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New Idea Launched
For 'Reunion' Site

By Dan Hust
KAUNEONGA LAKE — November 12, 2004 – Less than three months after the conclusion of yet another controversial Woodstock “reunion” on their property, Roy Howard and Jeryl Abramson are already deep in plans for next year’s version.
And the twist on it this time is that the Bethel couple is planning to make it a camping event.
But they’re going one step further – they want to turn much of their 104 acres along Route 17B into a seasonal campground.
And that was the pitch they made to the Bethel Planning Board Tuesday night in Kauneonga Lake.
“We’re in the process of getting a legitimate, working campground,” said Abramson in front of a board that had just sent her a letter detailing their displeasure with the camping and open fires noted at the August 20-22 affair this year.
Abramson pressed ahead, noting the state has told her it’s willing to grant her a temporary campground permit (although she said she does not yet have that in documented form).
It’s temporary because the couple estimates campground construction will take up to two years, and in the meantime, they’re concerned about accommodating another crowd of several thousand next August.
“If we can do it sooner, we’ll do it sooner,” said Abramson, but she and the board acknowledged that the town’s campground permit requirements are far stiffer than the state’s.
“Some of that we would have to discuss because it would just not work,” Abramson said of the local requirements.
“The requirements are there for a reason,” responded board member Bill Brey.
Yes, agreed Abramson, but some are “prohibitive” to turning a profit.
Surprisingly, fellow board member Leon Smith agreed, saying the town’s requirement of six campsites per acre is “tough to make a profit on.”
But if that’s the case, said building inspector Tim Dexter, Abramson and Howard could apply to the zoning board of appeals for a variance.
“I think you can meet all the requirements,” said town planning consultant Tom Shepstone, adding that the procedural process itself would be the time- and money-consuming portion.
But time is of the essence, replied Abramson.
“My concern right now is, what will we do about this August?” she said, wondering aloud how the town will protect itself from the hordes she expects will descend on Bethel even if a permit is denied for a gathering at the couple’s property.
Brey responded, “They’ll come, have no lodging and leave.”
Abramson wasn’t so sure, and she warned the board that if the request for a temporary campground permit is denied, “I don’t think we’ll be reapplying” for any kind of special use permit.
“Are you saying there will be no one on your property next August?” asked Board Chair Herman Bressler.
“There will be nobody on my property next August,” said Abramson. “I don’t know where they’ll be – but that won’t be my problem.”
Shepstone, however, seemed optimistic, saying he was glad the couple applied early and in a straightforward manner. He suggested that a “phased-action” plan would be ideal – in other words, creating a portion of the campground to be used next year, with the proper, and potentially permanent, permit(s). The rest of the facility would be constructed during and after the first portion’s completion, similar to what’s in store for the neighboring Bethel Woods Center for the Arts.
However, he recommended the board first discuss the issue with its attorney before proceeding further.
* * *
In a letter handed to Abramson and Howard that evening, the planning board noted that, while litigation has ended between the town and the couple, the 1998 injunction remains.
And the board is none too happy with violations of the special use permit’s conditions regarding camping and open fires, both of which were prohibited but were in evidence at the August 20-22 “reunion.”
The board blamed that in part on another violation: the lack of camping and fire prohibitions in the advertising for the event.
Also, the town may be named in a lawsuit concerning an alleged failure of site security (it was independently confirmed yesterday that a man is suing the town, Yasgur Road Productions and its security company for $1 million each for an alleged beating during the event this year).
Signed by Bressler, the letter concluded, “Authorization to conduct future concert activities will depend upon your ability to resolve these issues to the satisfaction of the planning board” – including a management plan specifically addressing those issues.

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