigating traffic so that it is dispersed over a period of time. This feature would likely be a landscape element and an opportunity for an individual performer to be there. Maybe 100 - 150 people might gather around there on evenings when there was a concert but in addition, hopefully, we could get to a point where we could get performing for that and enable people to be there at lunch time.

The event lobby that joins the theater and the Interpretative Center hopefully will grow to have an identity of its own; lectures, special events, community events, and views. We think it has an opportunity for the demand from the community and we have always tried to work with the community to have access here.

Shepstone: What was the square foot of the buildings originally proposed in that location?

Drapkin: 390,000 sq ft

Shepstone: So we are going from 390,000 to 40,000?

Drapkin: Yes
Shepstone: In terms of compliance, the whole issue that was raised at the time we did the original EIS and by a Historic Preservation Group, sacred site of some of the activities, can you say that this will help comply with those concerns and address those concerns better than we originally thought. Not that we had a problem with how you addressed it before, but will it allow you to address it in even a better fashion?

Wolinski: Yes. Obviously, we have designed this based on comments we have received. We will be going back and meeting with them and working though the process. We believe that our current design meets the spirit and intent.

Shepstone: And the concerns of some of the people that attended the hearings?

Wolinski: Absolutely

Shepstone: I think we have spent some time going over this before the meeting and I asked most of my questions at that time.

McEwan: Rob McEwan, Attorney for the Town of Bethel. Larry we did an extensive binding schedule statement indicating the terms of the SEQR process and there were conditions attached to that statement, do you see a need for relief from any of those conditions?

Wolinski: No, some of those conditions I see continuing to be a condition as part of the special permit carryovers but other design elements I don't see any need for waivers on. The only caveats to that is that the actual site plan designing process is still going on and I do not know if there will be a design tweak or not. There could be, however our recollection of the zoning regulations is that this is something that the Planning Board can deal with as part of the zoning.

McEwan: I was just strictly asking the question for SEQR purposes.

Wolinski: For SEQR purposes, I think we are in really good shape.

Shepstone: One of the things that were in the findings statement was kind of a generic statement but it asked that you address the emergency access. It didn't spell out how it said we needed to have one. Where are you on that process?

Wolinski: I know that our architect has met with the fire departments. I tried to find out the results of that meeting but he is away on vacation this week. One of the performance criteria on the findings statement was to address the emergency access situation. It's just a matter of fixing it in the appropriate location that the fire departments are happy with and we will do that.

Shepstone: Matt Smith is back here.

MSmith: I am the immediate past chief.

Shepstone: I understand.

Wolinski: As the overall development plan evolves we will be getting an emergency access road onto that. It will be right on the plan. I just didn't want to show it in a location now that we are not sure of.

Shepstone: The typical attendance is 7,000 and that is a reduction of, what did you have before?

Drapkin: We don't think of it as a reduction but it's recognition of, as Larry reminded me, if you go back into the SEQR documents. It actually says we projected the average attendance to be 8,5000.

Wolinski: We are in the ballpark. Then you are going to have those occasions where you are going to tip over that. Those occasions are less frequent and don't justify the investment in infrastructure that the typical, what I would call, the customary operating capacity of the event.

Shepstone: The detail site planning will address that issue. What about the in-holding right against the property, will there be some landscaping and buffering between there and the parking lot and road?

Wolinski: I am not sure about landscaping or buffer. We have always tried to maintain as far separation as we can.

Shepstone: What is the scale?

Drapkin: 1 inch equals 60 feet

Shepstone: That is about 60 feet

Wolinski: I will note for the record that I do not believe that we have ever had a complaint from that property owner about our plan.

Shepstone: I am not suggesting what you should or shouldn't do; I am just asking whether you were thinking about it.

Drapkin: We expect you to do that.

Smith: On the right hand side there looks like a zigzag walkway there, is that coming down a slope?

Drapkin: I actually have to check but I think it is partially a suggestion on how you handle some of the ADA issues of getting people from the rear of the pavilion down to the different parts for access. There are increasing ADA guidelines on which have impacted the slope and rate inside pavilion itself. It's actually called "super site lines". The notion being that you can no longer simply create a pavilion that allows for people to see over the row in front of you, you have to anticipate that, in fact, they may be standing and therefore the amount of space that is allocated for the handicap has to find what they call a super site line. There are many implications in here from parking, we had to pave some of it, to how we are going to have a grade of some of the access here so that people are entitled to have to same rights to get to the pavilion and enjoy the site. We are taking that quite seriously.

Dollard: Glad to hear that.
McEwan: I am trying to remember what the old plan looked like and it seems to me that the core buildings were closer to the bowl then where you plan to put the farmers market now?

Drapkin: Correct, the retail element went further up onto the ridge line. This is the horseshoe that you are looking at and that is one of the things that we had to adjust from the discussions with State Historic Preservation, that they felt that a retail element did not have to be there. We actually are quite optimistic that the Interpretative Center element which they do recognize from battlefields and other things, has a real purpose to be on the historic site in order to tell a story. We think it goes well.

Smith: The building is actually much smaller and back off the ridge?

Wolinski: It's shorter as well.

Drapkin: Tom, the reference to the total mass being smaller you should always keep in mind that while mass was close to 400,000 it was never intended that all of that was Phase I.

Shepstone: I understand.

Smith: I also noticed that the water tower has disappeared from the top of the hill.

Drapkin: Yes it has.

Wolinski: That has been a big improvement. We have been able to relocate it in a manner that it's actually a pressurized system so that we have it placed in a spot where we can build it right into the hill. It really blends pretty well in there. When you see the site plan you will get a better flavor of that. I think that is a better situation.

Drapkin: It was clearly an issue raised during and I think it was our effort to respond to that issue by moving it.

Shepstone: What extent does State Historic Preservation have in approval? Is there some state money going to this that gives them some approval?

Wolinski: There are bases for their jurisdiction. One is DEC and the second is state funding, so before we can get permits or funding there really needs to be a SHPO sign off.

Shepstone: You have done extensive study of this and you all recall the boxes of documents that we got on this. I was excited when I saw this plan because it is a considerably improved plan over what I thought was a good plan to start with so I can't say it any simplier than that. So I think one thing a minor thing yet a major thing. Like the water tower that is one example. The new building not only is it much smaller but its laid out better not only in mass but also the relationship of that complex to the rest of the site, also the road layout. I think we are ready to take this to Public Hearing. I would defer to Rob to give us place on procedure.

McEwan: I just wanted to ask if you were doing the Public Hearing on the Special Use Permit or the Site Plan?

Wolinski: Yes, the zoning only requires for the Special Use Permit and there is no, if I understand it and I might be wrong, the hearing is required for the Special Use Permit and then once that is granted and you have an overall development plan, you can submit Site Plans in sections for approval for various pieces of the project and they do not need additional public hearings.

We would like a Public Hearing. One of the reasons that we need that fairly soon is to give it to public scrutiny to see if there are any issues from the public that we may need to address or what not. Then you will hear that as well and we will be working with you along the way to perhaps make any other modifications or refinements based on comments.

Shepstone: I would point out that this step by step procedure is something that we have discussed 4 years ago when we first started talking about this Performing Arts Center. I think we met in oyur office and debated for sometime the proper procedure on that. This is following what we had agreed upon as being the best way to approach it.

Smith: I will make a motion to grant the applicant a Public Hearing for March.

Brucher: Second

Bressler: All in favor - 6 All opposed - 0 Agreed and carried.





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