HRVR proposed zoning amendment (PRSP)


The zoning amendment described here was withdrawn from consideration on 4 Apr 2012 and replaced by a different, but similar, amendment called theBinnewater Lakes Conservation Planned Development Area.

Hudson River Valley Resorts has proposed a zoning amendment (203 Kb .pdf) to the Town of Rosendale Code, Section 75-28(D).  The following is an analysis of that amendment, including some questions that it raises.  Within this review, comments and questions appear in italics, while suggestions for improving the document appear in boxes.  Comments range from simple typographical and terminology errors to more substantive matters.  They are presented in the order they appear in the proposed amendment, which is not their order of importance.

The amendment modifies the list of conditional land uses allowed via issuance of a Special Use Permit.  The principle change is the creation of a new conditional use (there are currently 16 such uses defined) called a Planned Resort Special Permit, or PRSP, and a set of prescribed standards which it must follow.  A secondary change is to redefine the current use (3), clarifying that it does not include land within a PRSP and making other wording changes.

Section 75-28(D)(3) revision

This section currently defines resorts and recreational facilities, using the following wording:

Hotel, resort hotel, resort lodge, resort ranch, restaurant, bar or nightclub, skating rink, theater, concert hall, commercial recreation use.

The revised wording in the proposed amendment is:

Hotel, resort hotel, lodge, or ranch (other than such resort or related uses proposed for or within an approved PRSP Site pursuant to subsection (17) herein), restaurant, bar or nightclub, skating rink, theater, concert hall, commercial recreation use and spa.

The parenthetical phrase is apparently intended to apply to each of the 4 uses preceeding it, stating that where they fall within a PRSP, the provisions of the new PRSP use replace those of this current use.  The wording, however, is ambiguous, such that this phrase could be read to apply only to the use 'ranch', which immediately preceeds it.

Two other wording changes alter slightly the uses that fall under subsection (3), as follows:

The following revised wording would remove the ambiguities:

Any of:

New Section 75-28(D)(17)


The title of this section is "Planned Resort Special Permit".  What is being defined here is a new type of Special Use.  Any Special Use requires a permit.  Any development at all requires a Plan.  The inclusion of these terms does not contribute to describing the use to be covered by this new section.  On the other hand, "Resort" alone does not fully describe the use, which, as specified later, requires a resort, hotel, and spa on the property. 

Change the title of this new Special Use section to simply "Spa Resort".  Use this phrase, not an acronym, throughout the amendment.


This section defines the "minimum property size" for a PRSP at 750 acres.  'Property' is not defined either here or in §75-56.  In particular, it is not required that all of the land in a 'property' be contiguous; it could therefore consist of scattered lots which, in total, meet the acreage requirement. 

The following revised wording would clarify the acreage requirement:

[1] The minimum size of a PRSP shall be 750 acres, consisting of one or more contiguous lots under single ownership or control.

Throughout this amendment, multiple terms are used to describe the area covered by a PRSP: development, district, site, program, property, community.  These terms are either not defined in §75-56, or are used in ways other than they are defined there.

Terms already defined in §75-56 should be used as defined there.  If new terms are required by this amendment, their definitions should be added to §75-56 or to a Definition section within §75-28(D)(17) as a part of this amendment.  The number of new terms should be the minimum needed for clarity.


"[2] A hotel/spa/resort shall be the primary principal permitted use."

The phrase "primary principal permitted use" is not defined and is not used elsewhere.  Section ...(17)(e) clarifies that a PRSP must contain a hotel and a spa and a resort.  Stating that as an elegibility criteria creates circular reasoning: a PRSP is required to contain these three elements, therefore a criteria for elegibility is that the developer must state that it will contain these elements.

Criteria [2] should be deleted.


If there is not now or within the last 10 years, an operating hotel on the property, an elegibility consideration is that it " deemed by the Planning Board, to be an appropriate PRSP site." 

No guidance is provided to the Planning Board.  "appropriate PRSP site" is not defined.

The 'deeming' by the Planning Board should be replaced by a specific set of criteria appropriate to the use of the site for the operation of a hotel.

The preceeding paragraphs [1] and [2] both end with "; and", which makes it clear that the requirements following them are additive.  This paragraph does not, thus creating an ambiguity with regard to [4].

Add "; and" at the end of the paragraph, thus showing that all 4 enumerated considerations must be met.


This section states that the site "...shall be serviced or have the potential to be serviced by a community, on-site, water supply...", but does not define how 'potential' is to be determined in those cases where such service is not already provided or is inadequate for the project.

Specific criteria and methods should be added, describing both:


This section defines criteria that must be met by the plan for development of a PRSP site, prior to its approval as a PRSP.  It states that the criteria listed here "...shall supercede the Design Standards set forth in Article VI of this Code...", but Article VI of Chapter 75 "ZONING" deals with Nonconforming Uses, not Design Standards.  Apparently this is intended to refer to Article VI of Chapter 60 "SUBDIVISION OF LAND". 

