By Dan Hust
KAUNEONGA LAKE May 11, 2001 It was only a joint meeting of the Town of Bethels planning and town boards Tuesday evening, but the jam-packed justice hall in Kauneonga Lake bustled with comment over the rumors and the facts regarding the Gerry Foundations planned performing arts center at the 1969 Woodstock Music Festival site in Bethel.
In fact, Gerry Foundation attorney Larry Wolinsky expressed mild surprise that more than 50 people had turned out for what amounted to a brief, 20-minute presentation on changing the zoning around the Woodstock site into an area agreeable for building a $40 million, 17,500-seat complex.
Indeed, said Gerry Foundation Executive Director Jonathan Drapkin, the news everyones truly been waiting for has yet to be revealed.
But a date was promised that evening June 12, the joint town/planning board meeting at 7:30 p.m. at the White Lake Firehouse, when foundation officials are scheduled to reveal the detailed site plan for the 634 acres Liberty businessman Alan Gerry plans to turn into a world-class musical entertainment attraction.
Tuesdays meeting was nevertheless another step forward in creating the performing arts center, which was officially announced last fall by Gerry, Governor George Pataki, and a host of state and local officials.
Although the rezoning request has more hoops to jump through yet, the town and planning boards in Bethel were made the official lead agencies for the massive development project.
And Tuesday night also confirmed rumors that the foundation would not be building the center on the Woodstock site itself considered by some to be sacred ground.
Instead, said Drapkin, the center will be situated on whats known as the Gabriel Farm property along West Shore Road, just east of the historic 37-acre festival site. (He added that Woodstock fans concerns over disturbing the site were actually not a part of the decision to situate the center elsewhere.)
Of the 1,300 acres Gerry purchased surrounding the site, just over 600 would be zoned for a performing arts center development.
(Six parcels, however, are currently not owned by Gerry all along Hurd Road, and most occupied. Gerry Foundation spokesperson Glenn Pontier would not comment on whether or not property owners are in talks with Gerry, but he did say that the project would move forward regardless.)
The other 700 acres are being held for future, as-yet-undisclosed purposes.
However, those 634 newly rezoned acres would be open to a variety of uses, including the center itself, agricultural ventures, cemeteries, public/private schools, one-family detached dwellings, garages, home businesses, signs (but not billboards), houses of worship, nurseries/greenhouses, parks, bed and breakfasts, golf courses, campgrounds, hotels, research/study centers, amphitheaters, outdoor stages, performing arts schools, museums and community meeting areas.
Whether or not any of those become reality is up to the Gerry Foundation and the towns planning and town boards.
If the rezoning is approve, however, some things are for certain, including a prohibition on any residential or retail buildings taller than 30 feet (this naturally does not include the center or associated buildings), a buffer zone of at least 50 feet at the edges of the development district (possibly including fencing or landscaping to minimize noise and light disturbances), on-site lighting that is uniform in decoration and of minimal effect to the night sky, consistency of signage and architecture, building coverage of not more than 25 percent of the total acreage, and several pedestrian walkways.
And more will be announced soon, promised Drapkin.
Youll have to wait until June 12, he remarked.