Proposed Ancram development comes under fire at public hearing
Diane Valden is reporting for The Columbia Paper on the December 2 public hearing before the Ancram Planning Board on the pending applications to locate the Star Retreat Center on 146 acres at 2540 State Route 82. The property is owned by P & M Farms, RSG Farms and SSG Farms. The project drew a full house in-person in the town hall meeting room plus an additional 75 people on Zoom. The proposed retreat center would include the adaptive reuse of an existing residence for a five guest room inn, and the development of four separate cottages, or creek houses for overnight accommodations, including three separate buildings for associated recreational support uses on the east side of the property. On the west side of the property, the proposed development would include a glamping area with 22 individual camping structures. The inn would also have a restaurant featuring produce from the onsite organic farming operation that would include two buildings to support produce processing and equipment storage. Amenities would include massage, horseback riding, swimming, exercise and art. The project developers have petitioned the town board for a zoning amendment to permit a 13-acre portion of the property to be rezoned from Hamlet Residential to the Agriculture District. Iron Star Founder Stacey Shurgin, the president of a New York City real estate management and development company, was present and said she has been in Ancram for two years. “I came for the land,” which she found “magical and beautiful.” The questions and comments from Planning Board members varied from a note that an endangered species of cottontail rabbit lives on or near the property; a query about whether the center is going to be a year-round operation; and when the traffic study presented was done. Resident comments concerned the ability to maintain community character, concerns over increased demands for water and electricity; how the zoning changes would conflict with the town's Comprehensive Plan; the project's financial viability; the fire company's worries about the development's impact on traffic, emergency access roads and the availability of water for fire suppression; and the questionable choice of developing a resort when affordable housing is so desperately needed. The Planning Board chose to keep the public hearing open; it will possibly resume in January. Read more in The Columbia Paper.