Change the reference to point to "Chapter 60, Article VI" of the Town Code or directly to §60-27 through §60-35, which is unambiguous.


The list of proposed design standards consists almost entirely of subjective words and phrases, such as "creative", "quality", "desirable", "practical and feasible", "outstanding", "efficient", "impacted", "viable", and "suitable", with no objective measures provided.  Item [1], in particular, seems more appropriate to an an advertising brochure than a legal document.  Items [6], [7], and [8] do define design elements that must be included, but do not require the provision of any details.  This renders most of the criteria useless for both evaluation of the plan in advance and enforcement of it as the PRSP is developed.

Chapter 60, Article VI, on the other hand, contains detailed and, in many cases, measurable criteria for such things as preservation of topsoil, stream drainage (both upstream and downstream), public park areas, street widths, curve radii and grades (and a requirement for a Road Maintenance Agreement to ensure ongoing maintenance of private roads), sidewalks, storm sewers, etc., etc.  Discarding these crisp criteria in favor of the vague ones in the proposed amendment does not meet one of its sponsor's stated objectives: to clarify the town zoning code.

Rather than superceding the Design Standards of §60-27 through §60-35, the standards listed here should be stated to be in addition to them.


This design standard states "To facilitate the satisfaction of this criterion, there may be more than one principal permitted use with a PRSP permitted site."  Although this Chapter of the Code already contains several uses of the phrase "principal use" (which is not defined), the distinction between "principal permitted use" and just "principal use" (see ...(17)(e) vs. ...(17)(f)) is unclear.  Equally unclear is the meaning of the quoted sentence.  It could mean that a PRSP can contain multiple hotels, or spas, or resorts, or it could simply be a restatement that a PRSP can (in fact must) contain at least one of each of these elements.  The lack of clarity makes suggestion of revised wording impossible.

Request that the applicant reword this section to clarify what is meant.


This item refers to "New York State Health Department requirements", but provides no reference.

Add a citation pointing to the relevant requirements.  If the requirements are available on the internet, include the appropriate URL.


This section, titled "Permitted Uses", lists uses which must be included in a PRSP plan.  The first of these makes reference to ...(17)(c)[2], which was recommended for deletion above.

The title should be changed to "Required Uses" to agree with the content.

If the recommendation regarding the deletion of ...(17)(c)[2] is accepted, then the first phrase here, up to the comma, should also be deleted.


This section is titled "The following Principal Uses are permitted in a PRSP program."  Aside from being overly wordy, this uses the word "program" in a way that makes its meaning unclear.

For clarity, brevity, and consistency with the revised title of ...(17)(e), the title of this section should be changed to simply "Permitted Uses".


This item allows permitting of unknown housing types at the discretion of the Planning Board.  Although it is hard to conceive of a type of housing not covered in [1]-[4], the citizens of Rosendale may prefer to add new and creative housing types to the zoning code, rather than leaving approval of them, even within a PRSP, up to members of the Planning Board.

Delete item [5].


This item includes "Buildings and structures...designed for the provision of services to the guests or residents of the community."  This statement could be inferred to include employee housing, which is not mentioned anywhere in the proposed amendment.  If the presence or absence of on-site employee housing is important to Rosendale residents, this needs to be clarified.

Town officials should determine whether on-site employee housing at a PRSP is desireable or not, then clarify in this amendment whether such use is permitted.


This section defines "PRSP Net Acreage", which is later used as input to determining housing density.  It excludes several types of land which are not suitable for housing, but not rights-of-way.

Add ...(17)(h)[1][e] Rights-of-way.


This section specifies slopes to be excluded from "PRSP Net Acreage", but does not specify criteria for measurement.

Add specification of the metrics to be used to determine the acreage of "slopes in excess of 30%".  Include the interval across which the slope will be measured.


This section limits the density of housing within the PRSP Net Acreage, but excludes " the hotel/resort/spa use".  ...(17)(e)[1] includes Hotel/Resort rooms and suites as a permitted (actually, required) usage, but makes no mention of spa rooms or suites.  It is therefore unclear why "spa" appears in this list.

Delete "/spa" from the parenthetical list of exceptions or otherwise resolve the discrepancy between the two sections.


This section limits the size of "retail, service, or commercial use (not an amenity)" to an aggregate 20,000 square feet.  ...(17)(e)[2] includes as amenities "recreational and/or health/related facilities".  There is no limit on the size of "amenities".  It is not clear where the boundary between "commercial uses" and "amenities" lies.  Are amenities a priviledge of (permanent or transient) residence, while commercial use implies a per-use cost to the customer?  Are commercial use facilities available to non-residents of the property?  (The intent of this question is to help determine the extent to which a PRSP would compete with businesses outside it.)

Clarify the distinction between the two phrases.


This item refers to "proceedures approved by the New York State Attorney General", but provides no reference.

Add a citation pointing to the relevant procedures.  If the procedures are available on the internet, include the appropriate URL.


This section describes the Application and Review process for a PRSP and contains the following sentence:

Notwithstanding any reference thereto, wherever there shall be any conflict between the provisions of this section, as amended, and any other section of this Code, the provisions of this section shall prevail.

