Washington’s hospitality redistricting to consider natural resources

MILLBROOK — Councilmember Leslie Heaney introduced the Natural Resources Inventory (NRI) map and recommended its use in revising the hospitality overlay district at the Washington Town Board meeting Thursday, March 14.

The overlay district will regulates where inns — a legal category that includes motels and small hotels — can be operated.

Hospitality rezoning progress to date

The review of hospitality zoning codes began in spring of 2021, with the appearance of Will Guidara’s application to transform Migdale Castle into a hotel and spa. The proposal caused an uproar among local residents horrified by the potential disturbance of the pastoral acreage of Mabbettsville — at times, town Zoom meetings hosted nearly 2,300 people.

The incident also led to the review of the town’s Comprehensive Plan, adopted in 2015; the town hired Nan Stolzenberg and her consulting firm, Community Planning & Environmental Associates of Berne, which conducted forums, surveys and meetings in an effort to determine what would or would not be acceptable to the residents as far as hospitality was concerned.

The process, which began in fall of 2021 continued through February 2023, when the new plan, with its revised hospitality proposals, was adopted.

In February of this year, the town adopted the NRI, which is intended to protect environmentally sensitive areas from development.

The NRI will be incorporated into the zoning code as part of the overlay district special permit revision, said McCullough, Goldberger & Staudt LLP, the law firm representing the town.

The Village of Millbrook was kept in the loop throughout the entire process and was invited to be part of the discussion, as traffic, water usage and foot traffic in the village would be impacted by the number of hospitality rooms permitted under the revised overlay district.

According to surveys and the new Comprehensive Plan, only two properties in the overlay district that are commercially zoned, and could become inns, could accommodate more than 20 rooms, and the maximum count is currently estimated at 100 rooms.

The overlay district will only permit accessory dwelling uses that are incidental and secondary to the main use.

Next Steps

What remains of this hospitality overlay saga is a Public Hearing at next month’s regular Town Board meeting on Thursday, April 11, at 6 p.m. at Town Hall.

On the town website, the committee working on the Hospitality Overlay District has posted on answers to public comments and questions, the map of the overlay district, and other available information for public perusal.

Town meetings can be followed on YouTube, via the Town website, www.washingtonny.org

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