It is not clear whether "this section" refers to ...(17)(k) or to all of ...(17).

The Town Code consists of 75 Chapters.  The proposed amendment modifies, primarily by addition, the Special Use Permit section within the Zoning Chapter of that code.  Section ...(17)(k) addresses the process of Application and Review of a PRSP.  The sentence above allows that entire addition, or the application and review section, to supercede any existing or future law in any of the 75 Chapters.  Without reviewing all 75 Chapters of the existing Code, and comparing them to the specifications of this amendment, it is impossible to know the effect of this sentence.  In addition, the wording guarantees that this small amendment will continue to trump future contrary sections of the Town Code, unless they are carefully worded to instead supercede this section. 

The quoted sentence should be deleted.

If the applicant perceives a need to supercede any elements of the Town Code within a PRSP, those elements should be identified point by point so that a proper evaluation of the impact can be made.  The results of such evaluation should be reflected in this amendment as an itemized list, clearly showing which, if any, elements of Town Code are superceded within a PRSP.

If, for some reason, the sentence is retained, it should be clarified to define "this section".


This section lists the information to be submitted as input to a Concept Plan Review.  ...(17)(h)[1] contains a list of land areas to be excluded from "PRSP Net Acreage", but some of those items are not included in any of the input data provided for this review.  As a result, there is no way for the reviewers to verify the "Net PRSP Acreage".

Add the following to the items to be shown on one of the required maps (the topo map might be a good choice):


Among the items to be provided with the concept plan is a topo map, explicitly showing slopes over 20%.  §...(17)(h)[1](b) refers to exclusion of areas containing slopes over 30%.  The information required here does not correspond and therefore cannot be used to calculate the 30% slope acreage.  The reason for using 20% here is unclear. 

The slope specification here should be changed to 30% or the reason for the difference should be stated and other means should be provided for reviewers to assess the 30% slope area.

...(17)(k)[1][b], ...(17)(k)[2][a], ...(17)(k)[3][a]

These sections describe the requirements for review of the Concept Plan, Preliminary PRSP Plan, and Final PRSP plan, respectively.  They make extensive reference to material in Chapter 60 "SUBDIVISION OF LAND" that covers the review of subdivision plans.  Omitted from these references, and therefore apparently not a part of the review and approval of a PRSP, are the following:

It is not clear why certain items from the Procedure for Land Subdivision are specifically referenced and others are not.  When combined with the statement in ...(17)(k), it could be interpreted that none of the items in the preceding list apply to a PRSP.  Rosendale citizens and Town officials may wish to ensure that these items, particularly performance guarantees, are applicable.

The applicant should be requested to clarify the intent.  If subdivision is involved, it would seem to be appropriate for it to be done in accordance with all of the current requirements for a subdivision.


This section addresses changes to the PRSP plan.  It includes the phrase "district plan", which is not used elsewhere in the amendment.  "District" within the zoning code is generally used to mean a zone, such as A-1.

Change the wording to "PRSP plan" to agree with the rest of the amendment.


Several statements in the amendment seem to imply the need for additional detail or follow-up action, but these are not required anywhere in the document. 

  1. ...(17)(c)[1] specifies the minimum property size as 750 acres, but does not restrict reduction of that size after the PRSP is developed.  The amendment specifically refers to elements of the code related to subdivision.  If subdivision takes place, it is usually for the purpose of transferring ownership of a portion of the property to another party.  Such transfers could reduce the area of the PRSP below the minimum permitted.

    Specify that once a property has been designated as a PRSP, no subdivision of that property may take place which would reduce the acreage under single ownership or control below the minimum required in ...(17)(c)[1].

  2. ...(17)(d) lists several Design Standards for a PRSP, but does not provide for any enforcement of them once a Special Permit has been granted.  As noted above, performance guarantees seem to have been omitted from the PRSP review process.

    Specify performance guarantees or other enforcement vehicles to ensure that Design Standards are actually followed in the finished project.

  3. ...(17)(e) requires that the plan must include hotel rooms, resort amenities, and a spa.  It is not clear what recourse the Town has if the operator of the facility later abandons one or more of these required elements.  In exchange for the higher-density housing permitted on a PRSP (compared to the underlying zone) the developer should be obligated to continue these required elements or forfeit the PRSP designation (which, once the housing has been built, has uncertain effect).
  4. One of the reasons expressed by the applicant for needing this amendment was a lack of clarity and detail in the existing zoning code.  As an example of an omission, the applicant noted the absence of bulk and area requirements for a hotel use and specifically mentioned that the existing code would allow a high-rise hotel.  It is not clear that this interpretation is correct.  Nothing in the Special Use section of the zoning law indicates a variance from the Density Control Schedule (which limits structure heights to 35 or 40 feet, depending on district).  In any case, nothing in this amendment alters this situation. 

    If Rosendale citizens feel that specific density limits should apply to a hotel within a PRSP, they should be added to the amendment.

Last updated 14 Sep 2012.

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